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Swimming is a low-impact activity that makes Tabatas safe on your joints.
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Tabata workouts are the ultimate fat-burning, fitness-boosting workouts -- and they only take four minutes to do. Bear in mind, that's four minutes of extremely high-intensity cardio exercise. You can do Tabatas with virtually any exercise. Indoor cycling and swimming are great for Tabatas because they work several muscles at once, maximizing fat burning (1).
Indoor Cycling Tabatas
Do Tabatas on a bike in the gym. Working out on a stationary bike is a lot safer than cycling at your maximal speed outdoors and makes it easier to increase your resistance. Warm up for five minutes by pedaling at an easy pace, then increase to a moderate intensity for another five minutes before doing a Tabata. Doing a Tabata involves pedaling at your maximal intensity -- as hard and as fast as you can -- for 20 seconds, then going at a very slow, recovery pace for a quick 10 seconds. Repeat for a total of eight reps. You should feel completely exhausted by the end of the four minutes. Instead of increasing your speed for the intensity intervals, you could also increase your resistance on the bike to mimic uphill cycling (1).
Swimming works all the muscles in your body at once and it's low-impact, which means it's easy on the joints. Whereas indoor cycling, running and many other cardio exercises used for Tabatas tend to strengthen the lower body, swimming works the lower body while also emphasizing your upper body muscles. Choose any swim stroke you feel comfortable doing in correct form to do your swimming Tabatas, going at your maximal speed for the 20-second intervals. Use a waterproof sports watch or have a coach or peer count the seconds for you (1).
Dr. Tabata's 1996 study examined athletes dong a Tabata five days a week. In just six weeks, the athletes' average maximum aerobic capacity increased by 14 percent and average anaerobic capacity increased by 28 percent. Dr. Tabata's research also determined Tabatas lower body fat while building muscle (3). Working out at your maximal intensity recruits your fast-twitch muscle fibers for explosive power, which create more muscle definition, according to the American Council on Exercise (2). Tabata workouts are also the ultimate workout for the typical time-crunched American -- you burn more fat in less time.
The American Council on Exercise recommends Tabata training for people who are already fit and are looking to intensify their workouts for faster, bigger fitness results. If you haven't been exercising in a while or you've been exercising only at a light intensity, you may not be in the condition it takes to do a Tabata. Work your way up to being able to do one by doing high-intensity interval training with 30 second intensity bursts at 80 to 90 percent of your maximal intensity (2).