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Rethinking The Tabata Protocol – Episode 76

Video Highlights

- Building stamina Z-Health style.
- Effort beats Intensity.
- Get results in only 16 minutes.

Hi Everybody, Dr. Cobb back with you.

This week we’re going to talk about building stamina Z-Health style.

Now if you didn’t know anything about the system, we’re all about efficiency and creating results that you’re after. And I tell you, one of the things people ask me about all the time is hey, how can I have better endurance, how can I have better energy through my day?

And so what I’m going to talk about today is actually this kind of big misconception that’s out there in the general fitness world around something called the Tabata protocol. Now this has been around for a long time. The actual original study was done in 1996. It was done in Japan, hence the name Tabata. Most people over time replaced it with the idea of 20 tens. Meaning you do 20 seconds of hard exercise followed by 10 second rest. In the original study you did that 7 times in a row or 8 times in a row. The reason this got really popular is this original study showed both an improvement in aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity after a certain period of training.

This was kind of unheard of in the day. So people got really excited about it and ever since that first study was published, so now we’re almost 20 years out, I constantly hear people in the fitness industry going all right, we’re going to do our intervals, we’re going to do our Tabatas, we’re going to do 20 tens. And while it’s effective and hard, there may be a better way. So let’s just talk about that.

The original Tabata study and I’m going to give you a bunch of numbers so if you want to follow along you can write this stuff done. But in the original study, like I said, the goal was they put these high level athletes on an exercise bike and they made them cycle really, really hard and they were cycling at what’s called about 170% of VO2 max. Now VO2 max in exercise science is basically how much oxygen you can uptake in any given period of time. And a lot of people look at as kind of a measure of aerobic capacity.

So, they were pushing pretty hard, but they weren’t actually maxing out in the original study because 170% is really not max effort. For most humans, max efforts around 250% of VO2 max. But the problem is that they were doing 170% for 20 seconds, getting a very brief 10-second breather, and then going at it again. And from a physiologic perspective, while this is effective, most people can’t actually engage high-level intensity throughout the whole series because it’s so short, the rest periods are so short.

So here’s the big news that I think we’re looking at. 2005 another study was published. And this is the one I want to talk about because I think it’s really interesting and it’s powerful and it’s a reminder of one of the most important things in all the exercise world which is the level of effort you put into something also determines the results.

Recommended Reading – http://thepaleodiet.com/interval-training-stop-tabatas-gibalas/
Here’s the referenced study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1995688/

So in 2005 another study was published and its been repeated multiple times. And people said, hey, this Tabata protocol’s cool, but is there something better. Is there something different? So in this particular process, what they did is again they put people on exercise bikes, but instead of exercising hard for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds, they had these athletes go really hard.

So all out, maximum sprint on the bike for 30 seconds and then rest for 4 minutes. All right. Not 10 seconds, 4 minutes. And then they had them repeat that in their first few training session 3 more times. So they did a total of 4 30-second sprints separated by 4 minutes of rest each time and they did this for 2 weeks. They did 6 training sessions over 2 weeks.

Now here was the crazy part. In 2 weeks of training, and if you actually look at the total training time it was roughly 16 minutes of hard exercise over 2 weeks, their cycle endurance time doubled. A 100% endurance improvement in 2 weeks of training. Now what was most intriguing about this is they actually compared that high intensity group to another group who was out riding a bike. And they were riding at about 75, 80% intensity so they weren’t exercising super hard, but they weren’t just lagging it either. So kind of moderate intensity.

Now, here’s the comparison. Both groups got the same level of improvement over a training period. But the people that were doing moderate intensity work had to exercise about 12 hours compared to 16 minutes. So what’s come out of this in the exercise literature and its been talked a ton about, but it’s still not really pushing its way out into the general public yet, is that the level of intensity that you bring to it really determines the difference. But because people are people, we think that high intensity and less rest is great and that’s actually not the case.

What we want to think about in building stamina most efficiently is high intensity work followed by a lot of rest. High intensity work, more rest. Right? It’s kind of a match made in heaven for a lot of us. So, the basic protocol, what I’m going to suggest to you trying over the next few weeks, is start kind of engaging with this idea of what would it feel like to do 30 seconds of pretty close to all out exercise followed by 4 minutes of rest and then do it again.

Most of the time when I start people on these types of programs I’m very cautious. You know, if you haven’t been running, I don’t want you to go run all out for 30 seconds because your legs aren’t going to be ready for it. So you want to choose a safe activity. Exercise bike is usually a good place to start. If you haven’t had a cardiovascular checkup with your doctor, you might want to do that before you start pushing really hard.

But the idea behind this in Z-Health is start playing with doing higher intensity, what most people would consider aerobic style exercise, although it’s not really when we’re pushing that hard, followed by a lot of rest. And then just build your stamina over time.

The coolest part about this is that when you follow this kind of protocol, you should notice almost immediate results. A lot of people, usually within the first week of doing this, by the time they get to the second week, they’re like yeah, this is getting a little bit easier. At the end of the second week they’re going, wow, I feel really different. So, this is something I encourage. Now we vary it over time.

But if you have any questions about this please give us a call because it’s a really important, like I said, kind of efficiency hack if you will, to building better heart, better lung, better circulatory capacity and overall better endurance to help you get through your day with more energy and more stamina.

Thanks for listening.

I know it’s a lot of stuff. Hopefully you wrote it down

. If you have any questions, let us know.

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