If you’re short on time or can’t make it to the gym, Tabata should become your go-to workout when you’re in a pinch. It’s 8 total intervals of 20 seconds of all exercise (as many reps as possible for the given movement), followed by 10 seconds of rest. Your score is the least number of reps scored in any of the intervals. Don’t let the 4 minute time domain fool you either; it may be short, but it is an extremely effective (and lethal) type of interval training.
It was developed in the late 1990s by Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese physician and researcher and Olympic speed skating coach, Irisawa Koichi. They analyzed the effectiveness of this training regime by comparing two groups over a 6-week period. The control group did one hour of moderate exercise five times a week (1,800 minutes). Meanwhile, the other group did high-intensity Tabata-style training (120 minutes). Even though the control group worked out 15 times longer, it was the Tabata group that saw a 28% improvement in both their aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels. Training doesn’t have to take hours. If it has intervals of intensity and you are moving with a purpose it will be effective.
Tabata can be done with almost anything. If you love barbell cycling, try hang power cleans, deadlifts, squat snaches, or push jerks. If you’re a bodyweight ninja, try burpees, pull-ups, or push-ups. Love core time? Work in mountain climbers, v-ups, toes-to-bar and leg raises. Cardio junkies jump on a rower, sprint, jump rope, and do stairs.
Try it out! Here’s a sample workout:
- Air Squats
- Mountain Climbers
How to do it: Do 20 seconds of air squats, then rest 10 seconds. Do 20 seconds of mountain climbers, then rest 10 seconds. 20 seconds of push-ups and rest. 20 seconds of sit-ups and rest. And then do that whole cycle again seven more times. Or you can tackle one movement at a time by doing a full tabata of air squats, then move onto the mountain climbers and so on and so forth. The whole workout will be approximately 16 minutes.
Any combination of movements will have both anaerobic and aerobic benefits. High-intensity interval training will not only improve your endurance, but it will also increase your body’s ability to tolerate lactic acid, your metabolism will skyrocket, and your body will continue to burn fat even 24-hours after your workout is complete.
Although, Tabata may sound easy, it is not suggested for beginners. High-intensity training is very challenging and can be very uncomfortable especially as lactic acid starts to accumulate. Like with any sport that is high-impact and high-intensity, you do run the risk of injury so listen to your body! We recommend a progression by building up your intensity and the duration. No matter who you are, it is also important that you are completely warmed up before you start into your Tabata routine.