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What's the difference between HIIT, Tabata? What's t...

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  • 3 years ago
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"Tabata and HIIT: it seems like they overlap a lot in principle. What is the difference?" - Nanci, YouTube

HIIT, which is short for ‘high intensity interval training’ refers to a workout that alternates between the aerobic and anaerobic systems in your body with varying exertion levels during a specific, timed interval structure. HIIT training intervals can vary in length as the work to recovery ratio of the specific intervals may vary depending on your goals and fitness level (ie. you may start out with a 3 minute active recovery period and a 1 minute maximal effort work interval, and then eventually become fit enough to switch to a 3:1 work to recovery ratio).

Pros: An efficient way to more calories in a shorter amount of time, creates a metabolic after burn effect which helps your body burn calories long after you finish.

Cons: Requires your body to tap into it’s anaerobic energy system, requiring a lot of effort that can be challenging to maintain.

Recs: 1-2 (3 if you are an advanced exerciser) HIIT style, non-consecutive sessions/week; resting fully in between sessions.

Tabata
Named after Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata, this is a specific, 4-minute HIIT protocol that alternates 20 seconds of MAXIMUM effort with 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times in total. Tabata used this specific protocol (coupled with 70 minutes of steady state cardio too) to train the men’s Japanese Olympic speed skating team, and found that it significantly improved subjects’ anaerobic and aerobic fitness levels more than hour-long endurance sessions did.

Pros: Also a super efficient way to burn a lot of calories in a very short amount of time, also creates a metabolic after burn effect – all in just 4 minutes.

Cons: The effort required to perform a true Tabata interval is pretty excruciating – we’re talking all out, on the verge of not being able to breathe at all, maximal effort. And, since 20 seconds is super short not only do you have to push to the brink during the entire time, you also have to blast up your intensity right off the bat (there’s no time to climb into the interval here) – this is balls-to-the-wall effort from start to finish.

Recs: Start out with a single Tabata session (to make sure you really want to do it!), slowly working up to one weekly session as you become more fit. Advanced athletes can try no more than 1-2 session per week max, and only when well rested. Due to the very high intensity nature of this training it is not recommended for individuals with any limitations or health concerns.

Regular (aka ‘Steady State’ or Endurance) Cardio
This type of training relies solely on your aerobic system for energy, and doesn’t require such extreme levels of exertion. Walking, jogging, swimming, etc. – any activity performed at a moderate level of exertion (that won’t leave you breathless) is an example of this type of cardio conditioning.

Pros: This type of aerobic training helps build your overall fitness level, aerobic capacity and endurance (a great foundation of fitness to help you perform your best during HIIT style training), it also often comes with a lower risk of injury, higher enjoyment level and may even help you eat less and sleep more soundly.

Cons: In terms of calorie burn, it may not be the most efficient way to go as you’ll have to go further, longer to burn up the same amount of calories expended in a shorter HIIT or Tabata style session.

Recs: This type of exercise can be done daily (if preferred) since it does not overly tax your energy systems. General recommendations include 150 minutes (or about 20 minutes a day) of moderate aerobic exercise per week.
The bottom line? Don’t ditch all of your lower intensity cardio sessions. High intensity interval training does have its benefits; it just shouldn’t take over your every workout. How often you decide to go high intensity should be based on your larger, longer-term fitness goals and incorporated into a plan that is best for your body.
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