A Whole Lotta Tabata

During my competitive season, I’ve tried various methods to drop body fat in the most efficient way possible. Some seeming to work better than others. Sometimes. Work smarter, not harder, right? I like to take the approach of “it’s not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.”

I would never go so far as to say any form of cardio (or “metabolic work” if you’re cool) is definitively better than another. Everything has its place and a cliché blanket statement like “research shows” shouldn’t be used as an end-all, be-all point of view. Sometimes there are other variables that need to be considered.

At some point the body adapts to the demands placed upon it and with variances in food choices, stress levels, injuries, etc. With that being said, sometimes what worked last time, may not work as well this go around, therefore duration, intensity, and type need to change.

One of THE most brutal ways to not only drop bodyfat, but build muscle and increase cardiovascular fitness--all in one go--is Tabata training.


So, before we go any further, you ask, what IS Tabata?

Tabata is a type of interval training, created by Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata which alternates set periods of high intensity, all-out effort bursts, with short rest periods repeated for a set amount of time or sets, if you will. His epic line was: “Six to eight very hard 20- second intervals with 10- second rest periods may be one of the best possible training protocols.” BAM.

Here’s a sample Tabata workout:

Work for 20 seconds

Rest for 10

Work for 20 seconds

Rest for 10

Work for 20 seconds

Rest for 10

Repeat five more times (!!!).

Literally only takes about four minutes, but those four minutes will be THE LONGEST four minutes of your life!! And you thought a treadmill minute was long, lol…wait or was it a microwave minute?

I still remember the first time I heard the word Tabata. I overheard a girl at the gym talking about doing Tabata for her workout. My immediate judgment and assumption was: girl+Tabata= girl workout, and therefore, not for “gym guys” like me. Because aspiring physique athletes don’t do that sh*t.

To this day, I regret thinking that (I was 21 and knew everything about workouts, okay?), because the first time I implemented this into my pre-contest cardio regimen, I got sick and wanted to vomit (but thankfully didn’t).


There are a few ways to implement Tabata training.

Stationary Bike

The stationary bike, used originally by Tabata himself, is the ideal tool for this workout and therefore a good fit for this job.

It’s very deceptive in that the goal is speed, not resistance, for twenty-seconds with as much load as you can crank for that time. Doing so will cause EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) to skyrocket making you feel like your own mini-supernova and stoking it with fat for hours later.

You will also have a magnificent Quad Pump of Peace.

Kettlebell Swings

This one only works if you do the swings correctly. If you’re feeling them in your lower back, you should stop. If your hamstrings and glutes are feeling torched the next day, then you’re doing them right and you have the green light. It’s all in the hips.

Front Squat/ Goblet Squat

For these you can either rest in the “standing position” or rest in the bottom position of the squat. However, this means your form game must be tight if resting at the bottom and not everyone has that ability, so experiment. I prefer standing, personally.

Farmer’s Walk Tabata with trap/hex bar/ Farmer’s walk bars/ Dumbbells

While considered safest of all moves, the disadvantage lies with your grip strength and endurance. If you can’t pick it up, you ain’t goin’ nowhere. If you can hold it, guaranteed you can walk with it.

The same guidelines apply here as well: Walk for 20 seconds, catch your breath and rest for about 8 seconds, regrip for the last 2 seconds, load and go on 10. Repeat for 6-8 times.


I must admit that sometimes I get a bit crazy. For instance, I’ll ask myself the question, “How hard can I make this workout?” kind of crazy. Sadistic? Maybe… Okay, maybe not. But approachable for sure.

If I’m ever pressed for time (which seems to happen a lot, especially during contest prep), that’s the attitude that I take. It seems to have served me well. It’s also when I seem to come up with some (brutally) effective workouts. Not sure if this “technically” classifies as “Tabata Protocol” (…okay, okay, it doesn’t, but it is great metabolic conditioning), but give this variation a shot:

  • Farmer’s Walk w/trap bar/Farmer’s walk bar/ Dumbbells

    25 yard walk (as heavy as you can hold)

    Superset with:

  • Weighted Sled Push

25 yard push (moderately heavy, but doable for a short sprint)

Superset with:

  • 30 seconds of all out on rowing machine

  • Walking to and from each exercise is your “rest”; Repeat for 4-5 rounds or AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) in 15 minutes.

  • Die.

Until next time... Sianara--

Daniel Saunders