Tabata is intense and a mental challenge too
I'd like to add my experience with the Tabata seeing that so many people are asking how they should incorporate it. So this is just one person's use of the Tabata protocol.
I've been working with a personal trainer for a year and about 3 or 4 months ago he started me on the Tabata protocol. We do this 2 to 3 a month, as I train with him 3 times a week (on the non-Tabata days we work on specific muscle groups) and I swim 2 days a week for my cardio.
Tabata is intense and I can see why he waited until he felt I was conditioned enough to handle it (plus I had some soft tissue injury I had to over come last year so we were working on that for a while and building up my strength - I'm 41 y.o. female).
For the Tabata my trainer usually has me do 5 to 6 different exercises. So for each exercise I do the 20 sec on, 10 sec off, 8x intervals, then 2 to 4 mins rest between each exercise - this is the entire training session. So in total I get up to 24 mins of intense training. For each exercise, as the original article mentions, you do as many reps as you can in that 20 secs, but I do suggest pacing yourself a bit otherwise by the 7th interval you might be out of steam.
Typically we don't incorporate heavy weight if any is used. For example, yesterday we did the following (he tends to mix things up so it's never the same):
- Squat/pushup (standing position, squat down, do a push up, stand back up, repeat)
- forward lunge holding dumb bell weights (held either at hip level or shoulder level, latter is harder towards the end of the 8x interval)
- incline pull up (put a squat bar on the rack so that is it at about your rib cage, go under the bar while holding it and do pull ups - the difficulty level here is your incline angle, the lower the harder)
- crunch (but not the typical one, he had me hold a weighted plate up towards the ceiling and then push up towards the ceiling as I sit up)
- plank and pike (plank and then use the pike position for the 10sec rest phase)
Let's just say I reached muscle failure at the end there with the plank and pike - major muscles quivering at the end. He also recorded how many reps I was able to do in each of the 20sec interval for each exercise and that's how he gauges whether I've improved or not.
The Tabata will crank up your heart rate for sure. And mentally it is a challenge because by the 7th or 8ths interval you're really having to psych yourself to do it.
But I have to say...it is fun especially when you're working with someone who is also going to push/encourage you. For a timer my trainer uses the GymBoss.
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