Updated: Aug 15, 2020
One effective method of fat loss is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). While some long-held beliefs to encourage fat-loss is through long, slow, aerobic/cardio activity, HIIT training challenges this. One study (Tremblay, Simoneau & Bouchard - 1994) found that over a 20 week period, the participants who engaged in endurance training burned nearly twice the calories of those HIIT participants. However, the interval training group (HIIT) lost more body-fat! "When the difference in the total energy cost of the program was taken into account... the subcutaneous fat loss was ninefold greater in the HIIT (interval training) program than the ET (endurance training) program" (Tremblay, Simoneau & Bouchard - 1994).
Another method of interval training is "Tabata Training," named after Izumi Tabata. This method of training is very intense and entails performing an activity/exercise for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest interval. Tabata demonstrated that 20 seconds of all-out exercise (cycling in this case) followed by 10 seconds of low-intensity exercise for just 4 minutes was as beneficial as 45 minutes of long, slow, cardio training. Other "Tabata" activities may include burpees, treadmill work, kettlebell swings, mountain climbers, etc. Note that high-intensity training of this nature will take your body about 48 hours to recover from.
"5 Mistakes People Make when doing Tabata Intervals"
In case you haven’t heard, long cardio workouts on the treadmill are over. For good.
At least, they are if you want to see real results when it comes to fat loss.
Because it works.
HIIT is any workout that involves alternating between a period of high-intensity exercise and low-intensity exercise. These alternations are performed in “bursts.”
For example, a very basic HIIT workout might involve sprinting for 15 seconds, walking for 25 seconds, then repeating for a total of 15 to 20 minutes or so.
Studies show that these types of workouts are significantly more effective than steady-state cardio for fat loss. Why? Because they increase your metabolism for hours after your workout.
This effect is referred to as excess-post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC (we’ll just call it afterburn). It’s a gold mine when it comes to burning more calories over the course of your days.
Just how much can HIIT increase our metabolism, you ask?
One study found a 4.2 percent boost in metabolism after high-intensity resistance workouts. It resulted in “significantly elevated” fat oxidation over a 16-hour period (1).
Another found that out of two groups – one performing regular aerobic exercise and another performing HIIT exercise – the aerobics group burned 48 percent more calories per session than the HIIT group. But here’s the kicker: the HIIT group burned 900 percent more fat over the 15 weeks than the first group burned in 20 weeks (2).
What kind of HIIT workouts can we do, aside from sprinting, that produce these kinds of results?
One fantastic way is through Tabata workouts.
Tabata was created in the late 1990s by Irisawa Koichi, the head coach of the Japanese Olympic speed skating team, and was later tested by his training coach, Izumi Tabata.
It originally used a cycle ergometer for its intervals, but any exercise that produces a high level of intensity can be substituted.
Tabata intervals look like this:
20 seconds of all-out effort
10 seconds rest
Repeat for 8 cycles through, or a total of four minutes
At this point, one can either stop the workout here or rest for a minute or two, then repeat the four minutes.
Like HIIT, Tabata has been proven to be effective for fat loss and improving cardiovascular performance (3). However, before getting into Tabata workouts, there are several mistakes many people make that need to be addressed.
Below we’ll take a look at these, then follow up with some sample Tabata workouts for you to try.
5 Mistakes People Make when doing Tabata Intervals
Not Pushing Hard Enough
This is the number one mistake most people make when they do Tabata workouts.
Remember how we spoke about intensity earlier? Here, doing high knees at a moderate pace is not the kind of intensity we need when trying to get the most out of Tabata.
Simply put, you shouldn’t be able to talk and should definitely be very out of breath during a Tabata workout. You should be pushing yourself, frankly, at about 110 percent effort.
This is why I recommend increasing your fitness level with beginner-style bodyweight moves in HIIT workouts before attempting a true, full-out Tabata workout. Your heart rate will be very high, so your system needs to be able to tolerate this level of intensity.
The reason you need to push so hard during Tabatas is that it’s truly the only way to get the maximum results you’re looking for in such a short period of time.
Studies show that there is a direct correlation between the intensity of the exercise performed and your results, with the best results coming from strenuous resistance exercise performed in bursts (4).
In terms of fat loss results, one study from the University of New South Wales Medical Sciences found that HIIT burned three times more body fat than steady-state cardio.
Scientists studied two groups that exercised following different protocols. The group who sprinted on a bike for 8 seconds, followed by 12 seconds light exercise for a total of 20 minutes, lost 2.5 kg of fat. Meanwhile, the other group, who exercised at a continuous, steady pace for 40 minutes, showed no loss of fat (5).
If that isn’t motivation to push a little harder, I don’t know what is!
Not Using Weights
Tabata intervals are classified as a cardiovascular workout, which keeps many from doing anything but traditional cardio exercises.
This is a huge missed opportunity to up your fat-loss game while still getting an aerobic workout.