By Amanda Butler
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is currently the darling of the fitness world. Quick, super intense bursts of activity with small rests in between, HIIT classes are high energy, exhausting, and super rewarding. Tabata training is a regimented version of HIIT, a four-minute HIIT consisting of 8 sets of 20 second effort, 10 second rest. We were lucky enough to take Amanda Butler’s Burn class recently at new fitness space BFX Studio (the boutique offshoot of NY Sports Club) which uses the Tabata method, and we are hooked. So why is HIIT so much fun, and what exactly is Tabata training? Read on, my friends.
What is Tabata
Tabata is one of today's most popular HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts, founded in 1996 by Dr. Izumi Tabata, who came up with this effective workout while he was working with Olympic speed skaters to improve their athletic performance. Tabata is a four-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval), where you push yourself to maximum effort for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds — for a total of eight sets. It can be any combination of exercises, and any exercise that works large muscle groups is recommended, for example: Air Squats, Push Ups, Burpees, etc. Recruiting more muscles to perform an exercise requires more energy, therefore burns more fuel!
Who Tabata is Good For
Tabata workouts are great if you are short on time, need to switch up your routine, or need to improve your endurance. And because you are expending so much energy in such a short amount of time, it has more of an impact on both your anaerobic and aerobic systems. Here in NYC we are all about efficiency, so a HIIT workout can easily fit into all of our schedules. Tabata workouts can be done anywhere — from your tiny NYC apartment, a hotel room, or on the gym floor.
Get it Right
It is incredibly important to perform Tabata exercises with correct form. When going all out, proper form can be the difference between seeing desired results, or a trip to the physical therapist. When we are moving at such a quick pace, it is easy to forget about form and just flail around. Don’t let this happen!
Start at a pace that you can still perform each exercise correctly, and build up from there. For example, if you are doing Tabata Burpees and you can only do about 3 to 4 Burpees each 20 second interval, that’s fine! Keep working at it and eventually you will be able to build up your power and add a few more in. I’ve had clients say doing Burpees hurts their lower back. If you are in the same boat, listen up — Take your time doing each Burpee and focus on using your core as you come up from the floor, and not peeling yourself off the floor. Think chest, abs, and hips lifting off the floor at the same time. Your abdominals support your lower back, so when we don’t use or have a weak core, we suffer from lower back pain.
Getting Creative with Tabata
I like to come up with unique sets for my classes, using exercises that I enjoy and find most effective. I love mixing up high cardio and strength exercises to maximize my time and workout — getting the heart pumping and muscles burning is what I live for. Some of my favorite Tabatas that I use in class are, of course, Tabata Burpees, Air Squats, and Push ups. However, I also like to do Tabata Mash Ups where I take 2 exercises and use the Tabata formula of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest. For example: Push Ups and Plank Ups or Air Squats and Jump Squats. In each set, I am super setting the same muscle groups for that extra punch. Other times I will use a lower body exercise with an upper body exercise such as Star Jumps and Push Ups; getting the total body involved.
It’s important to keep your workouts fresh because our bodies will start to adapt and plateau, which equals no results. So keep your body guessing by switching up your routines. I love HIIT workouts for their variance, but also resistance training, running in the park, and the occasional dance and/or yoga class to stretch my body out and keep it fresh. Find the mash up of activities that works for YOU, and makes YOU happy.
Amanda Butler was born and raised in Nebraska, but is definitely a big city girl. From professional dancer to fitness fanatic, she loves teaching classes and training clients one-on-one. She wants to help you become your best self and to be "stronger than your excuses."