Depending on what your fitness aims and ambitions are, there are lots of different fitness workouts out there.
From common exercise routines to more unusual workouts (such as German Volume Training), there is something for everyone.
A fitness workout that is becoming increasingly popular is Tabata fitness.
But what is Tabata fitness and is it right for you?
We’ve outlined everything you need to know to get started.
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What is Tabata Fitness?
Tabata is a form of high intensity exercise training, originating from Japan.
Dr Tabata conducted research to compare moderate intensity exercise against high intensity exercise. His research showed an increase in both aerobic and anaerobic fitness for participants during high intensity training.
This research was used for the Japanese ice-skating team in the 90s.
Tabata celebrates HIIT (high intensity interval training) and offers those looking to get fit and healthy a great potential workout to get stuck into.
Tabata workouts are just 4 minutes long – yep, just 4 minutes. The focus is on intensity as opposed to duration. The Tabata protocol is easy to follow: 20 seconds of intense movement and exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes.
But be warned, high intensity means high intensity. Following this exercise format but doing it at a relaxed pace will not achieve results. Tabata training is proven to deliver amazing results but will put your body through a brutal workout and does require a slightly scientific approach to your exercise routine.
Tabata Vs HIIT
Tabata and HIIT (high intensity interval training) often get compared and confused.
Tabata is a form of HIIT – by its very nature it is high intensity and follows an interval format.
HIIT is a broad category of exercise and includes different styles and approaches. Tabata is more specific, only lasting for 4 minutes. Many gyms and blogs will confuse things by calling a workout Tabata, when in fact, they actually just mean a HIIT workout.
Anyone could create their own HIIT workout, and many do. Taking high intensity internal training and relating it to specific fitness goals means it can be adapted and suited to whoever is participating.
Both Tabata and HIIT are great forms of exercise and personal preference will dictate if you end up focusing more on 4 minute Tabata workouts or broader HIIT training.
Tabata Training for Beginners
Although Tabata workouts only last 4 minutes, they tend to be quite advanced workouts. Your body is pushed to the limits and you’ll likely finish completely exhausted.
It doesn’t work if you don’t push yourself so expect these workouts to be the hard.
You know your own limits better than anyone else, so if you have any doubts, consult a doctor or hire a Personal Trainer to help support you and get you started. Personal Trainers will help push you and support the workout so they can be really useful for this type of exercise.
It’s also important you maintain good form. Some criticisms of HIIT, interval training and CrossFit, is that technique and form can decline as people tire. Bad form and technique is bad for your body and should be avoided at all costs, regardless of the type of exercise.
This is why embarking on Tabata as a beginner means ensuring your form doesn’t decline as you tire.
Nevertheless, due to the clear health benefits of Tabata training, even if you are a beginner, it is worth giving it a go. Just start basic, pick exercises you feel comfortable with, go through the motions and give it a go (ideally with the support of a class or Personal Trainer).
Tabata Workouts at Home
There are plenty of Tabata classes in most cities around the world, as well as more broad interval/circuit training.
But this sort of training lends itself very well for working out at home. This is great for busy people that want to exercise but might not have the time to head down to a gym every day.
Depending on what exercises you pick, it doesn’t even require much space, or any equipment.
Some Tabata exercises that are ideal for doing at home include:
- Air Squats,
- High Knee Jumps
If you have a bit of equipment, then you can add other exercises such as:
- Jump Ropes
Tabata Workouts and Exercises
So, enough with all the background info – let’s get into the real thick of it! Tabata workouts and exercises.
The beauty of Tabata is that it is really a fitness framework, which lies room for customisation and adaptability, depending on your fitness aims, and what you’re looking to achieve.
For example, you could pick lots of leg exercises if your looking to develop strength in your legs (this is very useful for functional fitness too). Or perhaps you want more arm strength, in which case including relevant arm exercises is important.
Therefore, it really is about picking and choosing the best exercises for your body.
Ideally, you’ll pick a nice mix – upper body, arms, core, and legs. This will develop complete body fitness and avoid muscular imbalance (which can often lead to injury).
So, without further ado, below are some ideas for popular Tabata workouts and exercises. This offers a broad range of exercises, so you can pick and choose from this list for each workout.
**Remember, even though the workouts are only 4 minutes long, they still require adequate warm up and cool down stretches and routines. Failing to warm up properly will just lead to injury and problems down the line.
Tabata without Weights
One of the big advantages of Tabata fitness is the ability to do effective workouts without any equipment or gear.
- Lunges (forward, reverse and side)
- Sit Ups
- High Knee Jumps
- Bicycle Crunches
- Side Plank
- Spider Plank
- Air Squats
- Air Punches
- Side Twists
- Sumo Squat
- Push Ups (close grip, normal, kneeling)
Tabata with Weights
Adding weights to a Tabata workout is great for those looking to add some muscle and strength. This will make workouts much harder though so only try Tabata workouts with weights once you’ve given it a go without weights a few times.
Dumbbells and kettlebells are great types of fitness equipment to add to a Tabata workout. You can choose a relevant weight so it reflects your fitness level.
- Air Squats with dumbbell bicep curl
- Lunge with dumbbell overhead press
- Reverse lunge with dumbbell back fly
- Air Squats with Kettlebell swings
- Air Squat with dumbbell hammer curl
- Side Lunge with dumbbell tricep extension
- Plank Row
- Goblet Squat (dumbbell or kettlebell)
p.s. Bulgarian bags and sandbags are also great pieces of personal training gear that would lend themselves perfectly for Tabata style training.
As well as having Tabata workouts that include a big various of exercises, you may want to focus on a particular style or body part. Tabata running workouts will, well, involve a lot of running. This is great if you enjoy running and want to introduce alternative running training into your regular routine (that may currently consist mainly of long distance running).
Tabata running workouts should be focused on sprints and agility movements.
Improving your agility, quickness and speed is great for anyone doing any kind of sport. Developing a faster first step, or being able to move sideways quicker, or simply being able to run faster, is a huge benefit.
This also helps support a functional fitness too, helping promote better overall movement.
- Shuttle sprints
- Side sprints
- Lunge walks
- High Knee Jumps
The original Tabata experiment was performed on stationary bikes, so what better way than to incorporate Tabata cycling into your workouts.
Cycling can be a lot lower impact on your joints and body than exercises like jumping and running. This makes it a useful addition to get your heart rate up, without increasing stress on joints.
Air bikes are a great innovation on the standard exercise bike. They air bikes create a lot more resistance and require your arms to move too. This means they create the ultimate full body workout and allow you to push as hard as you can in a short period of time (perfect for Tabata cycling).
Squats are one of the best all-round exercises.
From beginners to professional athletes, squats offer a fantastic exercise to develop strong and powerful legs – vital for functional fitness.
If you’re looking for a Tabata leg workout, then squats are likely to play a big role.
- Air squats
- weighted squats (barbell)
- Air Squats with dumbbell overhead press
- Jumping Squats
- Wide Squats
Tabata push ups are another great all-round exercise to include into your workout. Predominantly focusing on the chest and arms, push ups use your own bodyweight to test and challenge your body.
This means they work well for everyone as the difficulty is all relative.
Push ups will develop lean muscle and strength so if most of the exercises in your exercise routine is mainly cardio-focused, this will help add some balance.
Tabata workouts are great at developing a strong core quickly and effectively.
By choosing the right core exercise to target your abs, you can incorporate these into any Tabata workout. Similarly, you could even focus solely on a Tabata abs workout and really hit those abs hard!
- Sit Ups
- Plank Row
- Spiderman Plank
- Mountain Climbers
- Leg Lift
- Jackknife Crunch
- Ab Twist
If the aim of a workout is to get out of breathe quickly, burpees are second to none. The ultimate full body exercise without the need for any equipment, Tabata burpees workouts will target the legs and upper body.
Burpees basically incorporate a squat and a push up. The movement is also really effective at developing cardio fitness.
Tabata yoga should really be known as “Tabata-inspired yoga.”
Yoga is a much slower and more controlled style of exercise and training offering a plethora of benefits. But by this very nature, it doesn’t really fit in with Tabata and high intensity training.
Some yoga studios are starting to offer Tabata yoga, but don’t expect this to be HIIT training – instead, its more likely to incorporate interval and circuit training with traditional yoga positions.
Due to Tabata workouts being so short, following a warmup with a bit of yoga to improve flexibility and mobility could be a great way to prepare for a Tabata workout.
Rowing is a great exercise for Tabata.
Using a rowing machine will get your heart pumping as well as having resistance for your arms and upper body to work against. You’re legs also push as you row, providing you with a complete full body workout.
There’s lots of great Tabata circuit examples out there. YouTube is a great place to start, as well as asking at your local gym if they have any sessions.
Often, these Tabata circuits will go beyond 4 minutes but follow the same structure – just repeated numerous times.
Tabata Timer and Other Accessories
Getting yourself a Tabata timer is a great way to ensure you get the most out of your workout.
You can find specific stopwatches on Amazon for Tabata training.
Similarly, there are plenty of Tabata apps you can use. Just search for Tabata in the app store.
Tabata offers a range of benefits for anyone giving it a go, including:
Being able to do a really effective workout in such a short period of time is a great way to gain some extra time in your life. For those who drive to a gym, get changed, stand around machines and equipment talking, drive home, the whole experience can actually take up a lot of time.
Tabata packs a big punch into a small amount of time, giving you more time to do other things – making it a popular workout program for busy people.
Tabata workouts only take 4 minutes and can be done in the comfort of your own home. It doesn’t even require any equipment. This really means there are no excuses and can help increase motivation and dedication. Workouts that are too daunting or hard can often contribute to sessions being skipped and eventually given up on.
Everyone’s got 4 minutes in a day they can use for this so it really is something to give a go.
HIIT and interval training are great ways to increase weight loss and combat things like belly fat. They contribute to what is known as the “afterburn,” whereby the body continues to burn calories long after the workout has finished.
Because your body has to work so hard, your body will go into overdrive to cope. Your metabolic rate (your BMR – resting metabolic rate) is likely to see tangible gains and your body will continue to work after the workout is finished.
Aerobic and Anaerobic Health
Tabata is a fantastic all-round exercise format that develops both aerobic and anaerobic health.
Workouts often focus on one or the other, so the fact you fact you get benefits for aerobic and anaerobic fitness means you get a lot of benefits in just 4 minutes!
The original study that led to the development of Tabata training should that those following this high intensity training as opposed to the medium intensity training saw a 28% increase in the anaerobic capacity and a 14% increase in their aerobic capacity.
Turning to diet to lose weight without exercise risks the loss of strength and muscle too. Following high intensity training helps lose weight in a way that also stimulates muscles to work hard and grow.
This means lean muscles that promote strength and power and support everyday movements and tasks.
Reduce Injuries from Repetition and Strain
Embarking on endurance activities, like long distance running is a fantastic form of exercise but does bring with it potential injury risks. Repetition and strains can cause injuries and problems.
Due to the workouts being so quick, the body is working hard, but doesn’t run the risk of injury from repetition.
Get Started with a Tabata Workout Plan
As you can see, there are plenty of exercises and workouts for you to follow if you’re looking to get started with a Tabata workout plan.
The beauty of this type of workout is the ability to mix and match with different exercises. You can keep it interesting every day and ensure you hit every muscle group by the end of the week.
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