It is all about achieving your goals when it comes to the bootcamp. Whether that is to burn fat, gain lean muscle, train for your sport or just break through that plateau in the gym, they all carry equal importance. Through dedication and hard work, the secret to success ultimately comes down to the individual and their ability to master two key concepts in a training environment: focus and Intensity.

It is no secret that our ability to focus dictates our level of quality not just in fitness, but in life. How much time do we waste? How many of us focus more closer to a deadline thus producing more work?

It is well known that our innate ‘fight or flight’ instinct primes the body for exercise (and concentration) with increasing adrenalin levels. A shorter, quality and intense workout of just 20 minutes taps into this enabling one to give it their all while still reaping the benefits.

Fitness can be intensity dependent, not always time dependent.

Fitness does not have into one hour blocks in the gym. In fact, you would struggle to even find an elite athlete that can perform one hour of quality work. In your typical one hour workout session in the gym, the quality training time will on average only last 20 minutes (often less) with 5 to 10 minutes of warming up and 5 minutes cool down with 30 to 40 minutes of wasted time.

Intensity is another very important factor often missing in this 20 minute window. Performing any exercises or workout at a high intensity is hard and requires focus. It is well documented that the benefits of  high intensity interval training  (short bouts of intense intermittent exercise) is far superior to that of longer, more moderate workouts to elicit specific adaptations pertaining to fat loss and muscle gain (for the moderately fit) to increased cardio vascular capacity and conditioning (for athletes) (Gibala & McGhee, 2008).

‘Tabata’: The four minute HIIT.

One such study was conducted on a group of elite Japanese skaters by a now famous scientist named Dr. Izumi Tabata and the results were20130922-232301.jpg astounding.

One group of athletes trained 4 days a week for 6 weeks, performing  high intensity interval training at 170% VO2MAX (maximum oxygen uptake during cardio) blitzing 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 secs of rest for a total of only four minutes. The other group of athletes performed steady, moderate cardio for a 1 hour duration, for 5 days a week for a total of 6 weeks.

The results revealed that the group performing short high intensity interval training showed huge gains in both their aerobic (oxygen) and anerobic (muscles) threshold. Meanwhile, the other group only showed improvements in their aerobic capacity, which was relatively less than the improvements seen in the first group. Significantly, the first group retained muscle mass (with increases of up to 28%) opposed to the second group which is important information for people looking to build lean muscle while doing HIIT (Tabata, 2011).

For people who train for sport, Dr. Tabata’s study highlighted that while there were specific separate training programs for sprinters and endurance runners. Now he produced a compromise for both by improving one’s anaerobic threshold and VO2 Max simultaneously (in half the time). Elite sports team will incorporate some form of HIIT training separate to specific sprint or aerobic training (the latter used more for recovery).

For people who like to train for health and aesthetic reasons, recent research conducted by the American Council on Exercise (2013) on a group of 16 moderately fit to very fit (age 20 – 47) using the specific ‘Tabata’ method discovered:

  •  Across the 20 minute workout, participants averaged 86% HR max and 74% V02 max advocating that both meet or exceed industry guidelines for improving cardiovascular fitness and body composition.
  • Subjects judged their rate of perceived exertion as 15.6 out of 20 (Borg Scale) which is rated as ‘Hard’. The average total number of calories burned per person was 300 calories.

The After Burn effect

The real bonus from this training is the ‘after  burn’ effect – scientifically known as ‘excess post‐ exercise oxygen consumption’ (EPOC) – which can burn calories up to 48 hours after your workout (Dr Andreacci, 2011). This can become significant after 3 sessions a week. By shocking your body into an oxygen debt, along with repair processes to muscle damage (the good way) caused by intense execution of compound exercises, your body requires a significant amount of energy to restore back to homeostasis in the time preceding your workout (Mc Ardle et al., 2001). While there is still ongoing research into the after burn effect, what is known is that you can boost your resting metabolism by 10 – 30% and burn up to 500+ calories in a 30 minute session.  From personal practical experience, the results from this mode of training are powerful.

How do you achieve EPOC? The answer is simple. There is a direct correlation within all studies that the harder a person trains within the strict time allotments of HIIT, the greater the calorie burn.

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Any exercise can be incorporated into the Tabata training. However the basic outline of the Tabata training method are as follows:
•     4 minutes long (per round)
•     20 seconds of intense training
•     10 seconds of rest
•     Station 1 and station 2 are considered 1 round each of four minutes changing exercise after 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds (super set exercises back to back eg: weighted squats with squat jumps). Complete 4 rounds (do both stations twice).



Warm up 5- 10 minute jog building in intensity followed by a full body dynamic stretch. For better performance and reduced risk of injury, activate and mobilize major muscle groups in the legs, chest and back through body weight squats, lunges, inch worms and crawling hill climbers, finishing with bounds and sprints.
Tabata Training Station 1:                                                                           
Weighted Squats/Squat jumpsJumping pull ups/inverted rowWeighted Lunges/Hill ClimbersClap Press ups/incline press upsBREAK 1 minute.Station 2:
Med Ball Slam/ Single leg BurpeesBoxing/Boxing

Tuck jumps/Skipping

Shuttle run near maximal

BREAK 1 minute.

This is considered 1 round. Do 2 rounds.


American Council on Exercise. (2013). Is tabata all that it is cracked up to be?. Available: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/expert-insight-article/47/3591/is-tabata-all-it-s-cracked-up-to-be/. Last accessed 1/12/2013.

Baar, K. Training for endurance and strength: lessons from cell signaling. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 38:1939Y1944, 2006.

Dr Andreacci. (2011). EXCESS POSTEXERCISE OXYGEN CONSUMPTION (EPOC). Available: http://facstaff.bloomu.edu/jandreac/class_notes/05.575/Labs/EPOC-Lab.pdf. Last accessed 12/11/2013.

Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance (5th ed.).   W. McArdle, F. Katch, and V. Katch.  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins:  Philadelphia, PA.  2001

Gibala, M.J. & McGee, S,. . (2008). Metabolic Adaptations to Short-term High-Intensity Interval Training: A Little Pain for a Lot of Gain?.American College of Sports Medicine. 6 (2), 56 – 63.

Harnish, V. (2002). Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Fast-Growth Firm . UK: Gazelles . 56 – 70.

Unknown. (2011). Tabata Training. Available: http://tabatatraining.org/?p=18. Last accessed 02/12/13.

Chris Cahill