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Updated: May 12, 2023

You know I love all things Tabata! Have you tried one of the classes? If not, this is for you. Or maybe you're taking class with me but you want to know WHY it is beneficial. I've got you, boss, keep reading!

What Is It?

Quick history lesson: Tabata training was developed by Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. It’s a timed interval method that alternates between 20-second intervals performed at maximum effort and 10-second stages of rest, repeated eight times for the ultimate four-minute workout.

In a time where most people are searching for efficient and effective workouts, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) methodoligies such as Tabata are ideal. By definition it only requires one exercise, but you can put together a tabata workout from a huge array of strength and aerobic exercises. This type of training incorporates a greater work load or intensity and hits a greater range of muscle groups than traditional cardio in a shorter amount of time. Tabata pushes you to work above your lactate threshold, meaning your effort is vigorous. How tough should it be? Participants in a study from The American Council on Exercise averaged 86 percent of their max heart rate and 74 percent of their VO2 max. Wow!

Benefits of Tabata Training

1. Metabolic BOOSTER While Tabata intervals are short, they're also quite spicy. They place a strong stress on the body as you continue to perform the exercises. Your body increases its Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), or the rate at which the body uses energy while at rest to keep vital functions strong; and while your BMR is rising—and managing the demand being placed on your body—so will the level at which your body continues to burn after your workout. All this from a 4-minute interval session? Talk about a bang for a metabolic buck!

2. Increase Aerobic and Anaerobic Endurance Your body’s aerobic capacity is the greatest amount of oxygen it consumes during exercise, and your anaerobic capacity is the greatest amount of energy your body can produce by burning in the absence of oxygen. It's a cardiovascular push, you're literally pushing your limts for 20-seconds. It not only helps you with long distance running but also with other HIIT modalities. So it helps you run faster for shorter and steadier for longer all at once. Per This study concluded that four minutes of Tabata performed at extreme intensity four times a week can improve your anaerobic capacity by 28 percent, and your VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) and maximal aerobic power by 15 percent in as little as six weeks.

3. Maximize Efficiency Time is always on our mind, and thankfully for Tabata it is now on our side. These are intense, effective routines; and, though it seems counterintuitive, they also allow you to hone in on safety. When exercising at an extreme level, you want to increase the focus on yourself as you grow into longer, more challenging routines. Plus, starting with just four minutes per day can increase your level of commitment to working out regularly.

Why Tabata Is So Effective

Since the 20-10 design is taxing to both your aerobic and anaerobic energy levels, it results in an improved overall cardiovascular fitness performance,. By taking short rest periods at only half the time of the high impact intervals (a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio), your body is forced to perform without a full recovery. Once you enter the second half of your Tabata workout, you’ll be working at maximum capacity.

How to Create Your Own Tabata Workout

I 100% would LOVE to have you in every Tabata class. But what if you're in a position where you have to create your own? Take these tips to design your own Tabata session on-the-go:

  1. Choose your movements ahead of time. You can transform virtually any activity into a Tabata-style workout.

  2. Do a five- to 10-minute warmup to get your blood flowing and muscles loose. My go-to movements are Jumping Jacks, Inch Worm, Squats, Butt Kicks, Lunges, and any other movements that compliment what you will perform in your Tabata sets.

  3. Do the first “set” of your exercise for 20 seconds. Just knock out as many reps as you can. Make sure to prioritize your form!

  4. Rest for 10 seconds.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for four minutes. That’s it, you’re done! If you want additional rounds, make sure to rest for 1-minute MINIMUM between each 4-minute block.


  1. If you’re lifting, pick a lighter weight than you’re used to, as you may fatigue quickly.

  2. As you advance, maintain the two-to-one work-to-rest ratio. Progress through more reps in each set than you did last time.

  3. 3. Don’t use Tabata training too often - I know, I love it too. 2-3 times per week is plenty.

Example Workouts

Directions: Perform the first exercise in each routine for 20-seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Next, complete the second exercise for 20 seconds and rest again for 10. Repeat. Each exercise will be completed four times to result in eight solid rounds of Tabata.

Workout #1 1. Battle Rope Waves 2. Battle Rope Burpee Slams

How to do it: Stand facing your anchor, holding one battle rope in each hand, feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Lift the right hand and rope up to shoulder level, while simultaneously lowering the left hand and rope down to hip level with enough force so the ropes move in opposite directions. Continue for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds. Next, still holding the ropes in each hand, bring both arms up overhead, then forcefully slam the ropes down to the ground, lowering into a high squat as you do. Drop down and perform a burpee. Continue for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds. Repeat this four times, as stated above.

Workout #2 1. Kettlebell Swings 2. Kettlebell Goblet Squats

Workout #3 1. Pushups 2. Jump Rope

Tip: For jumping rope, hold the handles of a jump rope in each hand; begin to jump at a consistent beat. Maintain a hollow body position while jumping for increased power to your jumps.

Workout #4 1. Cycling in the saddle at 90-100 RPM

How to do it: Set your resistance to a moderate/strong intensity, so you feel the road beneath your feet. Push to your max for 20-seconds, then take what you need for 10-seconds. This could be 60-70 RPM, or you can stop your legs completely.

Workout #5 1. Sprints 2. Walking Lunges

How to do it: Alternate sprinting at full speed with complete walking lunges so you’re moving forward in the same direction. (I've taken this one to a track!)

Workout #6 1. Rows (hard) 2. Rows (easy, for recovery)

How to do it: Go 20 seconds hard on a rower/erg, then take 10 seconds to recover by rowing at an easy rate. Generally speaking, “hard” is the equivalent of >28 strokes per minute and “easy” (your recovery) is still active at <24 strokes per minute.

What about with dumbbells or on a mat? Try one of these!

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