No Time to Workout? The Magic of Tabata

by admin


“I’m too busy to exercise”

… not if Tabata has anything to say about it!

Tabata is a high-intensity, interval training regimen that can produce remarkable results.  It only takes 4 minutes to do, and it’s incredibly effective!  You will be amazed at how intense the four minutes of exercise will feel.

  • Uses any type of exercise
  • Takes only 4 minutes
  • Engages both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems
  • Builds strength and endurance
  • You can do it anywhere!

Here is How it Works:

  • A Tabata workout is an interval training cycle of 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
  • The intervals are repeated 8 times without pause, so the total time of the Tabata workout is only four minutes.
  • To be clear, this isn’t “eight sets of eight,” although the goal of doing eight reps in each of the 20-second clusters is pretty good.  Instead it’s “as many reps as I can get in” during the twenty seconds, followed by ten seconds rest.
  • IMPORTANT: This isn’t a “four minute workout” – it’s meant to be done when your fully warmed up and possibly even at the end of a workout.

In terms of making your progress measurable, you can keep score by counting how many lifts or movements or distance or whatever you do in each of the 20 second rounds.  You can either add up the total of all your work done or make the round with the smallest number your score.

Here’s a cool Tabata timer:
[to upload to your phone:]


Credit for this simple and powerful training method belongs to its namesake, Dr. Izumi Tabata, and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan.  Their groundbreaking 1996 study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise provided documented evidence concerning the dramatic physiological benefits of high-intensity intermittent training.  After just 6 weeks of testing, Dr. Tabata noted a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity in his subjects, along with a 14% increase in their ability to consume oxygen (V02Max).  The conclusion was that just four minutes of Tabata interval training could do more to boost aerobic and anaerobic capacity than an hour of endurance exercise.

Although Dr. Tabata used a mechanically braked exercise cycle machine, you can apply this protocol to almost any exercise.  For example, a basic Tabata workout can be performed with pushups.  The greater the range of motion done for each exercise, the better, so make sure your arms are locked out fully at the top and that your chest touches the ground at the bottom.  Perform pushups non-stop for 20-second intervals, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Repeat for a total of 8 cycles.

Tabata Suggestions: 

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Running (sprint)
  • Swimming (sprint)
  • Rowing
  • Squats
  • Jump rope
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Pull-ups
  • Thrusters
  • Burpees
  • Lunges

Got it?  Now get moving!

Further reading and references:

Chronic Cardio Vs Short Interval High Intensity Exercise
Short Interval High Intensity Workouts Burn More Calories
Best Way to Improve Your Body Composition

Zieman E, et al. Aerobic and anaerobic changes with high-intensity interval training in active college-aged men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Apr;25(4):1104-12.

Laursen PB, Jenkins DG  The scientific basis for high-intensity interval training: optimising training programmes and maximising performance in highly trained endurance athletes. Sports Med. 2002;32(1):53-73.