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What is the difference between Tabata, HIIT, and Intervals for a Peloton workout

Definition of HIIT for Peloton Bike or Run

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. With HIIT, intervals can be of varying lengths, which are done at either high or max intensity. What makes a workout HIIT is repeating short duration, high intensity blocks of work, with some active recovery / moderate work in between each interval. The high intensity work blocks can be anywhere from 10 seconds to 2-3 minutes. Sometimes the active recovery block will be the same amount of time as the HIIT interval (i.e. 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off), while sometimes they will be varying lengths. HIIT is sometimes referenced as a 1:1 workout ratio, for example when doing 30 on 30 off. Peloton HIIT workouts are usually described as either “bursts of effort followed by active recovery” or “short bursts of anaerobic exercise mixed with recovery periods”

The following is an example of what output might look like for a HIIT workout. You’ll see bursts of effort, followed by periods of rest. Note that the exact format can vary greatly – don’t read too much into the structure of this single example!

Definition of Intervals

Whereas the intervals of HIIT are done at max or high intensity, with generic “Interval” training, the work is usually done at a more moderate intensity. This allows work blocks to be longer length, since the intensity isn’t at such a high level.

Definition of Tabata for Peloton Bike or Run (What does Tabata Mean?)

Tabata is a specific form of HIIT – defined by doing 20 seconds of work (also at high or near max intensity, like HIIT), followed by 10 seconds of rest/recovery. This can also be said as a 2:1 workout ratio of effort to recovery for Tabata. In the textbook definition, this should be done for 4 minutes total. Peloton Tabata workouts usually stick to this textbook definition, but every now and then a class might appear that slightly modifies these time – but keeps the 2:1 workout ratio.

The following is an example of what output might look like for a Tabata workout. This is one where Peloton calls it Tabata, but rather than 20 seconds on then 10 seconds off, the workout is 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off (still that 2:1 ratio).

Example Tabata output Graph

Wondering where the name Tabata came from? A team of scientists in Japan, lead by Dr. Izumi Tabata, conducted a study looking at two groups of athletes. One group worked out 5 days a week for 6 weeks, with each daily workout being one hour of moderate intensity work. The other group mixed some moderate/low intensity work with an added daily HIIT workout that was 4 minutes and 20 seconds total (consisting of 20 seconds of high intensity work with 10 seconds of rest). At the end of the study, the first group (moderate intensity only) saw gains in aerobic systems, but no anaerobic gains. The second group (short high intensity) had slightly higher aerobic gains than the first group, but also had gains in their anaerobic systems. Based on this study, the 2:1 workout ratio of HIIT (or 20 seconds on 10 seconds off), was named after the lead scientist – Dr. Izumi Tabata.

Difference between Tabata & HIIT & Intervals for Peloton Bike or Run

The difference between Tabata & HIIT for Peloton is that Tabata is a specific type of HIIT with a 2:1 workout ratio (i.e. 20 seconds on then 10 seconds off, or 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off) while HIIT intervals can be of varying lengths of work to rest. The difference between those and intervals is that the intensity level is generally lower for regular interval training, which allows for longer duration of work blocks.

Chris L
Chris is the founder of Pelo Buddy. He purchased his Peloton in 2018, and has been riding and running ever since. You can find him on the leaderboard at #PeloBuddy.

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