Want to turn your body into a fat-burning machine instead of a lard-storage unit? Then it’s time to step away from the ciabattas (the bread your subs are made with) and start stepping up to some tabatas (an exercise regimen that will make you lean and thin in just 21 minutes a week!).
What the Heck is a Tabata Anyway?
The Tabata Protocol was created by a skinny little Japanese dude by the name of Izumi Tabata and some of his esteemed colleagues. Dr. Tabata was working at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo and was looking for the best supra-aerobic cardio workout possible. (one of them may have eaten just a few too many bowls of pork fried rice). He enlisted the help of some of the most highly trained endurance athletes he could find and put them through some pretty grueling workouts.
The result was the Tabata Protocol – a high intensity workout that, for beginners, lasts only SEVEN MINUTES every other day.
“But I’m not a highly trained endurance athlete!”
The Tabata Protocol is now proven to be one of the most effective fat-burning regimens ever – even for couch potatoes.
Now you definitely don’t have any excuses!
Before you heave yourself off the La-z-Boy and go look for your Speedos you must be absolutely certain that your body is going to be able to withstand this ultimate cardio, fat-burning workout. That means talking to your doctor in case there’s any chance your heart isn’t ready for this. Diabetics should also pay special attention.
An accurate heart monitor is essential. And it’s probably not going to be the one built into the elliptical machine you bought at the end of the last century that’s now a clothes rack.
If you own a recumbent or stationary bike, a rowing machine or any another piece of cardio equipment that utilizes the large muscles of your legs and allows for a gradual increase of resistance and speed, that’s fine. A treadmill isn’t going to be suitable because it won’t respond quickly enough to the rapid changes in velocity. You need equipment specifically designed for incremental (rpm/resistance) cardio workouts.
From Aerobic to Anaerobic
With the Tabata system you’re not going to burn fat while you’re working out. Your aim is to burn carbs. The aerobic (think with-oxygen) system uses oxygen to burn fuel (carbs), and the anaerobic (think no-oxygen) system doesn’t.
What happens is you start out by burning fuel (carbs) with your body’s aerobic system, and once your body has gone beyond the point where it has sufficient oxygen to provide energy, the body’s anaerobic system takes over. You’ll know this because you’ll start panting heavily – gasping for oxygen. At this point your body will have burned off all the available blood sugar (energy). The anaerobic system then looks for another source of energy and that’s when it starts on body fat.
Optimum Heart Rate Levels
Obviously with an intense cardio workout you’ll need a good heart rate monitor. This is very important and that’s why we’re mentioning it again.
Polar is one of the best and most accurate, and you’re going to have to fork out between $60 and $200. You could always buy or borrow one to test the accuracy of the monitor in your chosen cardio machine and return it if you’ve found it accurate. Again, most monitors that come with cheaper exercise machines are not accurate.
We know you’re bursting to get started but we don’t want any exploding ventricles do we?
Got a good heart monitor? Good. Feel like you can deal with this awesome fat-burning workout for just seven minutes a day, three times a week? Great.
Now, do you know how to calculate your maximum heart rate?
As a rule of thumb use 220 and take away your age, so if you’re 40 your maximum heart rate will be 180 beats per minute (BPM). Don’t be surprised if you go over that number while you’re doing these exercises. If you’re healthy that’s fine. If you’re over 220 years old please sit down.
You’ll need to get your heart rate up past what‘s referred to as the target heart rate zone, that’s why you need a good monitor.
Slow and Steady
As with any high intensity cardio workout you need to start out slowly. There may be dire physical consequences if you don’t. Build your endurance gradually.
If you’re going to follow the Tabata Protocol to lose fat you’ve already been unkind to yourself. You’ve added those excess pounds during many months of overeating and/or inactivity, so they need to be shed slowly.
The original Tabata Protocol involved this:
- A 5-minute warm-up period – very important
- 8 intervals of 20 seconds flat-out exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest
- A 2-minute cool-down period
You’ll get there. Just keep at it. Start with the…
Beginner’s Seven-Minute Tabata Protocol Workout
To ease you into this serious fat-burning cardio workout, the beginner regime is slightly less rigorous than the program above. It will involve this:
- A 3 minute warm-up
- 2 intervals of 30 second high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest
- A 2 minute cool-down period
The 3-Minute Warm Up
With your heart rate monitor in place start out at a slow pace – approx 60-65 rpms on an exercise bike is good, using low resistance. After one minute increase the resistance by one notch and your rpms by 10 and then again for the third minute.
Your heart rate should now be at a moderate level. Record it.
The Two High-Intensity Intervals
Up your resistance another notch and ensuring that your feet are still squarely in the pedals go as fast as you possibly can for 20 seconds.
Your rpms should be over 85. Now slow down for 10 seconds. Don’t worry; your heart rate will increase. Your body is simply searching for more oxygen to increase your energy level. Record the maximum heart rate you reached.
Now do it again!
This time when you’ve finished the high intensity 20-second interval you should decrease resistance to 0 and pedal slowly for two minutes.
Now rest for one minute – do nothing else except check your heart rate and record it. This is your Recovery Heart Rate.
Feel free to pant heavily. Your legs may feel like sticks of wilted celery. Relax.
Repeat Every Other Day ONLY
Your body needs to recover fully afterwards, so don’t be tempted to do this every day as a beginner. Be kind to your body and let it recover fully. During the following 24 hours it will be working on strengthening your heart and lungs and building muscle where blubber used to be.
If you start feeling unusually hungry, spend those first rest days studying up on the best foods to eat if you really want to lose that fat AND KEEP IT OFF.
Give your body what it needs – not what your mind craves!
Time to Increase the Intervals?
When you notice your recovery heart rate has decreased, add another interval. If you’re healthy this may happen after a week or two, not so healthy – just keep at it. That decreased recovery heart rate level will tell you when your body is ready for more.
Increase the tension one notch when your body’s ready. Let your recovery heart rate be your guide.
Slow and steady wins the race.
21 Minutes a Week? I Don’t Believe It!
Let’s rewind to the From Aerobic to Anaerobic paragraph. This kind of high intensity workout is the most effective for weight loss. Period.
Just this 7-minute, every-other-day high-intensity exercise program increases the body’s metabolic rate even during the following 24-hour recovery period. The body is building lung and heart strength and capacity and muscle. Let it do its job.
You could spend an hour every day on a treadmill and never achieve the fat loss you will by following the 7-minute Tabata Protocol. It’s an easy habit to get into. It takes less time than drinking a cup of coffee and you can do it at home.
Once you start seeing results you’ll understand these principals can be applied to any other kinds of exercises – jumping rope, running, swimming or performing pushups or squats. Just remember those all-important warm-up and 10-second rest intervals.
As a beginner, don’t start this way, always use a cardio machine such as an elliptical or rower. Once you’ve seen how beneficial the 20/10 work-to-rest ratio is for fat-burning, you won’t want to quit.
But please, don’t try this while driving!