This is a four minute interval training program founded by Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata. In 1996, Dr. Izmui Tabata published a study in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise on the effectiveness of high level interval training. He had a group of cyclists perform an all out effort of biking for 20 seconds with 10 second rest. The group performed this eight times -- 4 minutes total. They followed this program over a five day period, for six weeks. He also had a control group. These cyclists exercised for one hour, five days a week for six weeks; however, they worked out at a moderate pace -- 50%-70% VO2max.
After six weeks, they found that both the four minute team and the control groupincreased their aerobicendurance. However, the fourminutecyclists had a 28%increase in anaerobicendurance. Anaerobic means without oxygen, anaerobic endurance is cardiovascular training without oxygen. Incidentally, this type of training can only last a very short time. Sprinting, for example, is an anaerobic activity. The benefits of anaerobic training are increased metabolic rate (metabolism), speed, strength, power and muscle mass. The downside, however, has to do with overtraining to which anaerobic exercise has been linked.
If you want to skip a day or two of your regular aerobic training, you can do Tabata training instead. I usually do my routine with a combination of jumping jacks, squat jumps, and jumping jack leaps... Believe me, it is tough but rewarding. If I want to work my legs extra hard, I do Tabata squats right after my warm-up and then I proceed with my regular weight training routine. Tabata should be done at the beginning of your workout, after the warm-up, because it's too intense to do in the middle or the end of the workout. Warm-up for about 5 minutes before starting your Tabata routine; this will lower your risk of injury.
If you are a beginner and you don't have any medical issues, do a Tabata routine that agrees with your level of fitness. Most activities that get your heart rate racing would do; it is not necessary to engage in some high level high impact routines just to end up pulling or cracking something. When I first started this workout, I ran up and down the stairs; my friend just did jumping jacks. It is up to you to design a program that is effective for you.
Now, don't fool yourself into consuming more calories than recommended, just because this program has raised your heart rate and made you sweat. Tabata is only 4 minutes long; you still have to burn a lot of the calories you take in. Do Tabata training along with your regular cardiovascular exercises.
Footnote: The Tabata workout is 20 seconds of intense exercise and 10 seconds of rest. You do this 8 times for a total of 4 minutes.