Essen Sport Gesundheit

What are Tabata Intervals?

Who invented the Tabata Intervals?

Professor Izumi Tabata conducted a study with Olympic speed skaters in 1996.

Their athletic performance was enormously increased by this type of training.

  • 14% increase in maximum oxygen intake
  • 28 % increase in anaerobic capacity

Although they were already very well-trained athletes, growth was achieved. The more trained a person is, the harder it becomes to achieve growth. Untrained persons can become more efficient with practically any method. This is why studies of untrained persons regarding the efficiency of a training method are not very meaningful.

What does a classic Tabata Interval training look like?

The training method belongs to the high-intensity interval training types. The training scheme used in the study provided for 8 intervals (after warm-up training). Each interval consisted of 20 seconds of maximum load followed by 10 seconds of rest.

However, there are also variants of this training. Either the intervals and the pauses are varied (for example 30 seconds load and 15 seconds relief) or the repetition numbers of the cycle. Several interval cycles per workout are also possible.

This training can be used in different ways. It is important that the load is high (maximum effort) and the rests short.


  • running Sprints
  • bike sprints
  • squats
  • pull-ups
  • weightlifting

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Tabata intervals?

Studies have shown that performance correlates with the athlete’s maximum oxygen intake. The higher it is, the more powerful is he. This affects both sprinting ability and endurance over long distances!

A clear advantage is the time saving. With warming up and cooling down, a Tabata training lasts about 20 minutes. To achieve a similar effect with a low impact run, you have to workout for about 60 minutes. And that applies only to endurance over long distances. The sprint ability is not trained at all during the long run.

Hard workouts strengthen the willpower and make the body more robust against injuries, because the muscles, joints and tendons are loaded and strengthened.

But there are also disadvantages. Especially beginners should approach slowly, because the strain for the untrained is so high that it can lead to injuries and overloads.

Furthermore, you should not underestimate the pain caused by the strain. If you do it right, you will suffer, suffer a lot. You buy the time saving with a high pain level. If you are not ready (or lack the will) to get into this level of pain, then success will not come.

Personal experiences with Tabata Intervals

I have been training with Tabata Intervals for many years now, especially in running. I enjoy going all-out once a week. But I also have my long run (1.5 hours) and extensive interval training (i.e. less stress for a duration of 5 minutes, several times in one training session). Tabata training alone is not enough to be a good runner. But it is a useful addition to cover a part of the training spectrum that you leave lying idle if you only do loose runs.

A good alternative is squatting. You can do them at home without any equipment or special environment. Depending on the performance level, one can increase to jumped squats with weight vest.

I don’t like to do tabata intervals when cycling because the risk of falling is too high. Especially at the end the concentration has dropped and it will be difficult to concentrate on the traffic and the accident-free handling of the bike.

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