Firefighter Tabata Workout Option to Improve Performance

  February 23, 2018

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 4-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 athlete’s workout. 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. What is an interval overhaul?  Its a way to incorporate fireground skills and movement patterns to your workout.  I like to do them at the end of my workouts, they can really jack up your metabolism and help performance, you can click here for more information on interval overhauls. 

Click the video below for a quick overview…

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.


I try to do these at the end of my workout to give my metabolism a boost and to help my performance on (and off) the fireground.  You can repeat the overhauls 2x or do each one once (total of 8 minutes).  If your in a pinch for time, you can do 3 or 4 of these Tabatas as your workout, make sure you perform an active warm-up first.  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

Let me know your thoughts or questions on the workout!!

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