Never mind that every day, millions of people wage the eternal war against bodyfat. Fact is, you don’t need to be monumentally overweight to want to drop pounds. Many fit guys simply want to shed a bit of that protective winter adipose tissue, and they’re willing to undertake the same boring rigors and attend hour and half cardio sessions.
But what if we told you those efforts represented a collective, monumental waste of time?
Before you go ballistic and hit Defcon-5, let us explain. It’s not that losing weight through cardio is a fruitless endeavor; it’s just that research shows there may be a faster method to spike fat loss.
So just how fast are we talking, here? Try as little as 11 minutes (including warm-up and cool-down) every second or third day!
That’s the marvel of the Tabata Protocol: a concise, intense training method that enables practitioners to burn a staggering amount of calories and fat. But this ain’t no wishy-washy workout: You’ve got to possess a level of fitness already plus real mental fortitude to push through these short yet extremely challenging training sessions.
If you’re ready to make a hardcore commitment to your body and free yourself from time-sucking traditional cardio programs, consider adding “Tabata” to your workout lexicon.
Doubling Down on Benefits
Although the total training time for Tabata is brief, the effort is exhaustive. You’ll realize that 10 seconds isn’t nearly long enough to recover from an all-out max-speed effort, and you’ll likely find yourself fading as the minutes tick by. But it’s absolutely key to exert as much energy as possible in those 20-second bursts — it’ll trigger the necessary physical adaptations.
It’ll help to understand the underlying physiological factors that drive Tabata. Your body has two energy systems at its disposal, aerobic and anaerobic — the aerobic system uses oxygen, while the anaerobic does not. When you perform any high-intensity activity, you’ll start out burning fuel aerobically. But once oxygen levels are depleted, your anaerobic system assumes control.
Usually, when you do a cardio activity such as a steady run, you’ll work in your aerobic zone, since your breathing can keep up with your oxygen needs; when you lift weights, you’ll work in an anaerobic zone, because of the heavy load and short duration of the action.
But Tabata’s subjects did both by elevating their heart rate beyond their “target heart rate zone” (specifically to 170% of their VO2 max, which is the maximum capacity of the human body to transport and use oxygen during exercise) for eight 20-second intervals.
Your Shredding Shortcut
While Dr. Tabata’s research was specific in its 20-second work/10-second rest protocol, there’s plenty of science backing the effectiveness of interval-style cardio in general.
A review of available studies reveals interval training can enhance a lot of fat-burning factors in the body, including increasing resting metabolic rate (meaning your body burns more fat for energy throughout the day), lowering insulin resistance (forcing your body to become more efficient at tapping glucose for energy), and augmenting skeletal muscle. In short, it can transform the Average Joe into a fat-burning machine.
So how should a fitness buff looking to get lean incorporate Tabata into his training? Our recommendation is to do 11–14-minute (including warm-up and cool-down; the actual Tabata will take 4 minutes) Tabata-style cardio workouts three times per week, taking a day off between sessions. You can also include a standard 30–90 minute steady state session sometime within each week.
For those who want to take it a step further, try Tabata with weights. Check out “Non-Machine Tabata Workouts” in the sidebar below for some ideas on how to do this. We don’t suggest an all-Tabata weight regimen, but it can serve as a rut-busting option to work into your rotation sporadically between regular lifting sessions.
Now that we’ve given you a dramatic shortcut to weight loss that doesn’t require hours in the gym, tell us: How are you going to use all your newfound free time? Don’t answer, we know: Summer is just around the freakin’ corner.