Using CrossFit style Tabata intervals for Martial Arts Training

Wikipedia defines the Tabata Method as this: “A popular regimen based on a 1996 study uses 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (at an intensity of about 170% of VO2max) followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles). In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week, plus another day of steady-state training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state (70% VO2max) training 5 times per week. The steady state group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 ml/kg/min), but the Tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 ml/kg/min). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits.”

Put simply a Tabata interval is 20 seconds on 10 seconds off repeated 8 times. During the 20 seconds on portion of the interval the exercise is done as fast as possible with good form.

Our CrossFit program uses Tabata intervals in various WODs, however they can be used to increase performance in many other activities. For instance in training Muay Thai one needs to perform round house kicks at least 100 reps per day. I regularly use Tabata intervals for round kicks on the bag as a way to keep my intensity high for all 100+ kicks.

Sample 30 minute Muay Thai Tabata workout

  • 8 rounds of Right Leg Kicks
  • 2 minute break
  • 8 rounds of Right Leg Kicks
  • 2 minute break
  • 8 rounds of alternating theep
  • 2 minute break
  • 4 rounds of left leg theep
  • 4 rounds of right leg theep
  • 2 minute break
  • 8 rounds of knees

This is just an example of one of many ways to use Tabata intervals. This can be done for boxing (jab rounds, cross rounds, or basic combination rounds). This can even be used for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by doing rounds of shooting and sprawling.

This is a great way to supplement your training so that you get enough reps each day to commit techniques to muscle memory.

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