Tabata Training: Your Ultimate Guide to 4-Minute Workouts

4-minute Tabata 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 can be even less than that.

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

Yep, you read that right. Four 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 is Tabata Training?

Tabata training is a style of interval training developed by 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 pretty amazing.

Not only did the athletes doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) increase their overall aerobic and anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, and 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 four minutes!

The only caveat? During Tabata training you have to work really, really hard during the entire four minutes—or you won’t be maximizing your results.

How to Do a Tabata Workout

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

Luckily, timers aren’t hard to come by. You can use the 12 Minute Athlete app, or there are plenty of physical ones like this one available online or in sporting goods stores.

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 four minutes.

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.

Sample Tabatas to Try

Though most people associate Tabata workouts with sprinting or biking, you can also do plyometrics, jump rope, use a medicine ball, or even mix and match bodyweight exercises for a full body workout.

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

Sprint Tabata

This is the classic Tabata workout, and the one most people think of when they think of Tabatas.
To do it, just find an open space and set your timer for 8 rounds of 10 and 20 seconds. Then sprint your heart out during the 20 second intervals and walk or rest completely during the 10 second intervals.

High Knees with a Jump Rope Tabata

Another awesome cardio Tabata, this is my go-to Tabata workout when I want to make sure I have nothing left to give after a workout.

To do it, set your timer for 8 rounds of 10 and 20 seconds, performing high knees with a jump rope as fast as you possibly can during the 20 second intervals and resting during the 10 second intervals.

Alternate Between: Burpees and Mountain Climbers

This Tabata workout adds an extra challenge: you’ll be doing two different exercises and switching each interval.

You’ll start by doing 20 seconds of burpees, rest, then do 20 seconds of mountain climbers. Continue until you’ve completed all eight rounds.

Alternate Between: Squat Jumps and Pike Jumps

Start with 20 seconds of squat jumps, rest, then do 20 seconds of pike jumps. Continue until you’ve completed all eight rounds.

Alternate Between: Air Squats and Push Ups

Start with 20 seconds of air squats, rest, then do 20 seconds of push ups. Continue until you’ve completed all eight rounds.

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

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25 thoughts on “Tabata Training: Your Ultimate Guide to 4-Minute Workouts”

  1. 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.

    • 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!

  2. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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 🙂

    • 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.

  3. 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

    • 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. A is correct. Long slow cardio is going the way of the dinosaur. Most people don’t understand what real intensity is. For example, you should be pushing so hard that you have to take a knee and feeling a bit nauseous means you doing it right. There have been many studies that show 6 all out 50 yard sprints will burn 9x more fat than a 45 minute long slow cardio. It’s also more dynamic and strengthens muscles. Do you want to look like an Olympic sprinter or a marathoner. Long slow repetitive motions are NOT good for you unless you like having a smaller, “more efficient” heart. For more good info on this, check out the PACE program by Dr. Al Sears.

    P.S. LOVE the site.

  7. So i don’t get it. Should i be doing steady state with Tabata as well? or will Tabata alone be enough? I’m changing my lifestyle but steady state cardio is just too boring for me and takes too long which is why i picked up Tabata. I’ve done Tabata and my heartbeats like crazy at the end. 4 minutes is hell but if that’s not enough, should be doing another round of Tabata to see fat-loss with a calorie deficit? o.O it sounds scary but i’m willing to go all out, though i don’t think i can give my full at the second round, unless i take a 5 to 10 minutes break.
    P.S I weigh around a 160 to 165 pounds and stand tall at 5 feet 3(short for a guy lol but meh)

    Would be awesome if you could help me out! Thanks!

    • Hey Changeisgood,

      That’s your own preference if you want to do steady state cardio too or not. Tabatas are just a way faster way to burn a lot of fat and calories.
      If you’re new to tabatas, you can start out with one 4-minute tabata a day (it doesn’t have to be every day), and once you feel more comfortable, add another one. Also check out our 12 and 16 minute workouts that you can find here and on the app

      12 MA Team

  8. It’s funny to read comments from the fools who think they can do 20-30 minutes of Tabata. I can’t believe I haven’t seen these individuals on TV at the Olympics!!! Matt is probably the only human on the planet that can outperform a cheetah on the anaerobic scale. He is a genetic mutant. I want to meet him someday if I can ever find a car fast enough to keep up with him when he does his 24 hour tabata sprints.


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