Intervals for Cardio


The Tabata Protocol

The Tabata Protocol, known as the “World’s greatest fat burning workout," is a very popular form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) devised by Dr. Izumi Tabata of Japan.  It's a short but intense 4 minute interval workout split between 8 sets of 20 second high intensity work intervals followed by 10 second rest intervals.

Dr. Tabata and his research team compared the effects of moderate intensity endurance training and HIIT on aerobic and anaerobic capacity.  They based their HIIT protocol on the interval blueprint of the Japanese speed skating team's workout that consisted of six to seven 20 second full speed sprints that were followed by 10 second rest periods.

The endurance and HIIT groups both trained on stationary bikes five days a week for six weeks.  The steady-state cardio endurance group trained for 60 minutes at 70% of aerobic capacity.  The HIIT group performed 8 sets of 20 second work intervals at 170% of aerobic capacity followed by 10 second rest intervals.

The results of the study were quite remarkable.  Even though the Tabata protocol primarily trains your anaerobic system due to the short high intensity intervals it will still increase both aerobic and anaerobic capacity.  The 60 minute endurance group increased aerobic capacity by 10% but showed no improvement in anaerobic capacity.  The 4 minute HIIT group increased aerobic capacity by 14% and anaerobic capacity by an astonishing 28%.

Many people are attracted to the short 4 minute interval workout but don't be fooled into thinking the Tabata Protocol is easy.  This couldn't be further from the truth because the goal of Tabata intervals is to push yourself hard during the high intensity work intervals and back off during the rest intervals.  If you truly exert yourself the Tabata Protocol is a challenging workout.  If you are not conditioned for HIIT I assure you that you will be lying on the floor in the fetal position by the end of the workout.  Only experienced and suitably fit people should perform the Tabata Protocol, however beginners can perform the intervals at lower intensities and gradually raise intensity as fitness improves.

Give these Tabata intervals a shot for your next cardio workout.  The Tabata Protocol can be performed on a variety of cardio equipment or with any suitable physical activity.  Always warm up before performing intervals and cool down afterwards.

The Tabata Protocol Chart:

 Tabata Intervals  Sets  Time

 20s High intensity work interval + 10s Rest interval

 8  4 min.