‘It’s just 20 seconds – I can do anything if it’s only for 20 seconds,’ I reassure myself as I walk into Safa Park for a Tabata training class. Less than 10 minutes later the smug smile disappears as my cheek plants on
the ground, my hair plastered to my forehead, my legs like jelly. Yup, this is a hardcore workout.
Run by two American brothers, whose seriously ripped physiques make them walking advertisements, Tabata training is interval training for hardcore fitness fans. Invented by the unassuming-looking Dr Izumi Tabata (Google him – there may be huge guns hiding under that polyester shirt, but it doesn’t look hopeful), the training involves 20 seconds of maximum-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. Dr Tabata found that subjects who practised this style of workout gained a hefty 28 per cent of anaerobic capacity after six weeks.
He concluded that four minutes of Tabata training could do more to boost aerobic and anaerobic fitness than an hour of standard cardio work (the Safa Park classes feature 40 minutes of Tabata per session).
Instructor Jordan introduces me to the devotees before we start, joking that he hopes to get some vomit out of me. ‘Oh dear,’ I think. But this isn’t as grotesque as it sounds. The key to the sessions is building up lactic acid, because an excess of the stuff leads to dramatic increases in growth hormone, resulting in muscle build-up and fat loss. This is why the same exercise is performed eight times, and why the class is far harder than you imagine – people often lose their lunch first time round (I manage to avoid it, but my date heads off to inspect the bushes after the sixth Tabata).
Each Tabata exercise is only 160 seconds of activity, but the burpee, push-up, squat or Spiderman plank will be the hardest you’ve ever done. We try seven different exercises and each one kills us, but it’s over before we know it and we have a three-minute rest between each exercise, which makes the class bearable.
Yes, this is something you could theoretically do on your own with a stopwatch and a patch of floor, but the truth is that you won’t complete it by yourself – it’s that hard. I was tempted to stop after the second set on most of the exercises, but the encouragement of the class environment kept me going. Amerian Fitness offers packages and also runs Super Camp: 90 minutes of kettlebells, barbells and Tabata.
Visit americanfitness.me for info.