The promise of Tabata training sounds like a miracle: Get great results from working out in just 4-minutes. Wow! 

But is it good for you? Is it right for you? This article is where you find out.

Definition & Origin of Tabata Training

Tabata training is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) or High Intensity Training (H.I.T.) that lasts for 4 minutes. The sequence to follow is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off of exercise for a total of 8 times/sets, lasting for 4 minutes. It may sound easy, but for that 20 seconds of exercise you are pushing yourself to the max; and trust me after 8 times, you feel it! If you don’t feel wasted after the 4 minutes, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough.

I’m not going to bore you with the whole history of the thing, but Tabata was founded by scientist Izumi Tabata by having two groups of athletes workout at different intensities. Group one’s athletes trained at moderate intensity 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, for a total of 6 weeks. Group two trained in high intensity workouts 4 days a week, for a total of 6 weeks. The sessions for group two were in the Tabata 4-minute style. The results were that while the athletes training at moderate intensity saw aerobic improvement, the high intensity group not only had more noticeable improvement in their aerobic systems, but also saw improvement in their anaerobic system. 

Other studies (Journal of Applied Physiology and another conducted by Michele Olson, PhD of Auburn University) found that HIIT marked increases in whole body and skeletal muscle capacity for fatty acid oxidation during exercise, and a much higher calorie burning rate compared to moderate exercise levels. 

What You Need

A Timer or Stopwatch: to keep track of the 20 seconds on/10 seconds off. I personally use this Tabata Timer I found online: Fitlb. I love that it sounds an alarm to stop and go between rounds. There is also one available in an App. 

A Journal: to keep track of your exercises and what weight you lifted (if the exercise requires weights) and to keep track of improvements. 

Creating a Tabata

There are so many pre-made Tabata’s that you can find on youtube and other online sites. 

Here are two great suspension gym Tabata video using The Human Trainer:

– Human Trainer Two Knee Pike Tabata

– Human Trainer Elevated Arm Plank Tabata

If you want to make your own, virtually any exercise can be used in Tabata Training. Try to choose exercises that work towards your specific workout goals (i.e. weight loss, endurance, muscle toning, etc.) Tabata was originally done using only cardiovascular exercises with one exercise used for the entire 4-minute span. However, it has now been found to work just as well with bodyweight and strength exercises, and with alternating different exercises. I personally don’t recommend doing more than two exercises because then the muscle you are working isn’t getting enough of a workout. 

So for example, if you are doing pushups and squats: start with pushups, do 20 seconds hard, rest for 10 seconds, and then do squats hardcore for 20 seconds. Rest for 20 seconds and then go back to the pushups. Continue for 8 sets in all. Feel free to do as many Tabata’s (always changing the exercises from Tabata to Tabata) as you can handle.

NOTE: Always warm up before starting a Tabata workout. Do 8-10 minutes, slowly increasing your intensity level from easy to moderate. Cool down and stretch afterwards. Hydrate properly and listen to your body. Stop if you feel sharp pain, are dizzy, or light headed.

Tabata vs. Tabata Style

There are plenty of gyms getting on the Tabata train and offering Tabata 30 – 60 minute classes. Please note that if you were doing Tabata at the full out, balls to the wall intensity that you are meant to you would not be able to make it to 30 minutes. These classes are at a much lower intensity, but though they may not be true Tabata, you will still get a good workout.

Is Tabata Right for You?

It is recommended not to do Tabata unless you are fairly healthy, do not have any prior injuries, and are already an intermediate to advanced exerciser who knows the proper form for the exercises he or she will be using. It is very easy to get hurt if you do not know your body’s limits or know how to maintain form even when tired because of the level of intensity you are going at. That being said, though you won’t get the full benefit of Tabata training this way, beginners can try Tabata at lower intensity and work their way up. 

If you don’t like high intensity workouts this is obviously not going to work for you.

Can I Replace my Regular Workouts with Tabata?

Oh! I wish it was that easy my friend, to say that you can get away with working out only 4 minutes at a time, always. Though Tabata training may help you get some great results, it certainly shouldn’t replace all of your workouts, as working out at this level can cause injury. It’s at such high intensity you should only do it a few times a week in order to give your body enough time to fully recover. 


Consider Tabata Training to be an extra boost to a regular routine, or as a quickie if you are short on time. It’ll help up your metabolism, aid with weight loss, and is said to deliver big results in improved aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, muscular strength and toning, and weight loss.



Resources: huffingtonpost, tabatatraining.org, active.com, sparkpeople.com, lisajohnsonfitness.com, breakingmuscle.com

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