Time: 25 to 45 minutes
Estimated Calorie Burn: 500 to 700
“This is not for someone who doesn’t want to push themselves,” says Rachel Bushert, a Tabata instructor at Equinox Gym in New York City. “You burn a lot of calories in a short period of time, which is the main reason why people will put themselves through such torture.”
Torture? Not necessarily. Tabata is definitely not for the faint of heart, but participants can individualize the workout.
Tabata is a scientifically proven method to increase athletic endurance in only about 25 to 45 minutes. The workout is based on a 1996 study by Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata. In the study, athletes cycled at their absolute highest endurance level — 170% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) — for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This was done for four minutes at a time, adding up to eight cycles.
In current Tabata classes, the timing remains the same but instructors mix up the exercises to incorporate both strength training and cardio. In Bushert’s classes, participants may start with 20 intense seconds of squat thrusts, then switch to power push-ups or squat jumps. “Many people are still working really hard, but it may not be at the intended Tabata protocol,” says Bushert. “This is still a very high-interval workout with great benefits. It’s much better than being on the elliptical watching TV.”
To successfully do Tabata, you must be willing to push yourself. You can’t do 20 seconds of whatever you please. Bushert says exercises need to be explosive moves like plyometrics or total body movements. “This is not a class for my grandmother,” she says. “This is for people with a good aerobic base who want to break through plateaus and up the ante in their workout.”
Efficient calorie-burn before and after the workout is what attracts most of Bushert’s clients to the class. “It’s considered controversial still, but most people will agree you are going to have a lot of calorie burning post-workout because you put your body in a a state of detox. Your body still thinks you’re working when you’re done because certain body mechanisms are still trying to come down to rest and are still burning calories.”