Tag Archives: VO2 Max

Working out using the Tabata Method

13 Feb

I have always been a believer in the benefits of Interval Training having found in the past that it proved to be a better way for me personally to improve my fitness over the shortest possible time. In recent years I modified that belief to embrace to concept of High Intensity Interval Training, and in the last few months I’ve become quite interested in the Tabata Method of HIIT in particular.

The Tabata method is named after Professor Izumi Tabata who along with his colleagues released a study in 1996 that involved olympic speed skaters who trained intensively for 4 minutes, 4 times per week, with an extra day of the more traditional “steady state” training. Tabata called this the IE1 protocol, and his research found that the the athletes who trained in this way were training so efficiently that they were getting the same results as compared to the control group who were doing all of their training in the more traditional manner.

So what’s the catch? Surely you can’t get a good workout in only 4 minutes? Well, it turns out that you can, but you have to really increase the intensity of your workout. So much so that instead of working to the 90% of VO2 Max that is expected during a hard workout, the Tabata method calls for 8 x 20 second intervals at 170% of VO2 Max. So you basically push as hard and as fast as you possibly can for the entire 20 second period… basically to the point where most people would be breathing so hard that they would want to vomit, and then you do it again 7 more times with an ever so generous 10 second “rest” in between sets!!!

That’s a seriously intense workout, no matter what exercises you choose to do. I have a few problems with the Tabata method however:

  • The study was done using olympic athletes, and not everyone can claim to be anywhere near as physically capable as a well trained athlete in peak condition.
  • It’s impossible to know if you are working at an intensity that is anywhere near the 170% mark of your own personal VO2 Max.
  • Not all exercises are created equal, and some movements and exercises can be dangerous if rushed.
  • Strain injuries are likely if the participant is not sufficiently warmed-up prior to a Tabata session.
  • The intensity required has the potential to induce respiratory and cardiac difficulties in people who are susceptible to such conditions.

Even with the problems, I think that the Tabata method is a complimentary training method when used as a part of a wider training regimen. It is great for anaerobic training which gives your fast-twitch muscle fibres a targeted workout, and which are the muscles involved in explosive speed and strength that consume large amounts of oxygen in a very short space of time. Another benefit of Tabata training is that it can increase your VO2 max, providing you with a greater capacity for oxygen uptake, allowing you to use your aerobic metabolism for longer.

Tabata is no replacement for aerobic exercise however, as the slow-twitch muscles are the ones which are made for slow and/or repetitive activity over a sustained period of time, so you will still need some form of aerobic exercise in order to build the stamina needed for activities which require endurance over strength.

Today’s Workout

For today, I decided to stick with the Tabata workouts. I chose 8 exercises which I could do safely either very quickly, or which I could do slowly yet loaded such that it would require greater effort even though I would end up doing only a few reps in the time available. I’ve also added a hip-flexor stretch and a thoracic mobility exercise to my warm-up routine to increase the overall safety of the workouts that I do. Oh yeah, and because I’m getting addicted to working out, I did this lot twice!!


  • TVA Vacuum
  • Yoga Diaphragmatic Breathing
  • Joint Circles
  • Hip-Flexor Stretch
  • Thoracic Mobility Exercise
  • 100 Star Jumps

Tabata Sequence:

  1. Mountain Climbers
  2. Plank to Push-up
  3. Skater Jumps
  4. Push-up Jacks
  5. Tricep Dips
  6. Bicycle Crunch
  7. Hammer Curls (10kg Dumbells)
  8. Plank


I did the first 6 exercises as hard and as fast as I could push myself, and by the end of the Bicycle Crunches I was feeling ready to quit. I pushed on however, but executed the Hammer Curls using a standard 1 second up and 4 seconds down pattern, because I’d rather lift weights with perfect form than rush it and injure myself. I chose 10kg weights because with the extra weight training I’ve been sneaking in lately, I felt yesterday that 7kg dumbells were starting to feel lighter than I imagined they would. So today I ended up lifting dumbell weights at a record weight for me. The plank seemed kind of a lame finisher when I wrote it down, but by the end of each sequence, I was glad to have that little breather. It wasn’t all easy though, because at least 5 of the exercises I did heavily engaged my core, and the lifts and dips didn’t let my core relax much either, so at the end of the plank my belly was starting to beg for mercy, especially at the end of the second sequence.

Working to the higher intensity was tougher than I imagined, and a couple of hours later and I was still sucking down water like a whale. It’s been about 4 hours now, and I have a lovely comfortable ache in all of my muscles which tells me that I had a pretty good workout, so I’m really pleased with how the workout was balanced, and how well I committed myself to it.


Blog updates, more fitness testing, and more Paleo

7 Jan

Hi readers!

Well, I finally managed to get my Beep Test done. The weather is still quite warm which may have effected my run a little, but on the whole it was a beautiful day, so I walked down to the local school with my wife, set up my phone with a free Beep Test App and some portable speakers, measured out the distance on the running track, and set up a pair of cones 20 meters apart. My wife controlled the app (Basically hitting the start and stop buttons) and called out her encouragement from the sideline. After running back and forth for several minutes my heart rate monitor was telling me I was at my maximum, but I didn’t really need an over-featured “wrist watch” telling me that because I was soon sweating rivers and struggling to keep up the pace as it increased from minute to minute. After calling it quits I ended up with a test result of 6/4, and which this calculator tells me means my predicted VO2 Max is 34.4 ml/kg/min.

The results have surprised me a little. While I had hoped I could reach a test score of at least 7/5, I’d kind of suspected that I’d score somewhere closer to 4/1. I guess I’m a little fitter than I thought I was. Considering that I was running with some lower back pain and having just recovered from a soft tissue injury to my thigh, I have a feeling that I’ll be able to do MUCH better next time if I can get my breathing under control. I found myself breathing very hard by the end of the test, so I hope with a little further training and development of both my core and chest, I’ll be able to get on top of what I feel is a more a shortness of breath issue than simply a lack of stamina.

So the net result of this test for me is that it has given me a baseline to improve from, and allows me to visualise a goal of 10/1 by the end of September when I aim to complete my Master Personal Trainer course. I’ve also identified an issue with my breathing which I hope to resolve with targeted training, although I’ll probably see my doctor first to determine if there are any medical issue that could account for my shortness of breath other than simply being below average in fitness.  I had my heart checked recently, and my blood work is fine so I don’t expect there to be any specific medical issues, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when embarking on a new and strenuous exercise regimen.

It’s now the 7th day that I have been eating like a caveman, and I thought that a short and somewhat early update might be in order. First of all, I convinced my wife to change to a paleo diet also, although she has sadly fallen off the wagon a couple of times and had a little bread and some “sweeties” with her tea, while I’ve been the almost “saintly” fellow who wouldn’t dare to eat something non-paleo… except for that tiny piece of dark chocolate that was calling my name endlessly!  😀  Oh well, back on the wagon for both of us. My wife commented to me today several hours after breakfast (2 slices of melon, a mango, and a nectarine) that she was surprised that she didn’t feel hungry after having eaten only fruit this morning. Neither of us have been tempted to snack during the day, and we seem to be consuming more water without it feeling like it’s a chore. Our diet is now approximately 40% protein (lean meat, fish, mushroom, etc), 40% carbs (from fruits and vegetables, no sugars, grains or legumes), and with the rest made up of nuts, good fats and oils, and the occasional splash of dairy with a cup of tea.

While the meals have been quite simple, and the quantities have been generally smaller than we used to eat, we both feel like we have lots of energy and like we’ve never eaten so well in our lives. My sleep is improving daily, and I never feel bloated, sleepy, or unable to exercise. In some ways I feel like my life has changed in only 7 days, and I’m very excited about how much healthier I believe I will feel in the coming months. I’m also becoming more convinced that many of the diets and nutrition advice out there may be “wrong” in a sense, but I’ll need to read more of the research before I can definitely say for sure.

In other news… I’ve been using a lot of my free time to read various books and research papers relating to fitness, and I’ve also been taking the time to add some additional pages to this blog which I hope you’ll have the time to look at.  There are lots of pages still waiting for me to fill them out (where I’ve had an idea but still haven’t found the time to write it up), however I do have most of my Fitness Test pages done for the time being.  This stuff is mainly there so I can find it easily, although I hope that you’ll also find it valuable. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive Health and Fitness resource however, I’d recommending having a look at the Top End Sports website, which is a terrific site that I came across yesterday.

So after 7 days I feel as though my personal journey is off to a great start. I’m not feeling too tempted by “naughty” foods, enjoying my training, I’m motivated and excited about the year ahead.

From me and my lovely cave-girl, I hope your year is off to a cracking start too! 🙂

Let the testing begin!

5 Jan

The last couple of days have been seriously hot. 41ºC yesterday and 38ºC the day before, which has slightly hindered my plans to do the first round of my fitness testing. Hopefully the Australian summer will soon give me a few cooler days so that I can do the Bleep Test I’ve been planning without killing myself in the heat.

I’ve decided to take 4 measurements relating to my fitness, and 3 for my general health.  I’m not really planning to obsess over the results, however I thought it would be good to track how my health and fitness changes over time to help me to assess how my training and diet are going, and to try to identify anything that may need improving over time.

To track my general health, I’ll be looking at my weight, hip and waist measurements. With these 3 values and also my age and height, I can calculate a number of health related values, such as BMI, Hip to Waist Ratio, Waist to Height Ratio, VO2 Max, and an estimate of my Body fat Percentage.

As a guide to my fitness, I’ve decided to use the following:

  • 60 Second Press Up Test – to track upper body strength
  • A timed Plank – to track core strength
  • 20 meter Shuttle Run (Beep/Bleep Test) – to track aerobic fitness
  • Resting heart rate – mostly out of curiosity, but also to help me gauge if my SCUBA air time will be likely to increase.

So in spite of the hot weather creating difficulties, I’ve gone ahead with every measurement and test I wanted to do, except for the Beep Test which I hope to knock over tomorrow morning if I can convince a helper to meet up with me early in the morning. In the meantime, here are the inaugural measurements of my Bod in it’s present and less than perfectly fit state:


For better or worse this is my starting point. Clearly I am overweight with an increased risk of heart disease which I am going to want to do something about. The good news is that I’m not really as unfit as I thought I was. Sure I’m not going to complete any half-marathons today, but that’s something I know I can work on. The really pleasing result was to see my resting heart rate so low, which is a good place to start in terms of my cardio health, and which I plan to improve as I build up my strength and stamina over the coming months. I know that my core is shot, but it’s not all as bad as I thought and can only get better.

I’ll post updated test results and photos in at least a month or two, once I’m in the full swing of things.



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