Tri Swim Coach Triathlon Swimming

Tabata for Swimming for an Efficient Workout

You may have heard about Tabata training in various exercise or training programs. It’s something that I think many triathletes should be incorporating into their swim workouts on a regular basis.

So what are Tabatas and how can they be used in swim workouts?

Tabata is an exercise program with extremely focused short burts using intervals.
Basically, it’s a set of 8 (or 16 or 32) 20 second all out sprints followed by 10 seconds of active recovery. The active recovery could consist of easy swimming or treading water.

These types of workouts can not only help you get faster in the water, but also allow you to burn more fat than in a typical long aerobic session.
You will burn more calories in a long aerobic training session, however, Tabatas will allow you to burn more fat. A recent study showed that subcutaneous fat loss was ninefold greater in the test group doing Tabata workouts vs. those doing longer aerobic workouts.

Keep in mind that if you have poor technique, there is no point in doing Tabatas for swimming. However, if you have worked on your technique but feel like you’ve hit a plateau in swimming, this could be a nice substitute for boring laps in the pool, giving you the ability to burn more fat and get faster in the water.

Have you tried doing Tabatas in any way? What is your experience?

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8 Responses to “Tabata for Swimming for an Efficient Workout”
  1. Josh says:

    a tabata is traditionally 20 sec hard with 40 sec recovery (not 10) for 4 total minutes without stopping.

    that would be one tabata set.

  2. Gord says:

    Sorry Josh, but the original study, by Izumi Tabata, set the protocol to be high intensity for 20s (@170% VO2max), the 10s recovery, repeated 7 to 8 times.

    details here:

  3. Josh says:

    You are right, of course. As soon as I hit submit I realized my error — still four minutes but two sets at intensity per minute, not one. My apologies. And I even do them (on the bike) in the proper 20/10 format!

    I’ll blame it on the sprints this morning …

    Sorry about that.

  4. triswimcoach says:

    Thanks for the comments guys!

    They say to repeat them 8 times but if you’re just starting out, I would say 3 or 4 is good. Otherwise you might just knock yourself out for a few days. :)

  5. Sasku says:

    Great idea to take tabata into the water, never thought of that! Have done all sorts of “dry” tabatas with and without equipment – my toughest ones would have to be chin up and simple squat.

    Tabata is an excellent method of doing something during for instance your holidays when you can’t drag along all your gear. Basically all you need are a pair of shorts and a timer, that’s it!

  6. Brian says:

    Actually I do Tabata all the time in every regimen from pushups, squats, running, swimming, biking they can be killer if you string them together.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I do kick sets with my swimmers. Its a great way to get high intensity in a short burst and they really like them!


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  1. [...] and get some pretty awesome results with just the occasional sprint set. An example of this is Tabata workouts- i.e. doing a set of 50′s where the first 3/4ths of the 50 is an all-out sprint, the last [...]

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