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Iain Abernethy
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Tabata Training (my personal test)

For the last six weeks or so all sessions on the rower have been Tabatas (a very intense 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest, repeat 8 times - damper on 10). They certainly increase anaerobic capacity, but the science also tells us they are more effective at increasing aerobic endurance than steady exercise over 60 mins! So today I tested that by doing 5000m (damper on 7) on the rower to see what my time would be. Typically that used to take around 20:25 or so. It would take a good day to get under 20 mins; and I was tired to start with today. I did mange under 20 mins though and it did not feel as hard as normal (and certainly not as hard as the 4 mins of tabata!). I've not done any distance rowing for a few weeks, so you'd have expected it to feel hard and times to be poor. Not so!

It seems my little experiment matches what the proper studies found. I also think the Tabatas have cut fat better too; although that could be that my back niggles have gone and hence I'm training more intensely generally? I think Tabatas will be the rowing norm for at least the next few weeks though :-)

From the study by Tabata: "In conclusion, this study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves the maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity and that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems."


Stuart Akers
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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

That’s a really good article!

It’s worth mentioning, for the sake of clarity, that true “Tabata training” is not done with strength exercises. The article does not really mark that distinction and suggests that the benefits Tabata found apply to all kinds of “high-intensity interval training”; which is not right.

Tabata’s study was all about cardiovascular fitness and was carried out with intense cardiovascular activity. Replacing that activity with things like press-ups, squats, lifts, etc – while hard – is unlikely to stimulate the cardiovascular system to the degree Tabata’s studies were looking at. It’s also important to note that Tabata makes no claims about physique or weight loss (those things were not part of the study) either. All of that said, I do like interval training in all its forms.

Here is a podcast on a high-intensity martial arts workout I did along those lines:


The videos that goes with it is emended below.

All the best,