High-Intensity Interval Training
The Tabata Protocol
The High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), also known as the Tabata Protocol, was developed by the Japanese speed skating team's head coach. It was named after Dr Izumi Tabata because Tabata and his team (at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan) studied the speed skating coach's workout to determine the optimum protocol.
In their research, Tabata et al. (1996) showed that a 4-minute cardiovascular training routine improved fitness. The whole session lasts 14 minutes and comprises a 5-minute warm-up, 4 minutes of intense exercise and a 5-minute cool-down. The 4 minutes of intense exercise consists of 8 repeats of 20 seconds of maximum effort work of your selected exercise, followed by a recovery of 10 seconds.
Before undertaking the Tabata Protocol, it is recommended you see your doctor to ensure it is safe for you to do so.
In Tabata's study, the researchers found that athletes who used the routine five days a week for six weeks improved their maximum aerobic capacity by 14% and improved their anaerobic capacity by 28%. A study of traditional aerobic training of running at 70% of aerobic capacity for 60 minutes for six weeks showed an improvement in aerobic capacity of 9.5% and no effect on anaerobic capacity.
Dr Tabata's Team found that as well as improving your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, it is very effective in lowering the ratio of lean body mass to fat without compromising your muscle size.
How to approach HIIT
The work to rest ratio of the original Tabata Protocol is 2:1. This was designed with Olympic athletes in mind. A gym user can still attain many of the interval training benefits with a change to the ratio. A beginner could start with a ratio of 1:3 and someone who goes to the gym regularly may be about to handle a 2:3 or even a 2:2. Here is an example of a 2:3 ratio Tabata Protocol on a static bike.
A professional athlete or an athlete with many years' experiences of training (3-5 times a week) should aim to do the Tabata Protocol's original form. This interval training is incredibly challenging to complete eight repetitions, so for the first time, an athlete should do it for four repetitions and see how they feel. An athlete can repeat cycles of the intervals a certain number of times. Here is an example of a football player doing the Tabata Protocol at a ratio of 2:1 for six repetitions with three cycles and 1-minute rest between cycles:
The Tabata Protocol can be adjusted to anyone's level and activity (cycling on a static bike, running on a treadmill or track, swimming, etc.).
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