• By: Pedro Candeias
  • Date: 05/27/2017




Today, we are going to write about a very trendy training method: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)!


Is it really effective?!?


And if it’s effective in improving performance and health what’s the greatest problem you face when you use it in your Karate classes?!?


If you are not familiarized with High-Intensity Interval Training read our brief explanation at the end of this article…




There is no doubt that High-Intensity Interval Training promotes a rapid improvement in aerobic/cardiorespiratory fitness, increase fat oxidation or improves glucose control and peripheral insulin sensitivity.


When we compare High-Intensity Interval Training with continuous moderate exercise methods HIIT has the same or even greater results…


… Eventually with less time per session.


This is true for adults and adolescents.





According to Ramos et al (2015), in the article “The Impact of High-Intensity Interval Training Versus Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training on Vascular Function: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” found that the protocol with the best results in vascular function was:


The Best Hiit Protocol


To learn more about RPE read our article.


Is this a proper method for the majority of your Karate students???


Not really…


Keep reading, please!!!




Right now, you might be thinking that common sense shows us that High-Intensity Interval Training is much more enjoyable than monotonous and continuous exercise…


Are you right or wrong?


As always the answer is: It Depends!!!


It depends if we are comparing short-term or long-term HIIT… It depends if we are talking about novice students, regular Karate students or athletes…




Woman lounging on sofa looking at magazine with stack of magazines on floor, full length

Foster et al (2015) clearly show that in sedentary and/or low-fitness participants, as exercise intensity increases, pleasure reduces and will negatively influence motivation and increase dropout.


Note: This information is in the article “The Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity” (Foster et al, 2015).


Are most of your Karate students fit?!?


Read the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommendations for Physical Activity and think better…


How many Karate students do you have that meet the criteria of good-fitness levels:


American College Of Sports Medicine Guidelines Physical Activity


And even if they fill in all these guidelines what is the rest of their days? Probably they pass much more time seated than in any dynamic position…


Ask directly to your Karate students about their physical activity habits and you’ll see that most of them must be seen as low-fitness people.  


The scientific studies that found HIIT is more motivating than moderate continuous exercise were based on short-term training programs. For about 2 weeks… 3 to 5 sessions.


In this case, the individuals prefer High-Intensity Interval Training when comparing with moderate continuous exercise because is less monotonous…


But the studies that compared several types of HIIT and moderate continuous exercise show a totally different world!


Foster et al (2015) used the Exercise Enjoyment Scale (1-7 points) and found that as the program moves forward the most intense methods are less and less pleasant and have negative effects on motivation.


This study was composed of low-fitness individuals.


In resume, HIIT can be more motivating when used over short periods of time but will lead your Karate students to a lack of motivation in the long term…


Keep reading because later, in this article, we’ll talk a little bit about Tabata.


The health benefits of Karate only occur if exercise is continued for several years.


Perhaps, in our quest to find the ‘perfect Karate performance’ we have missed the more important issue of how to make Karate sessions enjoyable enough to be continued long term.




If you train competitive athletes or if you have non-competitive Karate students that train like athletes (+4 times per week) HIIT is a good method to develop Endurance and Cardiorespiratory Fitness…




Because they are really motivated with training and, generally, they enjoy High-Intensity sessions…


They are well-conditioned and demonstrate high-fitness levels…


HIIT is a more specific endurance method and it’s better suited with Kata and Kumite performances…


The more advanced your Karate students/athletes are less effective general training is.


Your low-fitness level students (remember, they are the majority) will develop their cardiorespiratory capacity with moderate-intensity training methods – both continuous and intermittent exercise.


But your athletes or free-athletes need a more specific and high-intensity stimulus.




Several years ago, Tabata method became trendy in physical conditioning…


But do you know what Foster et al (2015) found in the above-mentioned study?


That Tabata was the less enjoyable protocol for low-fitness individuals!!!


And do you know what happens when your students don’t enjoy your training sessions…


Yes, they quit!!!


You can always choose to call them weak, but in most cases, it’s your fault… Because you didn’t plan appropriate classes.


Several studies (Bartlett et al. 2011, Jung et al. 2014, Kilpartirck et al., 2012) suggest that moderate intensity interval training may be more pleasant than moderate-intensity continuous exercise.


However, Tabata type protocols (very high-intensity intervals with very short recovery periods) are so physically challenging that they have a negative effect on motivation in the long term.


Regardless of how effective an exercise training program might be, adherence over any meaningful period of time is unlikely in programs that are not enjoyable.


Regardless of whether the Exercise Enjoyment Scale was obtained before, during or after training, the very high-intensity Tabata protocol was rated as the least enjoyable.


Despite the contemporary popularity of Tabata type training within the fitness industry, it must be remembered that the development of this type of training was based on extrapolating training practices of highly motivated strength-power athletes to the general exercising public.


And this is one of the biggest mistakes we have, nowadays, in Human Movement training!!!


What is a Tabata?


Tabata is a High-Intensity Interval Training protocol tested by a team of Japanese researchers led by Izumi Tabata.


In their 1996 study, the protocol consisted of an exhaustive intermittent training (see the chart below):


Tabata Protocol




Submaximal exercise training is characterized by prolonged, continuous activity. Moderate-intensity continuous training describes prolonged exercise at 60–80% HRmax (6-8 RPE-Scale).


High-Intensity Interval Training can be broadly defined as repeated bouts of short to moderate duration exercise (i.e. 10 seconds to 5 minutes) completed at an intensity that is greater than the anaerobic threshold.


Note: What is Anaerobic Threshold?


The Anaerobic Threshold varies from person to person. Untrained individuals, for example, have a low Anaerobic Threshold (approximately 55 % of VO2 max or 5-7 RPE-Scale), and elite endurance athletes, a high AT (approx. 80 – 90% of VO2 max or 8-10 RPE-Scale).


Exercise bouts are separated by brief periods of low-intensity work or inactivity that allow a partial but often not a full recovery.


The purpose of HIIT is to repeatedly stress the physiological systems that will be used during a specific endurance-type exercise to a greater extent than that which is actually required during the main activity (Kata, Kumite, Kihon, competition, grading exam, etc).


Adequate High-Intensity Interval Training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.


The main appeal of HIIT is that this type of training can be completed in a short period of time (compared to traditional aerobic training), it requires no or minimal equipment and physical adaptations are comparable to those resulting from endurance training.





Regular Karate students:

  • Combine, in the same week or even in the same session, High-Intensity Interval Training and Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training.


  • Continuous Training doesn’t have to be boring runs or rope-jumps for 30 minutes or making thousands of Oi-Zuki in a moderate intensity


  • Variability is Key-Factor for motivation, performance, and health… You can guarantee a steady moderate-intensity (6-8 RPE-Scale) during 30 minutes with a group of different and complementary exercises.


  • HIIT should be MIIT… This is a term that we adapted and means Moderate-Intensity Interval Training. This will improve your students Endurance while reducing the demotivation and the risk of injury.


You really should read our article TRAINING SMARTER AND HARDER IN KARATE – THE 10% RULE or get access to our Free Ebook and learn more about the 10% Rule and the Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio.


It will widely open your perspective about the importance of preventing the Risk of Injury in your Karate classes. Both in Regular Students and Athletes!!!



Karate Athletes and Free Athletes:

  • Honestly, in Karate Science Academy we think that every scientifically proven method must be used. So we suggest you combine, in the same week or even in the same session, High-Intensity Interval Training and Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training.


  • Continuous Training doesn’t have to be boring runs or rope-jumps for 30 minutes or making thousands of Oi-Zuki in a moderate intensity


  • Variability is Key-Factor for motivation, performance, and health… You can guarantee a steady moderate-intensity (6-8 RPE-Scale) during 30 minutes with a group of different and complementary exercises.


  • HIIT is the greatest method to increase your athletes Karate-specific endurance. You should mimic a structure similar to what happens in Kumite bout (WKF Rules or Kyokushinkai, for example) or Kata performance.


To have more details about how many seconds should last each bout, please read our article 9 ESSENTIAL KARATE NUMBERS YOU SHOULD KNOW.


You really should master Karate Training Variation and Planning!!!


You only need to read our 7-articles series about this fundamental theme:




If you want to know more about Karate Science, click here.

Karate Science Academy has a mission: to take Science into all Dojos in the world.

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P.S. – Exercise training protocols ALWAYS have to be evaluated in terms of safety. Although exercise training is generally quite safe, higher intensity exercise has been shown to be a trigger for acute myocardial infarction in middle-aged and older individuals and there has been recent concern that “excessive” volume and intensity of exercise training, in athletic individuals, may lead to adverse cardiac remodeling. It seems reasonable to suggest that HIIT protocols should be used with caution and with the right Karate students!!!