As I sweat through these hot and hazy days of a New York City summer, I enjoy working out in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym. However, I realize there are many who take advantage of the season to get outside and get moving. Wherever you like to workout, Tabata training is the perfect way to get your heart pumping and muscles moving.
This high-intensity training protocol was founded by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata in the 1990s. His studies showed his formula produced similar health benefits to traditional cardio workouts, but here’s the kicker: a Tabata can be completed in just four minutes.
The formula is simple: eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Even better: you can create a “Tabata Derby” by adding consecutive four-minute intervals and work your way up to a 20-minute total Tabata workout. Another thing I love about this type of training is almost any exercise fits into a 4-minute Tabata. Here are some examples:
For fitness newbies or those getting back to working out: Start slowly! My very first Tabata was split into two exercises: front squats and push-ups. So, the first four 20-second rounds of work featured squats and then I shifted to push-ups for the last four rounds. Other ideas:
- Jump rope (can be done in or outside of the gym)
- Chin-ups (can always be done at a playground or find a tree branch – a strong one, of course!)
- Front squat to overhead press
For the seasoned fitness enthusiasts:
- Jumping lunges
- Side lunge to overhead press
- Treadmill sprints (make sure to safely straddle the treadmill during the rest periods)
- Overhead medicine ball slam
Feeling at the top of your game:
- Stationary bike sprints
- Squat thrusts
- Mountain Climbers
A few important notes before you jump into one or more Tabatas:
- You must warm up! Try five minutes at a slow/medium pace on an elliptical machine, stationary bike or take a light jog.
- If you do more than one Tabata – you must rest for 60 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
- While the idea is to push out as many reps as possible in the 20-second work period, you shouldn’t sacrifice good form. Better to do “perfect” push-ups on your knees with your stomach drawn-in and glutes squeezed nice and tight than risk injuring your lower back with sloppy reps.
- Don’t forget to cool down and stretch when you’re done!
- There are lots of apps out there to help you keep track of the work / rest intervals. I use UltraTimerHD on my iPhone. For non-iPhone users, one of my fitness friends really likes the Time for Tabata app.
One of my favorite, no-heavy-thinking, under-60-minute workouts at the moment:
- Warm up (includes SMR on my calves, TFL and lats)
- 30-minute elliptical
- 20-minute Tabata Derby (example: Front squats, side planks, push-ups and single-leg bicep curls – alternating legs)
- Cool down (includes more SMR)
If you have a favorite Tabata training combo, I’d definitely love to hear about it!
I’ll be forever grateful to fitness guru Roberto Murichi for introducing me to the Tabata. Trust me, if you’re looking to add some spice to your normal routine, Tabata training a great way to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!