Tabata workouts have received a lot of press and many bootcamps incorporate this style workout into their classes so it’s not surprising if you’ve heard the term but may not be so sure what it means or what it can do for you. Here’s a brief run down of some common questions:

How was Tabata created? Tabata originated as a high intensity interval training (often known as HIIT) protocol for Japanese Olympic speed skating athletes by Dr. Izumi Tabata in the mid 90’s. Dr. Tabata discovered these high intensity intervals and very short rest periods increased the athlete’s fitness in a very short amount of training time.

What exactly is Tabata? While HIIT is an overarching term to describe any high intensity interval workout, Tabata follows a strict time adherence. Intervals are a 2:1 ratio with 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Each set is done for 8 rounds totaling 4 minutes. Typically a total workout would consist of 4-6 sets. While Traditional Tabata training can get athletes to 170% of their VO2Max, the typical fitness enthusiast will not be able to reach that intensity, nor do they need to! Tabata workouts in the fitness world are technically modified, but stick to the principle of doing 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds.

Who is Tabata for? First off, it’s not for the faint of heart! Those who wish to incorporate this type of workout have a solid fitness base and are accustomed to higher intensity workouts. Anyone can work their way up to Tabata and you can, as always, take is a bit easy as you get used to the workout! Tabata is great for athletes to add to their training routines, those trying to break through a plateau or with a short amount of time (6 full rounds is under 30 minutes!) or anyone who needs to shake things up.

What can incorporating Tabata do for me? Short rest intervals mean you never fully recover, thus working hard the entire time which raises both your anerobic and aerobic threshold, improving your fitness all around. Tabata and other HIIT workouts use more type II muscle fibers (fibers that come in to play for intense short bursts of energy; lifting a heavy weight or sprinting) and have been shown to stimulate growth hormone in women (and testosterone in men) which helps muscles recover.

HIIT is a great tool for weight loss and increases lean muscle mass while simultaneously increasing cardiovascular fitness. Tabata does this in a short amount of time and it’s simplicity makes it easy for anyone to create a custom workout, often with no equipment! For athletes in training and highly fit individuals doing Tabata 3 times a week is OK, for occasional exercisers or those just wanting to switch things up, doing 1-2 sessions a week will enhance your fitness level. More than 4 times a week and you increase your risk of injury.

Here is a cardio Tabata circuit and a full body circuit to try out next time you want to shake things up! Remember to always include a 5 minute warm up and cool down. Each set will be 20 seconds of the exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds.

Cardio Tabata Workout

Set 1: Jumping jacks
Set 2: Mountain Climbers
Set 3: Skaters
Set 4: Burpees

Full Body Tabata Workout

Set 1: Pushups
Set 2: Plank rows (medium weight dumbbells)
Set 3: Burpees
Set 4: Lunge holds (alternate legs each round)
Set 5: Squat holds
Set 6: Mountain climbers

 *Timing is everything in these workouts and the best tool I’ve found is the Tabata-Timer for your phone which you can download here.


Published by Samantha Kellgren

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