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Tabata Training: Your Ultimate Guide to 4-Minute Workouts

Do you assume you need to spend a good 60 to 90 minutes in the gym in order to get in a really good workout?

I’m not judging. I used to be the same way.

In fact, I used to spend ages on the treadmill and in the weight room until I discovered something amazing: it doesn’t take hours of exercise to get a good workout.

I talk a lot about 12 and 16 minute workouts here on the site, but honestly, it doesn’t even take that long.

Because here’s a secret: you can get a good workout in just 4 minutes.

Yep, you read that right. 4 minutes is all it takes to get your heart pumping, blood flowing, and fat disappearing.

It’s called Tabata Training, and here’s how you can use it to your advantage.

What the heck is Tabata training?

Tabata training is a style of interval training developed by a guy named Dr. Izumi Tabata at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan.

He conducted tests on two groups of athletes, comparing moderate intensity training (such as long distance running) to high intensity interval training (such as sprinting).

And the results were shocking.

Not only did the athletes doing high intensity interval training increase their overall aerobic and anaerobic capacity, their VO2 max, resting metabolic rate, it also helped them burn more fat—resulting in a leaner physique much quicker than their moderate intensity training counterparts.

So what exactly does this mean for you?

When you train Tabata-style, you will:

  • Burn more fat
  • Boost your metabolism all day long
  • Get in shape quicker than medium intensity training (such as long-distance running)
  • Get more done in less time

And it only takes 4 minutes!

The only caveat? During Tabata training you have to work really, really hard during the entire 4 minutes—or the whole exercise will be pointless and you’ll never get the results you’re looking for.

So how do you do it?

Tabata training is easy to do anywhere and everywhere—and the only real piece of equipment you’ll need is a timer.

Don’t think you can get away with not using one—trust me, you’ll want a timer. No matter how good you are at counting in your head, you’re bound to lose track when you’re working this hard.

Luckily, timers aren’t hard to come by. You can get this Gymboss one for an easy, transportable timer you can take anywhere, download a Tabata app, or use the website.

To complete a Tabata workout, set your timer for 8 rounds of 10 and 20 second intervals.

Your workout will look like this:

:10 – Get ready
:20 – Work
:10 – Rest
:20 – Work
:10 – Rest
:20 – Work
:10 – Rest
:20 – Work
:10 – Rest
:20 – Work
:10 – Rest
:20 – Work
:10 – Rest
:20 – Work
:10 – Rest
:20 – Work

For a total of a 4-minute workout.

Now remember, in order to get the maximum amount of results from this workout, you have to push yourself to the limit during each work period.

This is no jog—you have to sprint to the finish line.

Watch a Tabata workout in action

So you know how hard you should expect to be working, I filmed a video of myself doing a Tabata workout with high knees w/ jump rope.

Watch the video here:

I particularly like using a jump rope for Tabatas because I nearly always have one with me, and if I don’t have room to sprint (or it’s pouring rain outside), it’s easy to jump rope indoors.

As you can see, I’m getting pretty tired near the end of the workout—Tabatas aren’t time consuming, but they’re sure not easy!

Sample Tabatas you can try at home

Though most people associate Tabata workouts with sprinting or jump roping—which are really great options—you can mix and match Tabata workouts to include many different exercises.

Burpees, push ups, jumping rope, you name it—they can all be incorporated into a Tabata workout.

To get you thinking Tabata-style, here are some sample Tabata workouts you can do at home with minimal equipment. Remember, all Tabata workouts involve 8 rounds of 10 and 20 second intervals.

Cardio Tabatas:

Strength Tabatas:

And another:

Come up with your own variations if you’re feeling creative—the options are endless.

Tabatas are awesome

It’s your choice: you can spend 30 to 60 minutes on a treadmill, watching some lame TV show and wishing you were somewhere else, or you can bust your ass during a Tabata workout and get it done in just 4 minutes flat.

I don’t know about you… but I’m going to go with the latter option every single time.

Because not only do Tabata workouts help you get in shape quickly and efficiently, they boost your metabolism and burn more fat than medium intensity exercise.

And that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

Now go give Tabatas a try for yourself—you’ve got 4 minutes, right?


16 Responses to Tabata Training: Your Ultimate Guide to 4-Minute Workouts

  1. esteri June 23, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Currently I am doing a full body weight workout 3 times a week and daily aiming for 10,000 steps min. of movement but nothing intense, mainly just walking. Thinking I will also daily incorporate 15 min. of moderate rebounding and maybe 15 min. of mod. elliptical .Would like to add Tabata to my routine but not sure how best to use it. Can I use it every day? Just wondering because most programs tell you to only do HIIT 2 or 3 times a week. However since this is only 4 min. wondering if then it is o.k. I am glad you answered the question about doing several Tabata in a row and said that then it is no longer really Tabata. I wondered about that. Would it be better to cycle Tabata with other HIIT routines that are longer or can I happily just do Tabata this way for the rest of my life and never have to worry about varying the times.
    Thank you so much for your help.

  2. Shaun May 15, 2014 at 5:03 am #

    I’m kinda confused, I have 3 exercises
    Russian twists
    Beach Scissors
    Standing Knee Raises
    Does that mean I have to do this 3 exercises in this 4 minute Tabata?
    or do I have to do each exercise for 4 minute tabata?

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  4. Remy November 10, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Anybody say that 4 minutes of tabata is a joke so try to do burpees for tabata. I don’t think you ever want to start your 9th rounds of 2nd tabata

    • Luis February 26, 2014 at 2:53 am #

      I’ve been doing burpees for a few days, and I’m still very far from being able to perform a burpee tabata.
      Tabata is meant to be an all out excersise with very little rests, and I bet anyone not used to this that he/she would be lying on the floor sucking air like crazy just a couple minutes after started.

  5. matt November 5, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    4 minutes is no where near enough to be healthy or loose weight! not in the long run anyways, I think the tabata is a great cardio workout TO ADD to your daily workout, TABATA is not the onyl exercise you should do, unless you do 4-5 rounds of it. and even then your not reaching your daily recomended time for working out.

    i will be doing this workout tonight, but i will be doing 4 rounds for a complete time of 16 minutes, and if i have any kind of energy left afterwards i will be doing more (strength) workouts. with any sport, and martial arts you do at least 1 hour of high intensity work, (at least at my kung fu).

    4 minutes is not near enough, and ct fletcher or hannibal for king would agree with me.

    Like I said at first, i think it will be a great cardio to add on your strength training days, but by no means should be an exercise you do as your entire workout. on cardio days do 30min-1hr of cardio. you don’t want to work hard for your results you will only get minimal results, or with tabata maybe you’ll start off getting good results, but after a while you won’t, and your cardio will be limited to 4 to 8 minutes, thats not very good.

    • matt November 5, 2013 at 10:45 am #

      ok I need to reword any sport, Lots of sports involve long times of high intensity, obviously their are sports that don’t like weightlifting. and stuff
      and not all sports use high intensity all the time, but you get what im saying i hope? no real sport will ever use a 4 minute workout and say its good, doesn’t matter if its for strength, or cardio.

    • Krista Stryker November 5, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      I agree 100% Matt – I never would recommend people only do a single tabata a day for exercise! However, if you’re in a crunch, it’s an awesome way to fit in a short workout because there are absolutely no excuses that justify avoiding it :)

    • A September 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

      If you’re able to do multiple back to back sets of Tabata, you’re not doing Tabata. The intensity of those efforts should be 170% of FTP or higher. It should be so intense that your brain loses track of which rep you’re on and you need an iphone ap to signal the intervals and the end of the set.

      I’m not saying that doing 32 20/10 intervals is not good, it’s just not creating the same stimulus as Tabata… which is to bathe your muscles in as much lactate (often upwards of 12mg/dl if you’re a sprinter) and force them to still use all available energy producing systems. No, it’s not for fat loss or sustained power at threshold. It improves VO2max and anaerobic power.

  6. Julie May 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    I can’t seem to do this particular exercise.. because.. I just can’t seem to jump rope every time like you. It just ends up hitting me LOL. It’s one of those things where you have to think about each move (probably not for you). Not sure if you know what I mean. I showed my sister it, too, and she couldn’t do it either lol.

    • Krista Stryker May 22, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Haha. I totally understand what you mean – just keep working at it though! I know getting hurt with a jump rope hurts (trust me, I’ve been hit with one plenty of times!), but if you just keep practicing you’ll eventually get to the point where you don’t have to think about it as much. Alternatively, you could just do high knees without a jump rope!

  7. Luki April 15, 2013 at 3:14 am #

    Lets do this


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