Your daily workout in four minutes flat

Tabata workouts explainedAll too often, we feel forced to sacrifice our trips to the gym to make time for career, family and friends. But we know regular exercise is vital to our physical and emotional well being. As a result, we’re constantly searching for workouts that are fun, effective and efficient. Our current favorite? Tabata.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know Tabata training originated in the 1990s when Dr. Izumi Tabata teamed up with the head coach of the Japanese speed skating team to test how very short bursts of high intensity exercise, followed by even shorter rests, affected the skaters’ performance compared to longer, moderate intensity workouts. Tabata discovered that athletes who followed the high-intensity interval training plans improved both their aerobic (cardiovascular) and anaerobic (muscle) fitness, while the moderate intensity training group only improved their aerobic system. Ever since then, Tabata training has exploded in the fitness world, fueled by its starring role in CrossFit and a growing number of group fitness classes.

What exactly is a Tabata program? A 4-minute workout that alternates 20 seconds of high intensity activity followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. Because of these spurts of effort, Tabata falls under the category of High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.), one of the top 2014 fitness trends. You might think this sounds easy, and you’d be right – at the start. But thanks to the shorter rest intervals, the ability to recover quickly decreases with each cycle until you’re almost ready to collapse at the end of the eighth set.

How to do it. The Tabata program might have started in the world of professional sports, but even recreational fitness buffs can reap the benefits. You can choose to complete eight sets of the same exercise, or alternate between two different exercises. You can also stack Tabatas back-to-back, creating an 8-, 12- or 16-minute workout.

If you plan to complete multiple Tabata sets, rest 60 seconds after you finish each 4-minute cycle. We recommend building up the number of sets as your endurance increases. Be sure to watch your form once fatigue hits to reduce injury risk. Overall, Tabata programs are best for people who already work out regularly, so consult with a trained professional before starting if you’re relatively new or returning to the fitness world.

These body weight exercises are a great place to start since you can do them anywhere without equipment. But remember, pretty much any exercise that you can imagine fits into the Tabata framework!

  • Sit-ups
  • Pushups
  • Supermans
  • Mountain climbers
  • Burpees
  • Squat jumps
  • Jump tucks
  • High knees


Photo credit: Flyfishtogrophy

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