“I’m outta time and all we got is four minutes to save the world”

So maybe a Tabata won’t save the world, but it does only take 4 minutes and will save your fitness, so we’re halfway there Justin. What is a Tabata? Can a four minute workout really burn fat? According to Professor Izumi Tabata a Tabata can burn as many calories as an hours jog, so if you're short on time, this could be the answer to your fitness prayers.

What is Tabata

What is Tabata?

Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata developed this 4 minute workout whilst training Japan’s speed skating team. Dr. Tabata and his team conducted research on two forms of training, the HIIT style of Tabata and steady state cardio. One group completed an hour of steady cardio on a stationary bike 5 times per week, whilst the other group completed 10 minutes warm up, followed by what we now refer to as the Tabata training principle, (20 seconds of all-out work followed by 10 seconds rest and repeated eight times in total), four times a week, with one additional longer 30 minute session with two minutes of high intensity intervals. The steady state group clocked up 300 minutes of training whilst the Tabata group spent under a third of that working out, just 86 minutes a week. After 6 weeks of following the routine those completing steady state cardio improved their VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) by 10%, however, the Tabata group not only increased their VO2 max by an average of 15% they also increased their anaerobic capacity (energy without oxygen) by 28%.

The results reflect the level of effort according to Tabata, the workout is dependant on “All-out effort at 170% of your VO2 max”, he says, “"If you feel okay afterwards you've not done it properly. The first three repetitions will feel easy but the last two will feel impossibly hard. In the original plan the aim was to get to eight, but some only lasted six or seven”.

Can anyone do Tabata?

Despite its extreme intensity, Tabata says “Everyone can do it but beginners should start with educated trainers so that they can work at the correct intensity for them”. When it comes to Tabata training, as long as you’re pushing to your max, you’ll reap the benefits, whether someone else is going faster than you or not is irrelevant, there is no set pace or speed, it is just you vs you, giving it your all. If you’re nervous, try the routine with a personal trainer or partner, that way someone is there to keep an eye on how you’re doing, as well as keep you motivated. If you have any underlying health conditions or are pregnant, however, this is not the routine for you.

How should I feel after Tabata?


Common symptoms of an effective Tabata performance include:

  • Shortness of breath / Inability to talk
  • Sweat (and lots of it)
  • Feeling hot hot hot - Elevated body temperature
  • Feel the burn - Increased lactic acid
  • Euphoria - You survived, pat yourself on the back (if you still can), it’s a proud moment!

Tabata exercises

The Tabata training principle can be applied to any exercise to make an intense workout regime, however moves which work the best tend to be big compound exercises, which require lots of muscle groups and lots of effort.

Example bodyweight Tabata exercises:

  • Burpees
  • Single-leg burpees - brave!
  • Box Jumps
  • Alternating lunge jumps
  • Skaters

These exercises are all big calorie burners to make the most of your short workout and get your heart rate up quickly.

Example gym Tabata exercises:

  • Stationary bike intervals - The original exercise studied by Dr. Tabata himself
  • Treadmill Sprints
  • ‘Dead’mill pushes - You power the treadmill, hold the sides and push the belt using your legs.

Workout at work: Tabata

Research has shown it is essential not only to exercise in the gym but to keep active throughout the day to keep healthy. Being so short Tabata is perfect to pull out on your lunchbreak, try bodyweight only moves for a workout you can take anywhere and return to sit in your office guilt free, as you’ll be burning calories to recover from your lunchtime performance for up to 24 hours!

Benefits of Tabata:

  • Save time - After a quick warm up all you need is 4 minutes.
    • Increase your body’s Aerobic and Anaerobic capacities - Working with and without oxygen.
    • Afterburn - Research has shown Tabata has an EPOC effect (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) and can burn up to 150 calories in the 12 hours after training.
    • Tabata raises your base metabolic rate (BMR- The amount of calories your body burns at rest).
    • Maintains muscle tissue - High intensity exercises stresses the muscles to create an anabolic effect.
    • Easily adaptable protocol - Bored of your Tabata workout? Just switch up the exercises!

    If you’re brave enough to try it, Tabata promises to be the longest four minutes of your life!