But I don’t have 5 minutes for a Sweaty!
If you’ve ever thought this—have you ever thought this? *Really?—then please, I implore you, read on.
Enter: the 4-minute workout!
Do you only have 4 minutes to work out? Is 5 minutes just too long? Do you own a “mechanically braked cycle ergometer” that has been merely collecting dust? Are you sick and tired of Pat programming for those with limited equipment and completely ignoring people like you? I hear you, and I am here to help!
Ergometer aside—we’ll address that in just a bit—this magical four-minute workout is called a Tabata interval. Chances are, you are familiar with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and you may even be familiar with the particular Tabata work/rest scheme, but allow me to shed some light on the science.
[If you don’t care about the science, just go ahead and scroll to the bottom, where I have provided you with a few tried-and-true, absolutely miserable ideas for “Tabata intervals”–ya know, if you’re one of those people who couldn’t possibly find 5 whole minutes to workout. (Think of all the fun or productive things you will be able to accomplish with that remaining minute!)]
First things first, Tabata is capitalized because it is named after Izumi Tabata (and not because I make up my own capitalization rules). Tabata, a Japanese researcher, was solicited by Irisawa Koichi, the former head coach of the Japanese men’s speed skating team, to scientifically assess the protocol he was using with his athletes. (Poor Mr. Koichi doesn’t even get credit, although Dr. Tabata has been quoted to good-humoredly point this out.)
- Dr. Tabata’s seminal research was published in 1996
- Protocol was originally created to train male Japanese Olympic speed skaters
- Thus, the intention of this study was to determine the protocol’s potential to increase the competitive performance of highly-trained, highly-efficient, top-level athletes
- Read: the protocol was NOT created for literally anything else
- Actual research was conducted using health-conscious college-aged males who were mostly amateur athletes
- Actual research was conducted with subjects utilizing mechanically braked cycle ergometers
- Actual research found aerobic and anaerobic benefit specifically under these conditions:
- 10-minute warm-up at 50% VO2max
- 4 days per week of 7-8 sets of 20s of work at 170% VO2max followed by 10s of rest
- 1 additional day per week comprised of 30 min of exercise at an intensity of 70% VO2 max prior to 4 sets of the intermittent exercise at 170% VO2max
- VO2max is defined as the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use (mL/kg body weight per minute); typically, 100% is considered complete exhaustion
So, let’s be clear…
The Tabata protocol was not designed for Average Joe or Mediocre Marcy. It was designed for an Olympic athlete who could reach 170% VO2max without vomiting and then reach it again, 7 more times, within 4 minutes.
Nonetheless, there is plenty of research to support the benefits of HIIT, including increased aerobic and anaerobic capacity, fat loss, and overall increased beastliness. Let’s maybe just not call it Tabata… since, after all, we are mere humans…
That being said, as promised, below are a few tried-and-true, absolutely miserable ideas for–ahem–“20-10 intervals” (modeled loosely after Coach Koichi’s Olympic speed-skater training regimen).
In our version, we are just going to aim for 20 seconds of all-out, balls-to-the-wall effort. Like serious I can’t have any thoughts effort. This is followed by 10 seconds of complete rest. It is just long enough to start having thoughts again. Thoughts like, WTF just happened? Thoughts like, I can’t possibly do that ag–erg, 10 seconds is up, back to work. Repeat. X8. Four minutes total.
DISCLAIMER: The 4 minutes is a bit of a misnomer, as the original protocol does call for a 10 minute warm up. Be advised.
The 20-10 Interval of Doom
20s squat jumps / 10s rest
20s plank jacks / 10 s rest
The 20-10 Interval of Bloom
20s jumping lunges / 10s rest
20s sprawls with right foot raised (never touching ground) / 10s rest
20s sprawls with left foot raised (never touching ground) / 10s rest
20s plank mountain climbers / 10s rest
Still like your steady-state cardio? Still want to do your morning jog? Throw in one of these little zingers at the end for a massive burn. The fat will splatter away, drip by salty drip, as you test your physical and psychological boundaries.
*If you really HAVE ever thought this, I ask you to reassess your priorities. Find five minutes for you. You deserve it. (Oh, and you don’t have to spend it working out either. If you can honestly only carve out five minutes for yourself daily, feel free to meditate, journal, read, or—as more than a few moms have yearned for—use the bathroom without interruption.)