Tuesday, July 02 2019

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has certainly made a splash in aquatic fitness classes over the last 3 years.  Tabata training seems to be the most popular HIIT format.  Nobody teaches this format better than Julie See, AEA’s Director of Education.  Julie shares 6 creatively designed Tabata rounds in the recently posted video, Bata Bing (Premium Plan).

In 2015, I participated in Julie's shallow water Tabata training program at an event where we both were teaching.   Up until this point, I was only doing a couple of Tabata rounds in my classes, assuming that was more than enough for my older populations.  However, Julie presented a full (45-minute) class featuring Tabata rounds that relied more on creativity and less on intensity.  She also used pre-formatted music that made the class super easy to teach.  This class exposed me to an entirely different approach to Tabata which was much more doable for my older populations.  Soon after, I began designing my Tabata rounds more creatively and I started using the pre-formatted Tabata music CDs from Yes! Fitness Music.   The end result was rave reviews in my classes and two new videos, Aqua Total Body Tabata and Aqua Tabata Deep, which were posted in the winter of 2016.   

Tabata training features a 4-minute round of 8 exercise sets performed at high intensity for 20 seconds each, with 10 seconds of recovery after each set.  Tabata  was originally developed for Olympic athletes and the research was based on ONE 4-minute Tabata round a week.  However, the goal was to perform this one round anaerobically at 85-95% of maximal heart rate.   That would be serious, ass-kicking, plyometric, speed of light, sweating bullets, all-out-effort.   Doing more than one round would be almost impossible.   

Get what I am trying to say here?  Putting Tabata into a group fitness training format where up to 8 rounds of 4-minutes each are taught would require quite a bit of intensity moderation.   To push the workload beyond aerobic into the anaerobic zone, a heart rate of 75% - 85% during the work cycles would be a more feasible goal. The exercises selected for multiple rounds of Tabata really should focus more on creative and meaningful movement, rather than just fast sprints and power moves.  And now let me dampen expectations even further by sharing a secret with you.   I honestly don’t think many of my students ever cross the anaerobic threshold.  Bless their hearts.  They work as hard as they can.   But they sure do love the days we do Tabata and they request it all the time. 

And so how can we teach a full class of Tabata rounds to our mixed classes that have much older, deconditioned students mixed in with younger, more-fit participants?  In Bata Bing, Julie demonstrates the perfect recipe for designing Tabata rounds with purposeful, creative exercises that can be progressed and regressed.   Let’s take a look at how she structured her 6 rounds. 


Round 1:  This round features bounded (Level I) movements.  Movement is progressed with changes in levers and force applied.

Round 2:  Neutral (Level II) and suspended (Level III) exercises are performed in this round.  Once again movement is progressed with levers, force applied and range of motion.

Round 3:  Get ready for high intensity plyometric exercises in this round.  The exercises can be modified to Level II elevated movement for less fit participants. 

Round 4:  After the plyo round, these exercises keep you grounded with anchored movement.  Intensity is progressed with vigorous arm patterning and forceful leg movements. 

Round 5:  This round is all about the core.  Many of the movements in this round are suspended but the core can also be recruited with vertical exercises for those students who don’t like to remove their feet from the pool floor.

Round 6:  The exercises in this round target upper body, balance and core stability. 

As you can see by the rounds that Julie designed, Tabata doesn’t have to - and shouldn’t be just about intensity drills.  Using pre-formatted music, you can structure Tabata rounds to achieve whatever goal you want as an outcome.  Strength?  Core?  Balance?  Not only do the students enjoy the formatted cueing of the music – you will enjoy the ease of teaching a class where you are simply a coach demonstrating exercises. 

Fitmotivation would like to extend BIG THANKS to Julie See for her innovative approach to aquatic fitness and her decades of inspiration.  Bata Bing is now streaming on   The DVD can also be purchased online in AEA’s AKWA Shop.  Stay tuned for Bata Boom, a deep water Tabata training program, posting in July 2017.

Other Fitmotivation videos featuring Tabata:

Aqua Total Body Tabata

Aqua Tabata Deep

Dual Aqua

Aquatic Muscle Mixes

Pool Jogging & Tabata

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.