As an athletic coach, nothing bothers me….OK, “ticks me off” more than when legitimate methods of training are misused. It blatantly demonstrates a lack of knowledge and professionalism. Unfortunately, this tendency is rampant in the fitness industry, which has thus spilled over into indoor cycling.
Professor Izumi Tabata — You are the Man!
Now before you think I”™m against Tabata training, I”™m not. I think it is an amazing protocol, which was put forth with sound research. Basically, Professor Izumi Tabata performed studies where bouts of short, high intensity training was followed by short periods of recovery and repeated 8 times. In an interview with Professor Tabata, he laughs as he openly admits that the credit for the protocol goes to Japanese speed skating coach, Mr. Irisawa Koichi. Professor Tabata was simply asked to analyze the effectiveness of Mr. Irisawa”™s training regiment.
The official, researched protocol is: 20 Seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 8 times.
Let”™s Beat Everyone To a Pulp Mentality
When the Tabata protocol was released into the public, fitness “professionals” began drooling and scheming with big smiles on their faces as they imagined people flailing away to utter exhaustion praising their names as the greatest trainers on earth just before limp bodies hit the ground. Professor Tabata stated in his interview “This means that, excluding the warming up and cooling down, the exercise can be completed in only 4 minutes if repeated 8 times, more than enough to make even a fit person exhausted”. So what does the fitness industry do?... THEY MAKE AN ENTIRE 60-MINUTE TABATA CLASS!!!!! Total insanity. It is the “more is better — bigger is badder” approach, which is void of both science and proper regard for safety.
Group Fitness Hell
Here is another quote from Professor Tabata: “Such high-intensity exercise is exhausting, so it”™s not good for those simply interested in general promotion of their health.” I”™m trying to figure out how this statement translates into building Tabata-based group fitness and indoor cycling classes consisting of such a wide age and fitness-level demographic. At least if you”™re working with a single individual, you can monitor their response to the training and adjust accordingly. With classes upwards of 20+ people, this is impossible and irresponsible.
Tom, Calm Down — What”™s Going On?
I”™ve been in numerous conversations in recent months where indoor cycling instructors are throwing around Tabata training like salt at McDonalds. They add it to everything with little to no regard for the focus of the class or the benefit to those participating. Here are two examples:
(1) I”™m helping a group of indoor cycling instructors create a ride profile. We had decided that the focus was going to be on moderate, long climbs since it was early in the year and they wanted to help riders increase their muscular endurance. We had designed a nice ride profile with 3 long climbs, but as we looked at the timing, we were short about 3 minutes. Before I was able to suggest we adjust the length of one of the climbs or decent (recovery), one instructor said we could throw in some Tabata. WHAT?!?!? We”™re in the &$*W$ mountains on a long climb in the early part of the year and you want to “throw it” some high intensity intervals?!?!
(2) I just finished a ride that concluded with a 25-minute steady-state effort targeting Zone 3 (~75% perceived exertion). It was tough and people were definitely feeling it at the end. After we completed the stretch and people were exiting the room, one rider was still on the bike working hard. As I approached the rider, who is a seasoned fitness instructor, they told me how much they like the class. They continued to say that it would have been nice to end the class stronger with some Tabata training. I smiled and packed up.
A License to Kill
Training methods and protocols like Tabata are legitimate and effective ways to train in the appropriate environment. Let”™s make sure we are doing our homework as fitness professionals and demonstrating the responsibility we have with those that will follow our example and passion. Indoor cycling instructors have unfortunately used Tabata training, in particular, as a license to throw high-intensity into their classes whenever they want. “Oh, I”™m just doing some Tabata Training”.
For those of use who have taken the time to study, research and design classes built on sound training science, we see right through the smoke screen.
Here is the link to the interview with Professor Izumi Tabata - http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/eng/html/research/areas/feat-researchers/interview/izumi_t.html/
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Thanks for your take on Tabata classes. Your passion is obvious.
Humorous and to the point. Well done, Tom.
Well done. I too have difficulty understanding how instructors think they can incorporate Tabata training (assuming they even get the name correct). It seems to be the mentality of if a little of something is good for you, then a lot is better. That they really don’t understand the concept behind the workout.
I have read/researched Tabata training intervals. I have even attempted them myself…twice, several months apart. I was not able to complete 8 repeats. My workout was over in less than 4 minutes.
For me, instructors talking about including Tabata intervals in their class is ranks right up with the indoor cycling instructor having the class do pushups and squats on the bike – legitimate exercises when done properly, in their correct place; a bad move in a cycle class.
If those instructors who do kind of Tabatha protocole or Hight Intensity would have ever REALLY experience it: the level, the requierement, the sensation and the mental thoughness they would perhaps understand and we would perhaps not see it as much … perhaps …
Nobody can be drill (excited) to work the high end intensity, if they are it is just because they never reach it.
Thanks, Tom. It’s very hard to work against the current in the big box gyms. Those swimming in the current love to follow the next ‘quick fix’ to fitness, the common denominator always being harder, faster, more, more. Is this an American thing?
The irony is, this ‘suffer all the time’ mentality causes people to keep their beer guts and their stress levels from improving.
You don’t see it quite so much these days, but about 6 or 7 years ago, it seemed to me that everyone was praising these tabata intervals as being the bestest way to get fit *IN JUST 4 MINUTES* and the fastest way to *TORCH FAT* (even though this wasn’t even part of Tabata’s study protocol. What’s not to love……it’s even better than the fat burning zone.
This sort of nonsense usually came from the bodybuilding “BRO” type of websites…….you know, the sort of folk who opine that too much “cardio” (as in > 30 minutes treadmill walking……holding onto the handles) shreds muscle.
I actually put a class together to demonstrate the nonsense of this and I still use it today. I used to call it my Tabata-esque or Tabata-lite class…..it’s now Physiology In Action
Basically a series of interval rounds with 30 sec. “bursts” in blocks with decreasing recovery times….90secs (1:3 W:R ratio), 60 secs (1:2) 30 secs (1:1) with a good few minutes of easy pedal in between. For the last few minutes of class, I’d offer a “tabata option”……20sec on:10secs off……with the caveat that should the work effort be so close to recovery that you can’t tell the difference, they should start cool down.
The interesting thing has been that, on the trad SPIN bikes hardly anyone ‘fessed up to the fatigue by shutting things down…….they’d go at it till I called a halt. The Keisers were quite a different story and I didn’t even need to do any speechifying after class to give folk a heads up that not all tabata intervals are actually Tabata intervals.
I guess you don’t know what you don’t know.
Come to think of it, though, the 20 sec: 10 sec off isn’t necessrily contraindicated. Folk just need to be aware that, if you’re going to keep it up for any length of time without shaking hands with Mr. Pukey, the intensity can’t actually be at what Dr. Tabata asked of his study subjects (how did he manage to recruit anyone to that arm of the study?!?)
I sometimes teach a cardio/strength interval class as a sub and will have the class members spend the 10 minute cardio sections with 4 minutes of 40 secs on: 20 secs off, 1 minute break and 4 minutes of 20:10…….offering up the suggestion that either one of these rounds will compensate nicely during the commercial breaks if they’re feeling guilty about watching too many back-to-back episodes of Law & Order. They quickly get to realise what I mean by “best effort” and will self-adjust.
Good thoughts everyone… Tom as usual GREAT! “…like salt at McDonald’s” PRICELESS!!!