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What is a Tabata Workout? All You Need to Know


What is a Tabata Workout? All You Need to Know
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Do you want to get fit but don't have much time? Well, then, a Tabata workout might be perfect for you. Tabata is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout that only takes four minutes.

Named after Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata, Tabata workout helps you gain maximum benefits within a shorter period. But what is a Tabata workout, exactly? And how do you do one? Keep reading to find out.

What is a Tabata Workout?

Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). People sometimes use the words "Tabata" and "HIIT" interchangeably, but it's important to remember that Tabata is just one type of HIIT workout. CrossFit and P90X are two other HIIT workouts you may have heard of.

Tabata came from Japan and was made for Olympic speed skaters at first. It has 20 seconds of hard work followed by 10 seconds of rest. This 20:10 pattern is then done over and over again for the rest of the workout.

Tabata can be an efficient method for weight loss; however, overuse may result in injury. At first, Tabata was 20 seconds of very hard cycling, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

This happened eight times, so the whole thing took four minutes. The workout is named after Izumi Tabata, one of the coaches for the Olympic speed skating team that first tried it.

Mindy Pedersen, an ACE-certified group fitness trainer who is also certified to teach Tabata, says, "A Tabata workout for the general public looks very different from the original Tabata, which was studied on high-performance athletes."

Pedersen says that most Tabata workouts today last between 45 and 60 minutes. She gives an example of a Tabata set as:

  • 20 seconds of jump squats
  • 10 second break
  • 20 seconds of high knees
  • 10 second break

To finish a Tabata interval, you must do this set four times. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds before starting another set of different exercises.

There can be anywhere from four to five Tabata intervals in a class, but the number can vary. Warm-up exercises and stretches are usually done at the beginning and end of a session.

Depending on the exercises used in a Tabata workout, it can be either a cardiovascular workout, a strength training workout, or both.

Some of the moves are done using only your own body weight, while others, like kettlebell swings, use weights. You could burn up to 15 calories per minute during a Tabata workout.

Benefits of Tabata Workout

Tabata workout may help provide you with the following benefits when done regularly:

Increases Cardio Capacity

One of the primary benefits of Tabata workouts is that they can help increase your cardio capacity. Cardio capacity measures how much oxygen your body can use during exercise.

Tabata workouts are particularly effective at increasing cardio capacity as they involve short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by brief rest periods.

This type of workout allows your body to take in more oxygen than a traditional steady-state cardio workout, such as running on a treadmill.

Improves Anaerobic Endurance

Tabata workouts can also help improve your anaerobic endurance. Anaerobic endurance is the ability of your muscles to continue working despite the lack of oxygen.

This type of endurance is important for short bursts of intense activity, such as sprinting or weightlifting.

Tabata workouts can help improve your anaerobic endurance by teaching your body to utilize oxygen better during exercise.

Speeds Up Metabolic Rate

Another benefit of Tabata workouts is that they can help increase your metabolic rate. Metabolism is the process by which your body converts food into energy. A higher metabolic rate means that your body is better able to burn calories, even at rest.

Tabata workouts can help increase your metabolic rate by causing your body to use more energy during the workout and by increasing your muscle mass, which requires more energy to maintain.

Enhances Insulin Sensitivity

Tabata workouts can also help improve your insulin sensitivity. The insulin hormone plays a key role in controlling glucose levels in the blood.

When you have insulin resistance, your body does not respond well to insulin, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. However, Tabata workouts can help improve insulin sensitivity by helping your body to better utilize glucose for energy during exercise.

Minimizes Risk of Chronic Disease

Finally, Tabata workouts can also help reduce your risk of chronic disease. Chronic diseases are conditions that last long and are often difficult to treat.

Some examples of chronic diseases include heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Tabata workouts can help reduce your risk of these diseases by improving your overall fitness and helping you maintain a healthy weight.

Drawbacks of Tabata Workout

Even though Tabata workouts are effective and beneficial, there are some drawbacks involved:

Intensity Level

One of the drawbacks of Tabata workouts is the intensity level. These workouts are designed to be performed at a high level of intensity to be effective. This can be difficult for some people, particularly if they are new to exercise or are not used to working out at such a high level of intensity.

Higher Risk of Injury

Another potential drawback of Tabata workouts is the risk of injury. Due to the high level of intensity involved, there is a greater risk of injuries such as strains and sprains. Additionally, people new to exercise or with existing health problems may be more likely to experience adverse effects from these workouts.

They're Not for Everyone

Tabata workouts are not for everyone. The workouts are extremely intense and require a lot of commitment. If you're not prepared to put in the work, Tabata workouts will not likely benefit you.

Types of Tabata Exercises

If you're like me, you probably love Tabata workouts. They're short and sweet yet incredibly effective. And there are different Tabata exercises that you can choose from so you never get bored.

Traditional Tabata

Traditional Tabata is a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that consists of 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest. This cycle is repeated eight times for a total of four minutes.

Traditional Tabata can be done with any type of exercise, but it is often done with running, biking, or bodyweight exercises such as push-ups or sit-ups.

Modified Tabata

Modified Tabata is a type of HIIT that consists of 30 seconds of all-out effort followed by 15 seconds of rest. Just like traditional Tabata, this cycle is also repeated eight times for a total of four minutes.

Cardio Tabata

Cardio Tabata is a type of HIIT that consists of 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of active recovery. The cycle is repeated eight times for a total of four minutes.

Active recovery refers to light activity, such as walking or gentle jogging, that helps keep the heart rate up while allowing the muscles to recover from the all-out effort.

Cardio Tabata can be done with any cardio exercise, such as running, biking, rowing, or elliptical training.

Strength Training

Strength training exercises are a great way to build muscle and improve overall strength. Tabata strength training exercises can be done with dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands.

You can also do Tabata strength training exercises using weights such as dumbbells, weighted jump ropes, Kettlebells, or bodyweight exercises such as push-ups or pull-ups.

Flexibility Training

Flexibility training exercises are a great way to improve your range of motion and flexibility. Tabata flexibility training exercises can be done with stretching exercises or yoga poses.

You can also do Tabata flexibility training exercises using resistance bands or bodyweight exercises such as lunges or squats.

How to Work Out Safely and Avoid Injury

Now that you know what Tabata is, let's talk about how to do it safely. One of the most important things to remember when doing any high-intensity workout is to warm up properly.

A good warm-up will help your body prepare for the physical demands of the workout and reduce your risk of injury. Start by doing some light aerobic activity for 5-10 minutes.

This could be walking, jogging, or cycling at a low intensity. Then, do some dynamic stretching, which is a type of stretching that involves moving your joints through their full range of motion.

After you've warmed up properly, it's time to start your Tabata workout. Choose an exercise that you're comfortable with and that works for your fitness level. Choose exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Some good options include squats, push-ups, burpees, and lunges. Once you've chosen your exercise, you'll need to set a timer for 8 rounds of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off.

Start your timer and begin the exercise at a high intensity for 20 seconds. Then, rest for 10 seconds before going again. Repeat this cycle for 8 rounds, or 4 minutes total. Once you've completed your Tabata workout, it's important to cool down properly.

Start by doing some light aerobic activity for 5-10 minutes. Then, do some static stretching, which is a type of stretching that involves holding a position for 30 seconds or longer.

By following these tips, you can safely and effectively do a Tabata workout without putting yourself at risk for injury. Remember to warm up and cool down properly, choose an exercise appropriate for your fitness level, and push yourself to your limits during the workout. With a little practice, you'll be a Tabata pro in no time!


1. What are some common exercises used in Tabata workouts?

Many exercises can be used in a Tabata workout, but some of the most common include burpees, jump squats, mountain climbers, and sprints.

2. Can I do Tabata workouts at home?

Yes, you can definitely do Tabata workouts at home. All you need is a timer and a bit of space to move around.

3. How often should I do Tabata workouts?

It depends on your fitness level and goals. You may want to do Tabata workouts two or three times per week if you're just starting out. If you're more advanced, you may be able to handle four or five times per week.

4. Can I do Tabata for more than 8 minutes?

It's possible to do a Tabata workout for more than 8 minutes, but it's not recommended. Tabata workouts are supposed to be intense and short. If you do a Tabata workout for too long, you'll start to lose the intensity of the workout, and you won't get the results you're looking for.

The Bottom Line

Tabata is a Japanese exercise method that is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world. Tabata workouts are short, intense exercise bursts followed by brief rest periods. This type of workout has many benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and increased fat loss. However, there are also some drawbacks to Tabata exercises, such as the risk of injury and sore muscles. If you want to try a Tabata workout, be sure to warm up properly and start slowly to avoid injury.

Reading List

Article Sources

  • de Souza, Jorge F. T., et al. "High-Intensity Interval Training Attenuates Insulin Resistance Induced by Sleep Deprivation in Healthy Males." Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 8, Dec. 2017, p. 992. PubMed Central,
  • Emberts, Talisa, et al. "Exercise Intensity and Energy Expenditure of a Tabata Workout." Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, vol. 12, no. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 612–13. PubMed Central,
  • Schubert, Matthew M., et al. “Impact of 4 Weeks of Interval Training on Resting Metabolic Rate, Fitness, and Health-Related Outcomes.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism = Physiologie Appliquee, Nutrition Et Metabolisme, vol. 42, no. 10, Oct. 2017, pp. 1073–81. PubMed,

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