Are Tabatas the holy grail of training for climbing?

by Tom Markiewicz on June 29, 2007

The May issue of Climbing Magazine has a training tech tip tucked away that my climbing partner recently pointed out to me.

This short article gives an overview of upper-body Tabatas, a technique that promises increases in both power and endurance – quite possibly the holy grail of training for climbing.

So, what are Tabatas? A Tabata set is 20 seconds of lifting followed by a ten second rest performed for two to four minutes.

Tabatas are named after Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya.

Research has shown that

In Tabata’s study, the researchers found that guys who used the routine five days a week for six weeks improved their maximum aerobic capacity (a measure of your body’s ability to consume oxygen–the more oxygen you can take in, the longer and harder you’ll be able to run) by 14%. What’s more, it also improved anaerobic capacity (which measures your speed endurance, or the duration you’re able to sprint at full effort) by 28%. So the Tabata Protocol is the rare workout that benefits both endurance athletes and sprinters–hard to accomplish. Consider: A study of traditional aerobic training–running at 70% of aerobic capacity for 60 minutes–for the same number of weeks showed an improvement in aerobic capacity of 9.5% and no effect on anaerobic capacity.

The Climbing magazine article specifically recommends four exercises to use with Tabatas: bent rows, lat pulldowns, biceps curl, and wrist curls.

  • Michael Tucker

    I started Tabatas today after reading the article in climbing. All I can say is ouch! If this doesn’t work, not sure what would… Its intense.

    Gimme 6 weeks, I’ll let ya know how it goes.

    Good post.


  • Single Trac

    Definately works. I used to do a similar routine. I ran across a less intense but effect training set at

  • Tom Markiewicz

    Yeah, they are almost too intense for me right now during prime climbing season. I’ll save them for winter training.

  • tyler johnston

    Tabatas rule!

  • tyler johnston

    Yeah, they’re surely an off season workout. get ready to be sore and to improve your endurance though!

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