The Beginners Guide to Tabata Workouts

Tabata training is a type of a High Intensity Interval Training workout that is highly effective and efficient. It is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, who founded the workout format with his team of researchers at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo.  Tabata and his colleagues found that this workout format burned more calories in this 4-minute circuit than would be typically be seen in a 4-minute segment of exercise. They also found that participants saw increases in both their anaerobic system (muscles) as well as aerobic system (cardiovascular); whereas participants who only participated in a moderate intensity program (that was not Tabata) only saw increases in their aerobic systems.

Often times Tabata is associated with cardio and plyometric exercise moves, but I like to use it with both cardio and strength training moves. Because of its intense interval format, you are only going to do it one or two times a week and never on consecutive days. If clients are completing it with the intensity that the workout prescribes, then I don’t usually do more than 4-5 circuits (20-25 minutes).

During a 4-minute time frame, you will complete 8, 20-second high intensity intervals followed by 10 second recovery periods. That’s one Tabata circuit. A Tabata circuit might look like this:

Sample Tabata circuit.png

I rarely have clients complete a circuit with just one workout move. I often break it into two segments that would look like this:

1.      20 seconds of Jumping Jacks followed by a 10-second break.

2.      20 seconds of Forward Lunges followed by a 10-second break.

3.      20 seconds of Jumping Jacks followed by a 10-second break.

4.      20 seconds of Forward Lunges followed by a 10-second break.

5.      20 seconds of Jumping Jacks followed by a 10-second break.

6.      20 seconds of Forward Lunges followed by a 10-second break.

7.      20 seconds of Jumping Jacks followed by a 10-second break.

8.      20 seconds of Forward Lunges followed by a 10-second break.

When I want to utilize it as a cardio workout, I create a 4-minute circuit with 8 different cardio moves. Examples might include: Jumping Jacks, High Knees, Squat Jumps, Walkouts, Quick Feet, Burpees, Plank Jacks and Mountain Climbers. I will complete this 4-minute circuit 3-4 times. How long you rest in between circuits is up to you. I usually grab some water and catch my breath for about a minute in between circuits.

Timing yourself while doing Tabata is a nightmare if you don’t have an app for it or a specific Tabata timer. I use a free app called Interval Timer (for HIIT Workouts) that I set up for a Tabata workout. Here is a screen shot of my set up:

 This is the timer I use on my iPhone and iPad. It's great for timing Tabata circuits! 

This is the timer I use on my iPhone and iPad. It's great for timing Tabata circuits! 

As with all exercise, be mindful of your body and what is comfortable for you. If something hurts while you are doing a movement, stop. Pick out an alternating move or give your body a rest.

If you are wanting to see what all the hype is about, try one of these two Tabata workouts. You will definitely work up a sweat! 

Tabata Workout for at Home:

Alternate Between the two moves until you are done with the 4-minute circuit. For example, for the first 20 seconds in Circuit 1, you would do Jumping Jacks. During the second 20-second interval, you will complete Push-ups. Continue until you have completed a total of 8 sets - 4 sets of each exercise. 

Circuit 1:

Jumping Jacks

Push-ups

Circuit 2:

Mountain Climbers

Single-leg Bridges (2 sets on right leg, 2 sets on left leg)

Circuit 3:

Plank Walk-outs

Superman

Circuit 4:

Squats with Arms Overhead

Skaters

Circuit 5:

Side Plank Dips

Donkey Kicks

 

Knee-Friendly Tabata Workout:

Circuit 1:

Push-ups

Bird Dog Crunches (2 sets on the left side and 2 sets on the right side)

Circuit 2:

Plank Knee Taps (Option is to plank)

Elevated Bridges

Circuit 3:

Single-Leg Deadlifts (2 sets on the right side and 2 sets on the left side)

Skaters

Circuit 4:

Supermen

Side Plank Dips (2 sets each side)

Circuit 5:

Donkey Kicks

Russian Twists (with or without a medicine ball)

knee-friendly tabata v2.png
at home tabata workout.png