Tabata – Your 4 Minute Workout Solution

December 22, 2016

Would you be interested in a workout method that can drastically improve your aerobic and anaerobic output as well as turn your body into a calorie burning machine?

Oh, did we mention it takes just 4 minutes a day?

We know, we know – this sounds like an infomercial…

But here’s the kicker – it costs nothing and equipment isn’t mandatory – making it a true anywhere/anytime workout solution…

The Tabata Training Method can be exactly what you’re looking for around the holidays – or any other time your schedule is on swole – when you need an effective workout, yet might be tight on time.

It’s worth repeating – Tabata completely eliminates the “no time” excuse because it only takes about 4 minutes!

Tabata they come, Tabata they fall!

Sounds simple, right?

It sure does, but it’s also very difficult – which can be a great thing when you are looking to challenge yourself.

As with most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.


Tabata History

A group of Japanese researchers led by Dr. Izumi Tabata set out to see what type of exercise was more effective in groups of amateur athletes in their twenties using an exercise bike:

Group A:  Hour- long moderate intense workouts 5 days per week (5 hours total per week)


Group B: Very short all-out high-intensity workouts 5 days per week (20 minutes total per week)

While both groups improved certain areas of their fitness, Group B was the clear winner in both aerobic and anaerobic parameters – with a whopping 28% improvement in the latter.

Add in the fact that it only took 20 minutes a week (wow!) and we’ve got ourselves something special.

It’s worth repeating that these were trained individuals, which is quite impressive.

This is as good as it gets when you’re tight on time, want a quick something to counterbalance a cheat meal or you’re just looking for some variety in your workouts.

Remember, it can be used anytime as a stand-alone workout, not just a time crunch solution.

Jumping rope can be a great way to perform Tabata training anywhere

How to do Tabata

  1. Pick any 1 exercise (Multi-joint exercises work best)
  2. Perform at the highest intensity that you can for 20 seconds
  3. Rest 10 seconds
  4. Repeat 7-8 more times (If this is too much initially, work your way up to 7-8 rounds. Start with as many as you can do safely. This is just fine and you’ll still reap the benefits. Be smart.)

That’s it – You’re done!

The best way to ensure you put in the full 20 seconds of high intensity and only take 10 second rest periods is to perform Tabata with a partner to hold you accountable.

Realistically speaking, those 20 second work periods can feel like 20 minutes and the 10 second rest periods can feel like 1 second!

If a partner isn’t an option, look at a digital clock that displays seconds or a standard clock with a second hand. However, the partner option is the far better option. After all, it’s only 4 minutes of someone’s time.


Don’t Overthink It

Now, if you do a Google search you’ll see all types of crazy Tabata workouts where they tell you to do more than 1 exercise for 4 minutes. If getting the benefits of the Tabata research is your goal, then ignore all of that because it’s no longer Tabata.

Tabata was meant to be 4 minutes of all-out intensity. This is the key. If you don’t put forth the all-out effort then you’re not going to get the maximum benefits.

When you start thinking about it, do you feel you can go all out for much longer than 4 minutes? Even 4 minutes may be tough at first – and that’s ok. Ease into it.

The point being is well-intentioned folks have taken some really exciting research and turned it into something else.

Expecting someone to perform all out intensity for 10, 20, 30 – even 60 minutes – is just unrealistic.


Best Exercises For Tabata

As mentioned above, the absolute best exercises are multi-joint exercises such as squats, pushups, etc.

The key is to be able to instantly “ramp” up and down – from all-out effort to complete rest. This is why treadmills are not a good choice for Tabata as they take too long to speed up and slow down.

Much better choices are an exercise bike, rower or good old fashioned wind sprints.

Hybrid exercises such as Dumbbell Thrusters and Iron Cross are also really great fits for Tabata. These are shown below.

Since you will be performing a high amount of volume in a very short time period, the weight you will use will be much lower than what you use for a straight set.

Don’t be a hero and try and use too much weight, especially the first time you are trying an exercise and/or Tabata.

The weight should feel very easy the first few sets.

Halfway through, the weight should become more challenging, and by the end, you’ll really have to dig deep to complete your workout.

Of course, never sacrifice technique for weight/reps and your goal is to complete all sets of 20 seconds and not finish early because the weight is too heavy.


Dumbbell Thruster



Iron Cross



Tabata is an excellent tool to have in your training toolbox. The key is to use it properly. Here are some of the best ways to incorporate it (in no particular order):

  1. Around the holidays when time is short, and food is abundant
  2. While traveling
  3. During times of increased work and/or family commitments
  4. Before a cheat meal
  5. If you don’t enjoy longer duration moderate intensity “cardio”

There you have it; Tabata made simple – but certainly not easy! But who wants easy anyway?

The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USPlabs or any employee thereof. Examples used within this article are only examples. USPlabs is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors of this article.  Authors may have been remunerated by USPlabs.
The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.


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