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:

  • High knees w/ a jump rope
  • Sprinting
  • Burpees

Strength Tabatas:

  • Push ups during intervals 1, 3, 5, and 7
  • Air squats during intervals 2, 4, 6, and 8

And another:

  • Pull ups during intervals 1, 3, 5 and 7
  • Tuck jumps during intervals 2, 4, 6, and 8

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?