In 1996, Dr. Izumi Tabata published the results of a study demonstrating, with speed skaters, that the aerobic and anaerobic pathways could be trained simultaneously (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 28). This was a significant finding, as most authorities had regarded the two pathways—and training for them—as compartmentalized. Aerobic training was largely long slow distance (LSD) work, and anaerobic training was typically regarded as some hard-to-measure dark component left to the explosion sports.
Dr. Tabata examined several different protocols but settled on eight sets of twenty-second work intervals alternating with ten-second rest intervals as the most effective interval times for improving VO2 max. In the original study the intervals were performed at a quantifiable 170 percent of VO2 max. (Just think max effort.) In the field, where measurements are more subjective, the effort should be such that on the eighth set the trainee is nearing exhaustion. In the original study, the test subjects doing 4-minute “Tabata” intervals saw greater VO2 max improvement than the control group that did 60-minute sessions of moderate-intensity exercise. Moreover, as Greg Glassman points out, these high-intensity efforts produce this dramatic aerobic benefit without the muscle wasting brought about by endurance training.
Dr. Tabata’s research tested subjects on stationary bikes, but in the CrossFit world his protocol is applied to all variety of functional movements. The Tabata protocol is applied to exercises including squats, pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, rowing, and, in my practice, dumbbell moves. We generally score Tabata intervals based on the lowest number of reps completed in any one of the eight twenty -second work intervals. (For more on Tabata intervals and their relevance to aerobic conditioning, see Glassman’s article “ Metabolic Conditioning ” from the June 2003 issue of the CrossFit Journal.)
For today’s workout, we will be scoring it with total reps instead of lowest per interval to keep all the athletes that like to “game” their Tabata working for the full 20 seconds!
Workout of the Day
Tabata :20/:10 x 32
AbMat Sit Up
Russian KB Swing
Rotate through exercises for 32 cycles
RX – KB 35/55
Zone 3 – KB 25/45
Zone 2 – KB 20/35, Scale pushup wwith band
Zone 1 – scale as needed
Sumo Deadlift 5 x 3 E3M
Figure 4 against wall – 2 min per side
Pec stretch – 2 min per side