There's nothing special with Tabata's duty cycle. What he discovered was the effectiveness of training the anaerobic pathway...
Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.
...intensity of about 170% of VO2max... In conclusion, this study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves the maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity and that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.
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