Baseball is a sport that requires repeated brief efforts of max intensity followed by 20-30 seconds or more of recovery. Tabata training is a high-intensity interval training program (HIIT) that has been shown to improve both anaerobic and aerobic capacity making it an appropriate training option for both off-season and in-season baseball workouts1-2. Named after physician and researcher Izumi Tabata, workouts utilize a two to one work-to-rest ratio, which is usually performed in a pattern of a 20-second work interval followed by a 10-second rest interval3. The pattern is typically performed for one set of 8-10 reps. Training can be done with expensive equipment such as a stationary bike, treadmill, EFX, Stairmaster or Versa Climber or with no equipment other than body weight (burpees, sprints and shuttles) or with inexpensive equipment such as jump ropes.
Once the mode of exercise is selected, the athlete performs with high-intensity effort for 20 seconds and then rests for 10 seconds. The sequence becomes increasingly difficult as the set continues and challenges both the athlete’s anaerobic and aerobic power, two crucial qualities for successful performance in team sports such as baseball.
With anything good, however, there is often a potential downside. In this case, performing this type of interval training without an adequate fitness base can result in poor technique and an increased risk of injury. Tabata intervals should be approached not as a new exercise trend but as a tool that should be used sparingly. They can also be used with athletes on the DL with upper body injuries.
How to do it.
- Pick out a mode of exercise such as stationary bicycle, jump rope, sprints, etc.
- Warm-up by performing dynamic movements for 5 minutes and then perform the mode of exercise selected at a low to moderate intensity for 5 minutes
- Perform the mode of exercise or movement selected at max effort for 20 seconds
- Rest for 10 seconds
- Repeat for 8-10 reps
- Cool down for 2 minutes
Research has shown that Tabata training can improve aerobic capacity (endurance) by up to 14% and anaerobic capacity (ability to perform short bursts of HIT work) by 28% after just 6 weeks of training2. Start slow when beginning Tabata training. Start with 3-4 reps, add a rep per week and gradually build to 8-10 reps.
- Make sure you are warmed up.
- If you’re new to Tabata training, start with 5-6 cycles of a given exercise and rest for 30 seconds instead of 20 seconds.
- As you build stamina, gradually shorten the rest periods to 20 seconds.
- When you can do 5-6 cycles with 20 seconds rest, gradually increase the number of cycles to add more intensity.
- NEVER decrease rest and increase reps at the same time.
- Intensity will accumulate as you go through each cycle, peaking as you reach the end of the workout when your muscles are fatigued and form gets sloppy, increasing the risk of injury.
- Limit this workout no more than 1-2 times a week, with rest in between to help avoid overtraining and reduce the risk of injury.
- If you feel pain or discomfort, take a break or back off for the day.
- High intensity interval training is very taxing on the body, so it’s easy to overdo it you’re not careful.
Bottom line. Tabata training gives you another effective training tool for your tool box. It provides variety and burns a lot of calories in a relatively short period of time.
- Astorino TA, et. al. Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Cardiovascular Function, VO2 max, and Muscular Force. JSCCR. 26(1): 138-145, 2012.
- Tabata I, et. al. “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.” Med Sci Sports Exerc.1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30.
- I’m Dr. Izumi Tabata, a professor at Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Sport and Health Science, and known for the Tabata Training Protocol for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). AMA! https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/7tjvsl/science_ama_series_im_dr_izumi_tabata_a_professor/
Ed Yong, MS, CSCS, RYT is minor league strength and conditioning coach for the Texas Rangers Spokane Indians in the Northwest League.