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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Four Minute Workout of Death

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photo by katieeosgood

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That's right in only 4 minutes, you can do an effective, proven fat-burning workout. It's called the Tabata protocol, named for the Japanese researcher who "discovered" it. It is a very specific, precisely timed, interval technique. Now to be totally accurate, including the 5 minute warm-up and cool-down, it would be a 13:50 workout. DO NOT SKIP THE WARM UP AND COOL DOWN if you are going to try this. You are going to need them.

Tabata, the researcher, studied the effects of this protocol versus a more typical, moderate exercise program and this protocol increased aerobic capacity even more than the moderate program while at the same time increasing anaerobic capacity. Yeah, yeah, but what about fat loss, you ask? Well, it turns out that the participants in the study burned more fat using the interval protocol than the moderate cardio protocol, even though the moderate cardio group burned more calories during the exercise sessions. How is this possible? The interval protocol was so taxing that the participants using it had an increase in metabolic rate that lasted for many hours following the actual interval sessions, leading to a total calorie burn exceeding the moderate cardio group. What this technique lacks in terms of time spent exercising, it makes up for, and then some, in intensity.

Protocol Specifics

  • 5 minute warm-up
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 10 seconds - easy
  • 20 seconds - hard
  • 5 minute cool-down
That is basically 8 "bouts" of 20 second intervals of real work separated by short, 10 second rest periods. Now that doesn't sound too bad, but more explaining is required. The only times that you are really working is during the 20 second intervals marked "hard". When I say hard, I mean HARD. This doesn't mean pick up the pace a little. This doesn't mean reading a magazine while doing your intervals. I mean, ALL OUT, Dorothy, we are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore - HARD! Those 10 second rests between the hard bouts will be the shortest 10 seconds of your life.

Exercise Choice

What I haven't mentioned so far is anything about what exercises to do. The great thing about this protocol is that the actual exercise doesn't really matter. You can sprint the hard parts and jog the easy parts. Pedal hard on a bike then back off for the easy parts. Treadmills don't work very well because they take too long to ramp up to top speed, but stationary bikes and elliptical machines should work fine. You can also do body weight exercises like mountain climbers, squats, jump squats, etc. The possibilities are limited only my your imagination. Again, in choosing an exercise, follow these two criteria:
  • You must be able to quickly increase to maximum intensity. Sprints outside work great...treadmills do not.
  • The exercise should be include as many muscle groups as possible. Squats are great...bicep curls are not.
This is a program that you should ease into. I don't recommend you switch your 3 cardio sessions a week all to Tabata sessions. Try doing it one day a week to start, then gradually do more.

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3 comments:

Meg Wolff said...

Interesting site.

Fit Club Scott said...

Thanks.

CindyPTN said...

Wow, interesting concept. This takes fartleks to a whole new level. I'm gonna try it. Thanks for the idea.