Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tabata Fantasy

The Tabata Protocol is simple. 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times.

The effect is amazing. Dr. Izumi Tabata, the man responsible for the protocol, found that it improves anaerobic and aerobic capacity simultaneously, presumably due to its intensity across both energy systems. Dr. Tabata's findings were first published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (1996) 28, 1327-1330.

Simply, the 10 second rest does not provide enough recovery time for the athlete to regain maximal strength or return to a resting heartrate. Fatigue continues to build throughout each set.

Crossfit has taken full advantage of the Tabata Protocol, creating workouts like "Tabata This" and "Tabata Something Else".

"Tabata This" applies the protocol to five different exercises:


The lowest number of reps completed in one 20-second interval is the score for the exercise. The sum of the individual scores comprises the total score. Ergo, if my lowest row score (calories) in one interval is 7, lowest pushups is 8, situps is 12, squats is 15, and pullups is 4, I get a total score of 46.

There is a problem with the Crossfit scoring system. Because only the lowest score is counted, athletes quickly figure out that maintaining a steady number is more important than going all-out.

If I'm doing pullups, I know I can do 15 in the first 20-second interval. Unfortunately, I'll burn out if I do this. If I burn out, my low score may be one, despite the fact that I was working exceptionally hard.

It would look like this (each round): 15, 11, 7, 7, 6, 5, 2, 1.

Rather than go all-out, I'm tempted to go for a more sustainable number, like 5.

It would look like this (each round): 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5.

In the first scenario, my score would be 1, and I would've done 54 pullups. In the second scenario, my score would be 5, and I would've done 40 pullups.

The spirit of the scoring system is sound. It's geared toward building work capacity, the ability to sustain power output across all three energy pathways. Unfortunately, it encourages "cheating".

Thanks to the brilliant thinking of my beautiful girlfriend, we're going to change that. This weekend, Again Faster will be cranking out "Tabata Fantasy."

Rather than throw out the high score, we're going to keep it. We'll keep the low score too, and add both figures together. That way, you'll be motivated to push hard all the way through. You'll want your high score to be as high as possible, and your low score to be high too.

In the scenarios above, the first effort would receive a score of 16, while the second would get a 10. Justice is served.

It wouldn't be Again Faster if we did the standard "Tabata This". We'll be adding a hammer-riffic twist.

Tabata Fantasy:

Sledgehammer Swings (half intervals strong side, half intervals weak side)

The protocol will be applied to each exercise in turn, with a one-minute break between exercises. We'll pair up, and your partner will keep score while you work. Only full-ROM reps will count, and we'll add the high and low scores for each exercise together.

See you Sunday at Jamaica Pond by the pullup bars, 8:00 a.m. sharp. As always, new folks are welcome. Just shoot me an email using the "Contact Again Faster" link in the sidebar, and I'll be happy to give you directions or answer questions.

Go faster!

Check out Clarence Bass's article on the Tabata Protocol.

Picture of Brad Hirakawa doing some Tabata Lawn Mowing, from the Crossfit Archives, May 21, 2003. Check out the Archives for a fascinating look at the origins of Crossfit's online presence.


Blogger Josh Roman said...

F'n A.

Of course, counting total reps would be the ultimate Tabata fantasy...

8/10/2006 04:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be there.


8/10/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Dawn Adam-Brown said...

Sorry I have to miss this one Jon.
Hate to miss a workout with the word 'Fantasy' in it. See you and Sam next weekend, I hope.

8/11/2006 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Gilson said...

Here's a great thread on rowing on the C2. Check it out.

I bet you didn't know...


8/11/2006 07:00:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home