Key differences between Tabata and HIIT


Let’s be honest – most of us want to get fit, and fast. The problem is, we either try to work out more often, sacrificing what little time we have during the week to reach our fitness goals, or we end up working out longer, gritting our teeth as we attempt to complete another 15 minutes on the treadmill.

Though both of these approaches are admirable and can often be effective, sometimes it pays to simply workout harder. Much harder. With high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and its gruelling variant, Tabata training, you’ll be doing exactly that. But be warned: these training methods aren’t for the faint-hearted.

What is HIIT training?

HIIT (pronounced ‘hit’) involves quick bursts of intense activity followed by short periods of rest. By pushing yourself as hard as you can – and we mean as hard you can – your body is forced to adapt to the vigorous stop-start demands that interval training provides. Most HIIT programs tend to follow a 1:1 ratio of 30 seconds of exercise, 30 seconds of rest, but they can be adjusted however you deem necessary.

Whatever you choose to do, though, HIIT will likely leave you panting for breath, soaked in sweat and praying for just one more second of rest. And that’s because interval training can often burn up to 30% more calories than resistance training or when running on a treadmill, making it a viable option for those looking to gain impressive results without sacrificing a huge chunk of time.

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What is Tabata training?

Tabata training is a form of HIIT named after the Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata, and is supposed to last for only four minutes. Before you scoff in disbelief, know that, when done correctly, you’ll be wishing Dr. Tabata’s method was only half as long.

Dr. Tabata discovered that a group of athletes who participated in shorter, high-intensity workouts over a six week period achieved greater aerobic and anaerobic endurance than a second group of athletes, who took part in far longer workouts at a moderate intensity.

Each Tabata training interval involves 20 seconds of extremely intense exercise, then 10 seconds of blissful rest. This is then repeated eight times until you begin to see stars, which means if you’re not gasping for air and cursing under your breath during each rest period, then you’re simply not doing it right.

So… what’s the difference?

The main difference between Tabata training vs HIIT boils down to the time allotted for the workout and subsequent rest periods. With HIIT, you can be more flexible and inventive with your routines, adding longer workout times, different rest periods and more extravagant exercises that may require more time to perform. Tabata training, meanwhile, relies on the strict four-minute rule. It therefore lends itself better to exercises that are easier to perform in quick succession, like press-ups, squats or kettlebell exercises.

Push it to the max

Whichever training method you prefer, both HIIT and Tabata training are short but punishingly hardcore workouts with proven results. If you’re looking to save serious time in the gym while seriously improving your fitness at the same time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more efficient and effective way of burning fat than a heart-pounding session of HIIT or Tabata training.

Here are some HIIT and Tabata workouts for you to try:

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