These tabata workouts can boost your fitness in just 4 minutes

Dr. Rachel Tavel PT, DPT, CSCS
Photo credit: filadendron - Getty Images

From Runner's World

With so many different ways to train, it can be hard to know what to focus on. Should you be clocking in long workouts and adding lots of mileage or should you be focusing on cross-training and strength training to give your legs and lungs a boost? The answer: all of the above—and Tabata can help you get there.

Developed by Japanese exercise scientist Izumi Tabata, Tabata training is a form of high-intensity interval training that forces your body to use more muscle, as well as increases the intensity you can sustain over a longer period of time.

In 1996, Tabata and fellow researchers performed a study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. In it, the Tabata protocol, a 4-minute workout consisting of 7 to 8 sets of 20-second, high-intensity efforts followed by 10 seconds of rest, improved both anaerobic and aerobic energy systems significantly at the same time.

That means twice the benefits in half the time. Keep in mind that, while this can be a short 4-minute workout, you should always warm up and cool down properly with some light movement and dynamic stretches. For advanced athletes, you can extend the efforts by performing the whole set 2 to 3 times for 8- or 16-minute workouts if applicable to your ability.

How to do these workouts: Start with a 5- to 10-minute warmup. Complete the sets while you monitor your intensity as you go. You should feel like a 9 to 10 on a scale of 1 of 10—1 being a walk and 10 being an all-out effort. Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes afterward.

You will need a watch or timer that can alternate between 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Having a horn or beep at the end of each on and off phase is very helpful. Trust us, you’ll want to know when the 4 minutes are done! Below are some sample workouts to get you started.

Bodyweight Tabata

Bodyweight workouts are great because they require no equipment and can be done almost anywhere, as long as you have space and a stable floor. This is a 14-minute workout including warmup and cooldown. You can repeat the intervals for an 18- or 22-minute workout.

  • Burpee
  • Mountain Climber
  • Jump Squat
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Sprint
  • Push-Up
  • High Knees
  • Squat

Treadmill Tabata

The treadmill is a great tool to build a high-intensity workout that is specific for runners as you can control both the incline and speed. This is a 14-minute hill workout with 20-second efforts. Perform each interval for 20 seconds all out, then recover for 10 seconds at an incline of 0%. For an 18- or 22-minute workout, repeat the interval set for a total of 2 to 3 times.

  • 5-Minute Warmup: Incline: 0%
  • Interval 1: Incline: 5%
  • Interval 2: Incline: 7%
  • Interval 3: Incline: 9%
  • Interval 4: Incline: 11%
  • Interval 5: Incline: 11%
  • Interval 6: Incline: 9%
  • Interval 7: Incline: 7%
  • Interval 8: Incline: 5%
  • 5-Minute Cooldown: Incline 0%

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