Firefighter Tabata Cardio Workout

Have you heard of Tabata?  This is an unusual style workout floating around a lot of gyms and firehouses lately.  I wanted to explain what it is and  how we, as fire rescue athletes, can incorporate it into an effective workout.
“Tabata” is the name of a particular type of workout program that provides increased fat burning and oxygen efficiency in a short period of time.   Instead of hours upon hours of exercise, Tabata can be completed in just minute cycles.
Tabata training was developed by a Japanese researcher named Dr. Izumi Tabata who was working with Olympic speed skaters.  In his study, he found that a control group using his training method of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest, for eight intervals, saw greater VO2 Max improvement than the other group that trained with 60 minute sessions.  The real question that you want to know is:  “How can this apply to fire rescue athletes instead of Olympic speed skaters? 
We know  that there are few activities more physically demanding than fighting a working fire or carrying a patient down and around stairs.  In many cases fire rescue athletes are asked to work at near maximal heart rate and strength under very extreme and stressful conditions.  This is  the reason why high intensity training  like Tabata should be included as part of our fitness program. 
If you have followed my posts in the past you know how I believe that intervals have a huge place in the fire rescue athletes workout.  You can read that post by clicking here.   
So what is the Tabata protocol?   A Tabata workout is an interval training cycle of 20 seconds at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  The cycle is repeated without pause 8 times for a total of four minutes.   Try to use this protocol at the end of a strength workout as a substitute to the 10-minute Interval Overhaul. 
Gotta Love Burpees!

Tabata Protocol Interval Overhaul– Choose 2 different exercises and switch between them every 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between.  If you want to focus on more cardio recovery you can perform mountain climbers and burpees or row machine and treadmill.  You can also use fireground movements and switch between them like sledges, drags, stairs or battling hoselines

Cardio Tabata Overhaul Option

20 seconds mountain climbers
10 seconds rest
20 seconds burpees
10 seconds rest
Repeat 3x (for a total of 4 rounds)
Or try this one…
Fireground Tabata Overhaul Option
20 seconds sledge hammers (on tire or other) or crawls
10 seconds rest
20 seconds stairs or dummy drags/ farmers carry
10 seconds rest
Repeat 3x (for a total of 4 rounds)
**The original Tabata protocol was done on a bicycle and performed at a very high intensity.  Try to perform the 20 second work intervals with as high intensity as you possibly can. 
You can also use this protocol with strength and core exercises, give it a try with your next workout.
Stay safe and Get FRF,
Aaron Zamzow
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  1. Alli on January 26, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Did you read the study? Tabata workouts are supposed to be done on an exercise bike and the HIIT group still did 30 minutes of steady state cardio a week.

    • Zamzowfitness on January 26, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      Hello Alli, good questions and points on Tabata. Yes, the study does indicate that all exercise was on the bike at high intensity. There are some other intangibles of that study. Other studies have been done on the Tabata protocols with similar results. The common item from the original study and the above workout are the timing protocols. I know the study used bike ergometer and a very high intensity. I like the timing combination and feel that the 20/ 10 combination can help to boost VO2 max with any exercise (as long as intensity is high). I think the timing protocol is a good option for firefighters that are trying to increase their cardio recovery rate.

  2. Shawn on December 22, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    There are many different forms to use. Tabata push-ups , sit-ups , air squats or back squats with light weight is one I have used.

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