Icame across an advertisement for a strange looking machine called the ROM that claimed to promote fitness and weight loss. The only problem is that it cost $14,615.Let me save you the money and explain how to achieve high levels of fitness for only four minutes a day without a fancy machine.

This method of training was discovered by Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata of the National Institutes of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan, who was looking to fine a way to increase both the anaerobic (without oxygen) and aerobic (using oxygen) metabolic pathways in elite athletes.

He had two groups of elite athletes to use in this study. One group exercised on bikes five days a week for six weeks with each session lasting 60 minutes. The other group exercised five days a week for six weeks with each session lasting four minutes. The results were amazing.

The four-minute group produced a greater level of caloric burn, which leads to greater fat loss, over a 24-hour period. Also, the four-minute workout resulted in improvements in both aerobic and anaerobic performance. The athletes improved their fitness by working out 56 fewer minutes each day.

The training method is so simple, yet so incredibly difficult, that athletes tend to try it once, acknowledge its greatness and then rarely go back to it again.

The method

Take one exercise and perform it in the following manner:

o For 20 seconds, do as many repetitions as possible.

o Rest for 10 seconds.

o Repeat seven more times. That's it. You're done in 240 seconds or four minutes.

Eight sets of "as many reps as you can get done" followed with a brief 10-second rest is simple and effective. The best exercise for the beginner Tabata trainer is the body weight squat.

It helps to have someone record the reps of each set for you because you won't remember as you get dizzy from exhaustion.

You should measure your lowest set of repetitions performed to compare workout to workout. You are starting with body weight squats to a close-to-parallel position if possible. For those of you that can, go slow and deep with the squats. If you have some challenges with your knees or are concerned about your form, squat down to a chair like a dining room chair. The depth of your squat will directly relate to the level of muscular effort required to perform every rep in this brief four-minute workout.

I have done this workout with three to four different exercises in a row. I have used the squat, pushup, crunch and pull-up. In this format, I worked out for 16 minutes and was totally slammed.

Here are some pointers: Watch a clock. Stop at 20 seconds, rest 10, then go again.

Don't consider doing much after the Tabata workout. Your lungs will be going like a locomotive engine. The hardest this about this workout is staying focused for four minutes.

But then again, you could have bought the $14,615 machine.

o Dr. John Wilkins is a member of the Back to Health chiropractic practice in Glen Mills and Kennett Square. Contact him at 610-444-8155.

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