Tabata: A Workout That’s Always Changing

By Delia Albert

As the popularity of programs like INSANITY and P90X has grown, most workout enthusiasts have become aware of HIIT, or high intensity interval training. Welcome Tabata! This intense, ever-changing workout will leave you wanting more.

The HIIT workout method burns fat quickly and can be less time consuming than traditional cardio workouts, such as running on the treadmill. Many experts say it’s the most effective way to burn fat!

Tabata is a HIIT workout that changes every four minutes for a total of 20 minutes. By the end of the workout, you should have completed four exercises.

Because I hate spending a lot of time in the gym, but I need a challenge that makes me sweat to feel accomplished, Tabata has become my go-to workout. It may be only 20 minutes of exercise, but it may be the toughest 20 minutes you’ll endure. It’s both physically and mentally challenging, and it always leaves me feeling good about my time spent exercising. Personally, it has helped me to accomplish my goal of getting leaner without feeling burnt out from working out too much.

During one Tabata (one four-minute round) you will work at your highest intensity level, doing one exercise. Work as hard as possible for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat this eight times in total for one Tabata. Once you complete one Tabata, rest for one minute before moving on to the next round.

The fun really begins once you understand the sequence! Alternating between exercises, adding more rounds and incorporating weight into each sequence keeps the workout fresh and interesting.

Using weight is not a requirement, however! The best part about Tabata is that it can be done anywhere just using your bodyweight, and over time, you’ll notice how much stronger you’ve become. The amount of pushups I can do in 20 seconds has almost doubled since I started doing Tabata!

For best results, most experts recommend resting at least one day in between each Tabata workout.


Ease-into-it Exercises

Want to try Tabata? Start with these simple high intensity exercises. Once you’ve mastered these techniques, add in more complex activities.


Mountain Climbers – Get in the plank position, and put your hands directly under your shoulders. While holding this position, move your right leg toward your chest underneath your body, and then return it to the starting position. Complete the same motion with your left leg. Continue to alternate between the right and left leg at your highest intensity level, as if you’re “climbing a mountain.”

Windshield Wipers – Lie on your back with your arms to the side, creating a T-shape. Raise your legs, and create a 90-degree angle at your knee. Move your legs from left to right carefully and in a controlled manner, while staying one inch away from touching the ground.


Pushups – Get in the plank position, and put your hands directly under your shoulders. While keeping your back flat, lower your body to about an inch away from the ground. Push back up while keeping your back flat. Repeat.

Up and Down Planks – Get in the plank position, and put your hands directly under your shoulders. Lower your right arm, placing your forearm flat to the ground. Repeat with you left arm. Lift your right arm, placing your right palm back into the starting position and lifting up your body. Repeat with your left arm. Continue this pattern at your highest intensity level.


Squats – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight, abdomen tight and shoulders back, begin to lower yourself as if there’s a workout bench behind you on which you want to sit. Try not to lean forward or lock your knees! Begin to rise back up, straightening your legs. Repeat.

Side Lunges – Stand with your feet together. Keeping your back straight, abdomen tight and shoulders back, extend your right leg to the side, lunging to your right. Keeping your left leg straight, and make sure your right knee doesn’t extend past your right foot. Push off with your right foot to return to the starting position. Repeat on your left side before starting over and repeating.

Full Body

Burpees – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your body to the squatting position, and place your hands on the ground, kicking your legs behind you. Now that you are in a plank position, complete a pushup. Instantly bring your feet back to the starting position and jump up. Repeat.

Jumping Jacks – Stand with your feet together and arms by your side. In one smooth motion, jump raising your arms above your head and extending your legs to a wider stance. Instantly return to the starting position. Continue this pattern at your highest intensity level.

A Brief History of Tabata

Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese researcher, invented Tabata after conducting a study on a group of athletes. He wanted to determine who would benefit more — athletes completing one hour of moderate exercise, five times a week for six weeks, or athletes completing Tabata, four times a week for six weeks. The athletes who completed Tabata increased their aerobic and anaerobic systems much more than the control group!

Benefits of Tabata

  • Tone your muscles and get lean
  • Save time working out
  • Constantly change your workout (never get bored at the gym)
  • Improve endurance
  • Work out anywhere!