Which Workout is Best for You, Tabata or HIIT Training?

Which is a better workout for you: Tabata or HIIT training?


I use both Tabata and HIIT training in my group classes and with individual clients. Clients often loved the change of pace and how quick the workouts are to perform. Who wouldn’t love a 1 hour calorie burn workout in 30 minutes or less!

The key to knowing which works best for you, is in knowing more about each.

Tabata training was originally used for Olympics athletes and designed by Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata. In it athletes worked at 170% of their VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption) for 20 seconds and rested for 10 seconds for 8 sets, or a total of 4 minutes.

The trouble in relating this to real life, is most recreational athletes will not workout to 170% of their VO2 max, nor is it easy to determine VO2 max in a non clinical setting.

Also, unless a person is looking for improved sport speed performance, there is no need to workout at this intensity.

So in real life, we have used easier to measure intervals, often a minimum of 20-30 seconds, asking clients to go all out, and gave an equal or less rest recovery. Most clients will get a great workout, calorie burn, in a short period of time.

HIIT training, is High Intensity Interval Training. In this type of workouts, participants perform an exercise utilizing a 80-90% max work effort for a set period of time and then get a set rest period (work/rest in seconds: 30/30, 45/15, 60/30, 60/60, etc). The exercises could be cardio or strength based. They can also be grouped together into super sets, or several exercises, usually 1-4 exercises. Sets can be repeated 1-5 times for a 2-30 minute workout.

HIIT allows a great calorie burn in a short period of time making it a top choice for many exercisers. A variety of exercises can be used and the workout keeps you moving, adding to its likability among exercisers. It’s hard to get bored with HIIT training.

What most trainers refer to as a Tabata training, is more often a HIIT workout.

The downside is that people can push themselves beyond their capabilities, compromising form and therefore increasing their chance of injury. Some high intensity exercises, such as plyometrics or jump exercises, should not be performed by everyone, especially those with back, hip or knee injuries unless cleared by a physician. Also, women need to use caution with HIIT or a Tabata exercise, as they can cause increased stress to the body, increasing cortisol levels and actually increasing fat storage rather than the fat burn they’re after. Yikes! Best to monitor how your body reacts to this type of training to know if that is true for you.

I love both of these types of training techniques and have used both in the past. I too have been guilty of using HIIT when referring to Tabata for my group clients.

The key with all exercise programs is to:

1. Give it a try and see if it works for you. You’ll never know till you give it a go! Shout that one out!

2. Always use good form. If you can’t maintain your form, stop or ask for a modification. It’s not worth an injury!

3. Never do any exercise that causes pain. Discomfort is Good and what you are after…never pain.

4. Always check with a physician before engaging in ANY exercise program that raises your heart rate above 70% of its max.

5. Neither HIIT or a Tabata should be done by those with heart, joint or coming back from injury. Know your body and listen to it.

I’ll record a few HIIT and Tabata workouts over the next month for you to enjoy. Till then, give each a try and see what you think. You nay find a new workout you love!

Leave a reply