What Is Tabata Training? 4 Moves To Get Started

CrossFit, HIIT, Tabata, P90x, TRX… With so many different types of workouts out there, it’s hard to know which one is right for you.

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For those who swear by it, the ‘Tabata Revolution” is the new frontier of fitness. But what is Tabata, exactly? And why should you consider incorporating Tabata-style training into your routine?

Let’s take a closer look at this wildly popular exercise trend.

What Is Tabata Training?

Tabata is a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with rounds that last four minutes, with intervals of 20 seconds of “work” and 10 seconds rest. An example of Tabata: Sprinting for 20 seconds, resting for 10, then repeating for eight rounds total.

How It All Started

Tabata training was founded by Japanese professor Dr. Izumi Tabata. He conducted an experiment to see how high-intensity intervals may have an impact on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

His research involved two separate groups of athletes for a six-week duration. Group one trained at moderate intensity while group two trained at high-intensity. Group one trained five days a week for one hour gym sessions. On the other hand, the high-intensity group (group two) worked out four days a week for just 20 minutes each.

These were the results: Group one did increase their aerobic (cardiovascular) systems, but showed minimal improvements in their anaerobic system (muscular), whereas group two showed an increase in their aerobic system and a significant increase in their anaerobic systems, too (by 28 per cent).

What’s The Difference Between HIIT And Tabata?

So is Tabata like CrossFit? Is it similar to circuit training? The answer is it’s a bit of both. Tabata is extremely short and intense, offering the maximum benefit in the least amount of time. The rest and work periods in Tabata are shorter compared to traditional HIIT, as Tabata is designed to push the limit on your maximum heart rate.

Fitness Challenge: Can You Handle This 20-Minute, Total Body HIIT Workout?

Here is how Tabata and HIIT measure up, according to Men’s Fitness: 

Work:  20 seconds
Rest: 10 seconds
Heart Rate: Above 100 per cent
Total Workout Time: 4 minutes

Work: 1-2 minutes
Rest: 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Many people prescribe to a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio;  1 minute of work and 1 minute rest, or 1 minute work and 2 minutes recovery.
Heart Rate: 80-95 per cent of maximum
Total Workout Time: 20-40 minutes

Why Should You Do Tabata?

Incorporating Tabata in your workouts has fitness and weight loss benefits. Tabata increases your heart rate and speeds up your metabolism. Since it’s a high-intensity program, you’re exerting more energy in a short amount of time, burning more calories during and after your workout session. Better yet, allowing yourself to have a short 10 second rest allows your muscles to have a quick recovery. This means you’re not losing muscle mass, just fat and burning calories.

Example Tabata Workout

You can incorporate Tabata into cardio-based fitness programs, core workouts, weight-lifting – you name it. Keep a stopwatch and set the timer to 20-10 lasting up to four minutes total.

Sample Legs And Core Circuit

Do the full four-minute rounds before proceeding to the next listed exercise. The goal is to fatigue the muscle you’re working on before moving onto the next exercise. This will total a 16-minute workout.

1. Squats

Beginner: Practice sitting onto a chair with your back straight, head up and feet shoulder-width apart. To push up use the power from your heels and raise into a standing position. Try removing the chair and use the same technique. Make sure your knees do not cave inwards.

2. V-Ups

Laying on a mat on your back, position your legs straight up into the air. Lower them slightly so they’re at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Hold there. Crunch up with your arms straight out in front of you and touch your toes. Repeat this movement.

3. Alternating Back Lunges

Starting position: Stand straight with your feet together. Take a big step back with your left foot, dropping your knee towards the ground but not quite touching the floor. Make sure your head is up, back straight and shoulders back (this way your core is engaged fully). Step forward into starting position. Repeat again alternating your feet.

4. Swiss Ball Crunches

On a Swiss Ball, lay on your back with your spine fully supported. You can use your hands to support your head and neck. You will be facing the sky with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Crunch up toward your legs by squeezing and engaging your core. Slowly lower yourself back to starting position. Repeat.


Make sure your muscles are warmed up thoroughly. You can do this by warming up with dynamic stretches. This gets the muscles ready by stimulating blood flow and could prevent injury.


  1. Tabata is not meant for beginners. Work your way up by improving your endurance if you intend to do aerobic-style Tabata. Start with low-intensity intervals.
  2. Master your form to prevent injury. Learn proper form and technique for all exercises before diving into anything of high-intensity.
  3. Warm-up. Injury prevention is key. As mentioned above, make sure you warm-up with dynamic stretches to prepare your muscles and your mind-body connection.

More Exercises To Try With Tabata

  • Burpees
  • Crunches
  • Pullups
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Sprints on a track
  • Skipping
  • Bench Press
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Stair Climbs
  • Jumping Squats