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The four-minute guide to fitness

By Manil S Dodani
March 29, 2015 11:59 IST
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Four minutes a day and an iron will is all that you'd need to get back in shape. Read on to know more about the Tabata workout!

Tabata workout

Gone are the days when one needed 60 minutes at the gym or the copious amounts of liquids and diet khakra for snacking for a lean and mean body.

What if someone was to tell you, you need only four minutes to get in shape?

Four minutes to a fit body -- sounds like a sham?

People describe a Tabata workout at the end of four minutes, as "I could see light at the end of a tunnel" or "I thought I was going to die" -- just a hint of what the next four minutes of your workout are going to look like.

Tabata workouts are a form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) founded by professor Izumi Tabata.

Originally the applications of Tabata workouts were intended for Japanese athletes, Olympic speed skaters to be precise.

What is Tabata?

Tabata and his team at the National Institute of Sports and Fitness in Tokyo carried out research on two groups of athletes -- one group trained at moderate intensity exercises five times a week for about six weeks whereas the other group performed four minutes of Tabata high intensity workouts nearly four times per week coupled with a day of cardio in the same week.

The results of this study evidently proved the efficacy and effectiveness of a high-intensity workout; the latter group displayed higher fitness levels, especially anaerobic benefits and had higher O2 intake (maximum oxygen consumption during exercise) which leads to higher calorie burning and fat reductions.

An independent research that used Tabata training with jump squats has shown that a Tabata workout can burn about 13.5 calories every minute (which is an extremely high-level of calorie burn rate), not to mention a doubled metabolic rate.

Dumbbell sample workout

Shoes? Check. Determination? Double check!

What follows from this point on is going to leave you panting for breath, make you see stars in broad daylight, or make you feel like you’ve just run the last lap of the Mumbai marathon.

It is recommended that you consult your fitness trainers and instructors who can monitor you before you try out this seemingly short, but incredibly intense workout.

A four minute Tabata workout involves eight 30 second cycles (30 seconds x 8 = 240 seconds i.e. 4 minutes).

These cycles are split in a 20:10 ratio, the first 20 seconds of every cycle are spent performing exercises to your maximum intensity and then resting for 10 seconds, thereby allowing the body to recover completely.

Repeat the same again: 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest -- the same for 8 cycles will let you complete one ‘Tabata’.

So, basically each cycle involves you maxing out completely for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds.

Tabata workouts can be performed with an array of exercises, most people prefer sprinting on the treadmill however, for those accustomed to skipping, jump rope exercises will do just fine!

For seasoned gym-goers, Tabata can also be incorporated into your bodyweight training regime.

Choose any four barbell exercises that you like (and can switch between easily without exerting too much; remember you have only 10 seconds to recover from each cycle!) and perform the first exercise as intensely as you can, the second one as fast as you can; repeating the same for the remaining cycles.

The same regime can be applied to dumbbell workouts, owing to the flexibility a Tabata workout offers.

Simple Tabata workout

If you are an inhabitant of a metro city, or prey to an unforgiving daily schedule, Tabata is just the thing for you.

Please be advised that a Tabata exercise is a high intensity workout and if you suffer from heart conditions or blood pressure issues it would be advisable to check with your medical practitioner before you start.

Additionally, a 30 minute rest period would be advisable after this workout as your body would need to cool down, as well as restore your heart rate to a normal level.

Four minutes a day can keep all your health and fitness woes away!

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Manil S Dodani