Monday, 10 August 2009

REAL Tabata on the Rowing Machine, a Murderous Session

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 10th August

Workout: Tabata Intervals on the Rowing Machine

Total Time: 5 minutes (includes 1 minute warmup)

Post Workout Nutrition: scrambled eggs + wild bilberries + cocoa powder, 45 minutes later.

Having read this article by Lyle McDonald, I was determined to perform this Tabata session correctly. It's a long and involved article, but nub of it that to truly get the benefits of the Tabata protocol, as evidenced by the original study, you have to put an incredible amount of effort into the intervals.

As Lyle puts it:

Doing thrusters or KB swings or front squats with 65 lbs for 20 seconds doesn’t generate nearly the workload that was used during the actual study. Nor will it generate the benefits... You can call them Tabatas all you want but they assuredly aren’t.

I have always regarded correct Tabatas as each and every 20 second interval being done at 100% effort. There should be no 'budgeting' for later intervals; but there have been times I have chickened out of really applying this literally, and found myself not genuinely giving the first few intervals my all.

The thing is, it's a genuinely traumatic experience when you do - to such an extent that last night, I was slightly nervous; and on the way to the gym this morning, had quite some adrenaline flowing.

In the event, the fear was largely justified - it was a very painful experience. It was at least 3 minutes after the intervals were over before I felt okay.

However, from then on, I felt great. It has been a while since I did a Tabata row, and other than Tabata sprints, which I dare not do at all, it's the most demanding thing I do. Perhaps it's the very fact that my objective is to truly give 100% to each interval that makes it so scary. The pain is the objective so there seems to be no escaping it, however fit I am.

Anyway, I shall probably skip legs on my BBS session on Thursday. They took a fair hit from today's session, after also working hard yesterday in the hills; and with the threat of more sprints (like these) on Saturday with my fell running partner, I think it is the sensible thing to rest them until then.

All that will make this a pretty busy week, workout-wise:

Yesterday - hills
Today - Tabata rows
Thursday - BBS
Saturday - sprints I will make the following week a very easy one.

Another point Lyle makes in the article is that the benefits appear to peak after 3 weeks of regular sessions. Fortunately for me, I have no desire to put myself through them with that regularity, so I am unlikely be frustrated by that particular limitation.


Bryce said...

I shudder thinking about them.

I have to say that, even if tabata front squats aren't truly tabata because your effort is quantized, I think they are the most exhausting thing I have ever done.

I mean . . . I used to run cross country. I've done hard incline sprints on the treadmill (20s on, 10 off), and I've done many sessions of the 15:15 VO2 max Kettlebell snatch protocol (which is brutal). I've also done the SSST w/ the KB, but none of those things left me feeling closer to death than Tabata front squats with a 24kg bell, alternating arms each set. I peaked out at 9 reps per set for all 8 rounds before I stopped them.

I haven't done much in the way of interval training in a while, but I think Lyle is right in that you can reap most of the benefits interval training has to offer in 1-2 months of training, so I'm hoping it won't be hard to catch up in that department.

Methuselah said...

Bryce - I do think it rather depends on how you do each exercise. Some are harder to give '100%' on simply because of their nature and the ability of the individual to get the most out of them. It's hard to imagine jumping jacks being an effective exercise, but no doubt with practice you could find a way of doing them whereby a tabata was pretty tough. It sounds like you were pushing yourself pretty hard on those squats - for me the true measure is the level of pain, and it sounds like there was no shortage of that!

PJNOIR said...

The 'trick' then is getting up to 100% max in the shortest amount of time. KB swings, one of the best exercises takes a while to max out- 15:15 or 36:36 vo2Max works better here. I WOULD NOT stop any interval work you call Tabata becasue 100 max isn't obtainable in the first few seconds of the set. 75-90 % is better than nothing.

Methuselah said...

Hi PJ - I like swings myself and would certainly not stop doing them just because it didn't necessarily match the precise mode of the Tabata study.... but I would perhaps stop thinking I had reached the level of intensity necessary to get the same results as that study. So I guess in a way it will encourage me to do KB swings using other interval protocols that may suit me better and save the 20-10 stuff for exercises where I feel I can genuinely emulate the protocol as it has been proven.