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What is the Tabata Workout? Your Tabata Questions Answered


One of the more intense varieties of the HIIT workouts, Tabata training is considered to be one of the most effective for burning fat, whilst boosting health and fitness. And it takes just four minutes! We've noticed our members asking more and more questions about the Tabata workout and what is is, so we're answering some of the most popular queries here. Read to the end for some example Tabata workouts to inspire your next fitness session.

What is the Tabata Workout?

Tabata is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with very short, precise intervals. Each exercise within a workout consists of:

  • 20 seconds of extremely intense, all-out movement
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • Repeat 8 times for a total of 4 minutes

Usually these 4 minute rounds will be woven together to form a longer workout, giving you even better results while still easily fitting into a busy schedule. You can use a range of different movements and exercises for either a full body, or more specifically focused workout. For example

  • 20 seconds of sprinting + 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of push ups + 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of mountain climbers + 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of squat jacks + 10 seconds rest

What are the benefits of a Tabata workout?

Tabata training has a range of benefits from both a health and lifestyle perspective. These include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Boosted anaerobic capacity - which means you’ll be able to perform better and at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. Anaerobic exercise helps your body to increase tolerance to lactic acid and improves how efficiently you can work out, meaning you can enjoy even more of the benefits of exercise and improved fitness.
  • Improved aerobic endurance - this is your ability to use oxygen to fuel your exercise activity, helping you improve your fitness levels and endurance, as well as burning more calories and boosting muscle growth.
  • Fat burning - the intensity of the workout involved in Tabata means your heart rate rises heavily and boosts your metabolism, making this a quick and effective way to burn fat, especially when developed as part of a weekly routine
  • Convenience - Tabata exercises can slot easily into even the busiest of days. Taking just four minutes to work out can see a boost to your health and fitness. You could even space different workouts throughout the day - perhaps Tabata squats in the morning, push ups at lunch and lunges in the evening

Where did Tabata come from?

Tabata originated in Japan and is named after Dr Izumi Tabata, a professor at Ritsumeikan University. He was hired in the 1990s by the Japanese speed skating team to analyse the effectiveness of their training routine, which consisted of short maximum bursts of sprints followed by short rests. Dr Tabata ran rigorous scientific studies and was able to prove the incredible benefits of this workout style.

Are Tabata workouts effective?

The effectiveness of Tabata workouts isn’t just hearsay - Dr Tabata’s research means there’s scientific reasoning and proof to support just how effective this workout style is. He took two groups and placed them on a six-week exercise program - one did an hour of moderate intensity exercise on a stationary bike, five times a week (1800 minutes of training), while the other group did the high intensity Tabata-style training four times a week (120 minutes). Both groups saw similar improvements in aerobic capacity. While the moderate ‘control’ group improved their VO2 max (which indicates cardiovascular health and maximal aerobic power) by 10%, their training had no effect on anaerobic capacity. Meanwhile, the Tabata group improved anaerobic fitness by an incredible 28% and their VO2 max by 15%.

What's the difference between Tabata and HIIT?

Simply put, Tabata is a type of HIIT training.

HIIT training is a term that refers to any kind of interval training - higher intensity exercise, followed by a brief recovery time of either rest or lower intensity movement. There’s a wide range of different approaches for HIIT workouts, which can be shaped around your fitness ability, exercise style and goals. This could involve sprinting for 20 seconds with a 40 second rest, or performing mountain climbers for 30 seconds followed by a 30 second rest. See some examples of different HIIT workouts with our Best HIIT Workouts for You guide or discover some HIIT workouts you can do at home.

Tabata is a very specific type of HIIT, with strict requirements of maximum intensity for 20 seconds followed by just 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times for a total of four minutes.

Can you do Tabata workouts every day?

The flexibility of Tabata training means the exercises you choose can be shaped to focus on different body parts. Therefore yes, you could technically do Tabata exercise every day, focusing on different areas each day.

However, when performed correctly, Tabata is extremely difficult and tiring on your body. 20 seconds at maximum energy may not sound much, but with just 10 seconds rest before you do it again, and then repeating for four minutes, you should find yourself feeling exhausted by the end. With any type of exercise regime, we always recommend including regular rest days to allow your body time to recover, helping to build strength and prevent injury, and Tabata is no different.

If you’re really giving it your all, we’d recommend including Tabata maybe two or three times a week in your workout regime, using the remainder of the time for rest days or to focus on more moderate, gentle cardio or strength training.

Is Tabata dangerous?

Tabata is an extremely intense and challenging fitness approach, and is generally only recommended for people with a fair level of existing fitness. If you’re a fitness beginner, perhaps stick to regular HIIT classes at first and work your way up to Tabata.

If you have pre-existing heart conditions or injuries, we’d also recommend avoiding Tabata until you’re healthy and well again.

Example Tabata Workout Plans

There’s a range of different approaches you could take to your Tabata training, and we’ve given some examples below. You can either choose to complete one exercise for each Tabata round of 4 minutes, or you can mix up your exercise throughout the four minutes. We’ve included a variety of examples below to give you some Tabata inspiration. Each is one round of Tabata, you can also feel free to link several of these together for a longer workout - just make sure to give yourself around a minute to recover between each 4 minute round.

Tabata Workout 1 - Cardio:

  1. 20 seconds jumping jacks + 10 seconds rest - repeat twice
  2. 20 seconds high knees + 10 seconds rest - repeat twice
  3. 20 seconds mountain climbers + 10 seconds rest - repeat twice
  4. 20 seconds burpees + 10 seconds rest - repeat twice

Tabata Workout 2 - Core:

  1. 20 seconds plank with leg raises + 10 seconds rest
  2. 20 seconds side plank with hip dips + 10 seconds rest
  3. 20 seconds plank with leg raises + 10 seconds rest
  4. 20 seconds side plank with hip dips + 10 seconds rest
  5. 20 seconds Russian twists + 10 seconds rest
  6. 20 seconds bicycle crunches + 10 seconds rest
  7. 20 seconds Russian twists + 10 seconds rest
  8. 20 seconds bicycle crunches + 10 seconds rest

Tabata Workout 3 - Lower body:

  1. 20 seconds pulsing squats + 10 seconds rest
  2. 20 seconds reverse lunges + 10 seconds rest
  3. 20 seconds squat jumps + 10 seconds rest
  4. 20 seconds lateral lunges + 10 seconds rest
    Repeat above through once more

If you’re looking for the perfect HIIT workout whilst our gyms are temporarily closed join in with one of our virtual PureGym Live classes on our YouTube Channel. Burn It and HIIT are two of our most popular high intensity classes and help you reach the optimum training zone for burning calories and fat.

You can also check out our PureGym app, which is free for everybody whether you’re a PureGym member or not. It has over 400+ free on-demand workouts and classes including high intensity training and cardio to help you reach your goals at home.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more personalised approach consider booking a virtual session with a Personal Trainer at PureGym - they’ll be able to guide you through your training to ensure you’re working in the best way for your body.

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