What is H.I.I.T and Tabata and what are the benefits?

Most gyms, fitness centers/clubs or workout facilities that offer group fitness classes probably offer some form of HIIT or maybe even Tabata. But what exactly are these types of classes and why should you do try them?

Let’s begin with HIIT, which stands for high intensity interval training.


These types of workouts, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), involves repeated bouts of high intensity effort following by varied recovery times. The intense work periods could range from a very short five seconds all the way to periods of eight minutes. And, the recovery periods can vary just the same. The workout consists of alternating between periods of work and rest and can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 60 minutes.

Here is an example of a HIIT program:

  • 30 seconds jumping jacks, 10 second rest, repeat 6-8 times
  • 1 minute rest
  • 30 seconds burpees, 10 second rest, repeat 6-8 times
  • 1 minute rest
  • 30 second chair dips, 10 second rest, repeat 6-8 times
  • 1 minute rest
  • 30 second squats, 10 second rest, repeat 6-8 times
  • 1 minute rest
  • and so on and so forth, building as long of a program as you want, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes

One of the reasons HIIT is so popular, according to ACSM, is because it can be easily modified for people of all fitness levels and special conditions, such as diabetes or those who are overweight. HIIT workouts can include everything from cycling, walking and swimming to jumping jacks, burpees, running and many other exercises. HIIT workouts provide benefits that are similar to continuous endurance workouts, but in shorter periods of time. This is because HIIT workouts tend to more burn calories than traditional workouts, especially after the workout, as stated in a ACSM brochure on high intensity interval training.

It was explained that the post-exercise period is called EPOC, which stands for excess postexercise oxygen consumption. Say what? Basically it boils down to the fact that as your body is restoring itself back to pre-exercise levels, it is using more energy, which in turn means you are still burning calories. Because of the nature of a HIIT program, EPOC generally tends to be greater, adding between 6 and 15 percent more calories to the overall workout energy expenditure.

So, what are the benefits of HIIT?

As stated on the ACSM website, HIIT training has been known to improve the following:

  • aerobic and anaerobic fitness
  • blood pressure
  • cardiovascular health
  • cholesterol profiles
  • abdominal fat and body weight while maintaining muscle mass

So how is Tabata different?



Tabata is a style of HIIT. The background goes like this, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE): A Japanese Olympic Speed Skating Team head coach, Irisawa Koichi, created a HIIT workout for his skaters that consisted of eight rounds of 20 seconds each of intense work on a cycling ergometer, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for a total of a four-minute workout. Koichi asked one of his training coaches, Izumi Tabata, to analyze the effectiveness of the of this short but grueling workout. According to an ACE article, “Is Tabata all it’s cracked up to be?” the result of the study found that in just six weeks, there was a 28 percent increase in the skaters’ anaerobic capacity, plus a 14 percent increase in their VO2max.

Additionally with Tabata or any HIIT style training, your body burns fat for hours after you are done exercising, up to 24 hours after.

Although Coach Tabata didn’t initially design the workout, due to the widespread interest in his findings, the workout was coined the “Tabata Protocol.” Nowadays, fitness facilities across the country use this style of training in their group fitness classes and simply call it Tabata. True Tabata is doing high intensity work for those 20 seconds, then resting for 10 seconds and repeating for a total of four minutes. And most often, a true Tabata workout is only 20 minutes long.

Some of the benefits of Tabata style training include:

  • fat loss through metabolic rate
  • muscle tissue retention
  • anaerobic and aerobic capacity increase
  • time savings (if you do true 20-minute Tabata)

Here are a couple examples of Tabata workouts:


Body Weight Tabata

  • push-ups: 20 seconds push-ups, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
  • body squats: 20 seconds squatting, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
  • planks: 20 seconds planking, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
  • pull-ups: 20 seconds pull-ups, 10 seconds rest x 8 times

Dumbbell Tabata

  • bicep curls: 20 seconds curling, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
  • chest press: 20 seconds chest press, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
  • walking lunges with dumbbell: 20 seconds lunging, 10 seconds rest x 8 times
  • overhead tricep extension: 20 seconds overhead, 10 seconds rest x 8 times



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