Tabata protocol: A review of its application, variations and outcomes

Purpose The great popularity of the Tabata Protocol is accompanied by an uncomfortable lack of consistency and criteria in its use, which results in many controversies in the results obtained from its utilization. The purpose of this study was to analyse the studies that based their interventions on the Tabata Protocol and to provide a critical analysis of its use. Methods A systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed and Scopus. All articles published between 1996 and October 2017 that cited at least one of the original studies of Tabata et al. were considered. Inclusion criteria were as follows: original articles, human trials and English language. Results Thirty studies were included for analysis. Almost 37% of the studies (n = 11) used a variation of the Tabata Protocol on a cycle ergometer. Only five studies stated the use of the original Tabata Protocol. Exercise intensity was controlled by percentage of VO2max (n = 8) or VO2peak (n = 3), number of bouts performed (n = 3), all out (n = 10), rate of perceived exertion (n = 1), self?perception of paces (n = 1), maximal power output (n = 1), aerobic power (n = 1) and other forms (n = 2). Conclusion Based on our results, variations of the Tabata Protocol seem to be indicated to provide increases in aerobic power that are similar to traditional aerobic training while being less time consuming. These adaptations seem to be mainly due to peripheral adaptations. Moreover, the use of Tabata Protocols to promote weight loss is not substantiated by the reviewed studies.

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