Tabata Training: A 4 Minute Workout?

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How can working out for 4 minutes actually provide some fitness, weight loss and health benefits?

Read on to find out!

High Intensity Interval Training

High intensity interval training or H.I.I.T is a big thing in fitness right now. Truthfully it has always been a part of a competitive athletes training regemin but it has now found its way into the casual exercisers routine.

The emergence of cross fit gyms and programs have brought H.I.I.T to the forefront and people are starting to gravitate away from hour upon hour slugging it out on a treadmill to more intense, effective and SHORTER high intensity workouts.

What is Tabata Training?

Tabata takes high intensity to the next level.

Tabata was created by Professor Izumi Tabata who worked with Olympic speedskaters, and it is quite simple but very intense.

You perform an exercise such as squats or burpees at an ultra-high intensity for 20 seconds followed by a 10 second rest period. You repeat this cycle 8 times to complete the workout.

This short workout can improve you maximal oxygen consumption or VO2 max by 14%, while being able to boost your anaerobic capacity by a whopping 28%.

Having a higher anaerobic capacity is key in helping to shed body fat while building and preserving lean muscle. Studies are showing that moderate intensity aerobic activity that may help improve aerobic capacity does not change anaerobic capacity. While high intensity exercise improves on BOTH.

This means you’re better off running sets of sprints over 4 minutes than an hour  on a treadmill.

Other Health Benefits

We all get concerned over our appearance and we can’t pretend that reduced body fat and increased lean muscle is high on our lists for why we exercise.

Just notice every dude in your gym checking himself out in the mirrors…

However along with that comes some great benefits from H.I.I.T that have been shared by the American College of Sport Medicine including:


  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Improved cholesterol profiles
  • lower abdominal body fat and body weight
  • maintained and increased lean muscle mass
  • improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness

Not bad for not having to spend hours at a time exercising..

How To Incorporate Tabata Training

The original studies by Dr. Tabata had the participants perform tabata training 4 times a week. If you are involved in a strength training program tabata is good to do at the end of your workout and you can aim to perform it twice a week and potentially get up to 4 times. Doing it at least twice a week spread out by a few days is a great way to get the great benefits.

It also makes a great workout if you are stuck with not a lot of time to get to a gym or are travelling. You don’t need fancy equipment and can do it anywhere.

So what makes for the best exercise choices?

If you are new to working out you want to consult with your physician to make sure you are healthy for intense activity. So if starting out begin with plain body weight squats you can then move onto things like burpees or sprints.

When you are performing tabata training right you will know because you will feel like you just ran a marathon. I like to do them with burpees and trust me this will beat you down!

Other good choices for the 20 second exercise include:

  • skipping rope
  • sprinting for the 20 seconds then walking for the 10 second rest period
  • using a stationary bike where you can increase and decrease the intensity
  • pushups or chinups if you are at a higher level.

Tabata Apps

It is quite crucial to make sure you are following the exercise and rest intervals to the exact second. This is where a Tabata app is invaluable. You can find them in any app store and they have a count down alert for the exercise and then alert you when it’s 10 second rest period and then when to start back up again.

I use this app all the time when I perform them to make sure I’m right on target. Without one it is easy to add a few more second to the rest time. When you start the exercise the first few might not feel too bad and the rest time decent but as you get into those last few the rest time goes by in the blink of an eye!

When engaging in tabata without a prior workout  make sure you perform at least a 5 minute warm up so you’re ready to go and stretching after will help as well.

Adding this type of training twice a week will really give your fitness and health a good boost.

And then you’ll be the one busy checking yourself out in the mirrors 😉

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Jamie Logie is a personal trainer and nutrition and wellness specialist from Canada who runs regainedwellness.com and the Regained Wellness Podcast Learn how what you're eating, and not eating, could be sabotaging your health with the free Healthy Eating Starter Kit

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