A Tabata workout is a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that promises to yield incredible benefits in just a few minutes. Standing on such an awesome premise, it’s no surprise that Tabata training is all the buzz right now. But how does this type of HIIT training work? What exactly is the Tabata workout?
What is the Tabata Workout?
Developed by Doctor Izumi Tabata in the 1990s, this form of HIIT workout alternates strenuous exercises with rest. Along with a research team based in Tokyo, Dr. Tabata conducted a study on high-intensity level interval training and its effects on athletes. The athletes followed a routine consisting of eight rounds of 20-second vigorous exercises followed by 10-second rests. Results of this study recorded a marked increase in both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.
Nowadays, we see the Tabata protocol as the go-to for those looking for advanced workouts that push your body to the extremes. It may only be four minutes, but it will feel like the longest four minutes of your life.
What’s more, the best thing about a full-body Tabata workout is that you don’t need any equipment. On top of that, you can easily do the workouts in the comforts of your own home – no gym membership required.
Benefits of the Tabata Workout
Want to burn fat and build lean and strong muscles? If that’s the case, you should definitely incorporate a Tabata workout into your fitness routine. Due to its intensity, this form of HIIT workout will increase your heart rate, which will in turn boost your metabolism. Even after you’ve finished your workout, your metabolic rate stays elevated. This means that you continue to burn calories hours after the actual workout. Your endurance also gets boosted in the process, allowing you to increase your workout duration if you so wish.
Moreover, Tabata workouts are perfect if you’re short on time. The condensed duration of this routine is excellent if you have a busy schedule but still want a full-body workout. Let’s face it, not everyone can afford the time to spend an hour at the gym. Some even find it difficult to get fit with the best free health and fitness apps at home. As such, there’s no denying how enticing a full-body sweat session in just four minutes sounds.
Can You Do a Tabata Workout Every Day?
Performing a Tabata workout four times a week will transform your body. If you find yourself in love with the heart pumping thrill of this fat burning workout, you can even do it every day. However, it’s best to mix up your routines to focus on different muscle groups. We also recommend that you talk to a personal trainer or doctor to assess whether your body can handle this vigorous workout routine.
Tabata Workout Routines for Beginners
As mentioned earlier, a Tabata workout comprises high-intensity exercises. With that in mind, Tabata isn’t always the kindest for those inexperienced with HIIT routines. Its intensity can easily become too challenging—especially towards the end. Don’t fret though, as you can slowly ease your way into this fat-burning workout.
The first step is to simply familiarize yourself with the flow of a Tabata workout. A session of this fat burning workout consists of continuous movement, following the 20/10 rule. And by continuous, we mean no stopping to drink water or rest until the allotted period permits you to.
You must push yourself as hard as you can for eight rounds of 20-second exercises and rest for 10 seconds. This amounts to an intense, full-effort four-minute workout. Note that you can always repeat the eight rounds three to four times for optimal results. Just be sure to take a one-minute rest between each round.
Tabata Exercises for Beginners
In order to build the optimal routine, you must also consider your fitness level. Remember, you are performing these exercises at maximum effort. So, while you may think eight rounds of 20-second jumping jacks are easy, it can quickly become very exhausting for you. This is especially if you’re not used to that level of intensity. As such, it’s best to select two to three exercises you are comfortable doing in extreme effort per circuit.
Basic Tabata exercises don’t require any equipment. All you need is your full-body effort and a timer. You can also create your own Tabata workout playlist to get you in the zone.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of this vigorous workout routine, you can slowly incorporate weights into your Tabata workout plan. More on that later on.
Now, here are the best exercises you can try to build your own four or 20-minute Tabata workout routine.
- Jumping jacks
- High knees
- Squats or lunges
- Leg raises
- Side plank
Intermediate Tabata Workout Exercises
If you want to up the intensity of your routine, you can do so by adding more dynamic movements. Movements that require strength and power like mountain climbers, burpees, and crunches are ideal exercises to incorporate. These forms of core exercises are also great if you want to develop a defined Adonis belt. Additionally, these Tabata exercises are perfect for those that don’t have any equipment whatsoever.
However, if you do have some fitness experience with HIIT workouts, your own body weight may not be enough to get your heart rate up in just 20 seconds. Thus, we see people mixing up their Tabita exercises by incorporating equipment. Popular props that\ include: dumbbells, jump rope, kettlebells, resistance bands, and medicine balls.
Here are some of the best exercises you can do for a full-body Tabata workout with weights and other workout equipment.
Step-up with Bicep Curl
Video Courtesy: Allyssa Grata YouTube Channel
This exercise is ideal if you want to work your arms and legs simultaneously. All you need are dumbbells and a sturdy bench. You can also do this on a step at the bottom of your staircase.
To execute this move, pick up a dumbbell in each hand and step up with your left leg on a bench. Remember to lead with your heel as you do so. As you step up with your left leg, curl the dumbbells towards your shoulder and bring your right leg up to meet the left on the step. Straighten your arms as you step down and repeat with the other leg.
Squat Curl Press and Stand
Video Courtesy: CooperAerobics YouTube Channel.
Another exercise you can include in your full-body Tabata workout with weights is the squat, curl, press and stand. This movement can easily get your heart rate going. First, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Squat down, making sure to keep the weight on your heels, and bring the dumbbells to your shoulders into a bicep curl.
From here, move your arms upward, keeping your core tight as you actively press the weights over your head. This will also aid you with standing up from the squat. While in this position, keep in mind to engage your glutes and keep a neutral spine. Lower your arms back to your shoulders then to your sides as you return to a squat. Continue this sequence for 20 seconds before the ten-second rest period.
The kettlebell is also another popular weight that people like to use for their Tabata training. This movement is the perfect full-body exercise that’s great for both fat loss and body conditioning. To execute this exercise, start with the kettlebell on the floor, between your feet which should be slightly wider than your shoulder width.
Bend your knees slightly, grip the handle of the kettlebell with both your hands and pull it back between your legs. Remember to keep your back flat and your neck straight. Once you’ve got the momentum, drive your hips forward to thrust the kettlebell up to your shoulder height. Let the kettlebell swing back down between your legs and repeat the move.
Keep your core engaged to have better control over the descent of the bell.
Resistance Band Rows
This relatively simple exercise is perfect if you want to target both your arms and back at the same time. Get your resistance bands and sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place the center of the band around your feet and grab hold of the handles. Sit tall and draw your arms back until the bands are next to your side with your elbows behind you. Remember to keep your core and abs tight during this motion. Slowly release until you’re back to the starting position and repeat.
Some people still think that jump rope is reserved for little kids in the schoolyard. However, it’s actually the perfect cardio workout. By incorporating it into your Tabata workout routine, you’re actually challenging both your upper and lower body, as well as your core. On top of that, it also strengthens your foot muscles and ankle joints. What’s more, jumping rope on a regular basis can also help improve your coordination.
Advanced Tabata Training
Confident that you can handle more challenging Tabata training routines? If that’s the case, here are more exercises that you can do with all-out, maximum effort.
Keep in mind, though, Tabata was created to condition seasoned athletes and improve their stamina. Because of this, feel free to modify the workout as needed. While the phrase, “no pain, no gain!” is a popular phrase in the realms of fitness, it’s still best to avoid Tabata exercises that cause any major discomfort.
A stationary bike or an elliptical trainer are great options if you want a more challenging full-body Tabata workout. Using these two pieces of equipment at a higher intensity can lead you to burn calories quickly. However, again, if you’re not used to advanced workout methods, doing so can be rather strenuous. On top of that, with improper use or form, injuries may arise.
Plyometric exercises are also great options to include in an advanced Tabata workout. These powerful aerobic exercises help increase your strength, endurance, and speed. Here are the best plyometric exercises to include in your next Tabata training session.
Video courtesy: ThePostGame YouTube Channel
This advanced form of pushups starts off just like the standard form. However, it requires you to push off the ground with enough force for your hands to leave the ground. Some people clap their hands together at the top of the movement for added difficulty. Plyometric push-ups are great for targeting your triceps, shoulders, abdominal, and chest. This variation of push-ups is also ideal for those who want to get rid of chest fat.
Reverse Lunge Knee-Ups
Video courtesy: Marcus Filly YouTube Channel
Lunges are one of the most effective calisthenics for the lower body. It’s also great if you want increased flexibility. If you want to challenge yourself with this simple exercise, reverse lunges with knee-ups are your best bet. This movement requires you to keep your core engaged and chest upright. Take a big step backward with your right foot and lower yourself until your knee nearly touches the ground. From here, transfer your weight onto your left foot, elevate your right foot and raise your knee towards your chest. Lower your right leg to return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
Remember to tuck in your hips, don’t let your buttocks stick out. You can place your hands on your hips to make sure they are not protruding in any direction. Another thing to keep in mind is that your front knee should be aligned with your ankle.
Video courtesy: Les Mills YouTube Channel
If you want to target the muscles in your lower body, you should definitely include tuck jumps in your Tabata training routine. This exercise works your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Additionally, it also targets your abs and lower back.
To execute a tuck jump, stand with your feet less than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and drop your body into a quarter-squat. From here, swing your arms back as you explode into the air, tucking your knees up towards your chest in the process.
While this may seem like a simple move for Tabata exercises, the way your muscles work as shock absorbers lets you land as softly as possible onto the ground. With that said, if done incorrectly, your muscles won’t be able to absorb the impact of the jump. This will thus lead to severe injuries. Common mistakes of tuck jumps include locking your knees and legs.
Donkey Kick Burpee
Video courtesy: Stroops YouTube Channel
Burpees in general are already a demanding exercise, and adding a donkey kick just adds another layer of difficulty. This variation demands immense strength from your upper body, core, and lower body. Thanks to this, it’s the perfect move for your advanced Tabata workout routine.
Get into a push-up position, making sure that your head, hips, and heels are aligned. Meanwhile, make sure that both your spine and head are in a neutral pose. From here, do a push-up before jumping until your knees are all the way back towards your elbows. Kick both your feet up into the air, similar to a donkey’s notorious kick. When your land on your feet, jump back up to the starting position, with your hands either on your hips or over your head.
Bulgarian Split Squats with a Hop
Video courtesy: FIT36 YouTube Channel
Squats have been a favorite among the fitness community for many years now. This is especially for those wanting to work on their leg muscles. It’s also one of the best glute exercises for men. The Bulgarian split squat is a form of single-leg squat that works on your leg muscles. This includes your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. On top of that, this exercise move is also great for your core.
The main difference between the standard single-leg squat and a Bulgarian split squat is the position of your leg. In a single-leg squat, you are pointing your foot straight ahead. Meanwhile, the latter has you elevating your leg back on either a bench or chair. Due to its nature, it’s also an ideal move to boost both your balance and coordination.
Stand about two feet in front of a knee-level bench, chair or step with your feet hip-width apart. Look straight ahead and elevate your right leg behind you on the bench. Engage your core and square your hips to your body. Finding the proper foot placement can take some time, just be sure that you are comfortable with your position before proceeding.
Bend your left leg into a squat and push it from the floor into a hop. Remember to keep your knee in line with your foot as you continue to the next repetition of the movement.
You can place your hands on your hips or clasp them together in front of you. If you’re up for a challenge, you can always add dumbbells, resistance bands, or a kettlebell.
Common Tabata Workout Mistakes and How to Fix Them
One of the most common mistakes in Tabata training is not pushing yourself hard enough. This HIIT workout’s formula is simple — 20-second exercises at maximum effort, followed by 10-second rest periods. However, some people don’t truly go all out.
Remember, the main reason why Tabata workout routines are so effective is that it exhausts you. Moderate-intensity effort simply won’t cut it. You should give 110% full effort in order to get the maximum results in a short period.
Another common mistake is skipping the 10-second rest period. Transitioning straight into other Tabata exercises can actually be counterproductive. Asides from being some well-deserved rest, those few seconds are actually an integral part of Tabata workouts.
This form of HIIT workouts is all about bursts of energy. Research by Dr. Tabata showed that short periods of high-intensity exercises followed by shorter rest periods help improve both aerobic and anaerobic systems. As such, it’s vital to let yourself cool down before getting into your subsequent cycles of exercise.
Setting a proper Tabata timer is also a crucial, but often overlooked aspect of Tabata training. It’s important to use a Tabata timer that you can easily see to help you follow through the correct intervals. Some people use the timer on their smartphones or a dedicated Tabata timer online. You can also find a Tabata timer with music on YouTube that can help boost your mood. Just make sure the music won’t distract you.
Tabata Workout: A Four-Minute Fitness Session
A standard Tabata workout takes only four minutes. Don’t underestimate how demanding it can be, though. Incorporating it into your fitness routine can be tough if you’re a beginner. It takes practiced ability to exert maximum effort while executing intense workouts continuously. If you don’t have a good base level of fitness to start off with, you can easily strain your muscles or even get injured.
However, the fitness benefits of this form of HIIT workout are undeniable.
One of the greatest benefits of a full-body Tabata workout is that your body will continue burning fat for 24 hours. Because of this, it’s a no-brainer why it’s a popular workout style among the fitness community.
Ready to commit to Tabata training? If so, remember to always give it your all. It’s also best to start off with exercises that you are comfortable doing. There’s no shame in easing your way into it.