10 Tabata Workout Tips For First Timers

What’s trendy, short and promises to change your life? No, it’s not that adorable, Pinterest-worthy pixie cut you’ve been eyeing: It’s Tabata training.

Named after Olympic athlete trainer Dr. Izumi Tabata, Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Rounds are 20 seconds of “work” and 10 seconds rest, lasting four minutes total.

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An example of Tabata: Sprinting for 20 seconds, resting for 10, then repeating for eight rounds total.

You’ve heard about Tabata; maybe you’ve even tried a few workouts. But how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of this unique training method, especially if you’re a newbie?

Here are 10 tips to keep you on the right track with Tabata.

1. Try Full-Body Exercises

Traditionally, Tabata is used with a stationary bike or treadmill, but you’re not stuck with this equipment by any means  far from it. Tabata can be done with weight training equipment (such as barbells for deadlifts) or even with your own bodyweight (burpees). You can also try suicide sprints, jumping jacks, plyometric jumps, and others. It’s highly recommended to incorporate full-body exercises once you get the hang of Tabata, in order to get the most out of your workouts. It’s not just about cardio, folks; the goal is all-over fitness.

2. Get An App For That

Ain’t nobody got time to fuss with setting and restarting a timer, so download an app that will count down the intervals and sound off an alarm for you. Try the Tabata Timer, available on iTunes. You can customize the tones, display and music to your liking.

3. Warm Up

Tabatas, by nature, are intense, so make sure you’re warmed up before starting. This will help prevent injury or strain. Try this Tabata warm-up courtesy of GQ. It’s a dynamic warm-up that stretches and heats up muscles, with moves like Samson stretches, inch worms, high knees and more. And don’t forget to stretch afterwards, too.

4. Be Realistic

Whether you’re brand new to fitness or your a long-time gym junkie, it’s essential to set an appropriate intensity level and choose an exercise that is appropriate for you. If you’re just starting out, or you have health concerns such as high blood pressure or diabetes, Tabatas might not be for you. Consult with a professional before starting any intensive workout program.

5. Have A Plan

As Tabata is super trendy at the moment, you’ll see the concept used in different ways. Beachbody, for example, will use the Tabata timing four-minute set more than once in a workout. That means you might not go as all out as you normally would if you were only doing one four-minute set. Bottom line: Come to the gym with a complete workout plan and keep in mind your workout length, moves and desired intensity when completing your Tabatas.

6. Keep It Simple

Try just one round, with simple exercises, for your first time. One bout of Tabata should be enough: You’re meant to be working hard, even if it’s just one four-minute round.

7. Mix Up The Moves

Once you get used to this way of training, create a workout that focuses on your entire body or certain body parts on particular days. Pick four moves, 20 seconds each set, that are easy to transition between, suggests Muscle & Fitness. With 10 seconds of rest between, after you finish the four, you do it all over again. Get a spotter if you need help with the weights.

8. Watch Your Form

Just because you’re giving it your all, doesn’t mean technique should fall by the wayside. If you aim for more reps without proper form, you’ll miss out on all the benefits Tabata has to offer. Pick a move you’re familiar and comfortable with, and slow down or should a less-intensive version of the exercise you are performing, if you have to (this can include lighter weights as well). Proper form means great results.

9. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Sure, the Tabata workout is a short one, but don’t underestimate its intensity. If you are doing Tabata correctly, you should be completely exhausted before you finish. Other workouts that include more than one full Tabata workout as part of another workout are merely Tabata-inspired. The harder you work, the better your workout will be, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t finish your first circuit – this means you’re doing it right.

10. Be Your Own Benchmark

Everyone’s maximum effort will be different, and the fitter you are, the harder you’ll have to work to reach exhaustion in four minutes. Don’t concern yourself with how your workout partner is doing or how the rest of the class measures up. Only you know how hard you have to work to do Tabatas properly, and you can measure your personal progress as the weeks progress. Again, don’t sacrifice form for speed or reps, and remember: Tabata isn’t about being better than someone else — it’s about being better than you used to be.