The 4-Minute Fat-Burning Miracle Tabata Workout

Nausea. Seeing stars. Sucking wind. This is how you know you’re doing a Tabata workout correctly. At first glance you may wonder why anyone would intentionally do this to themselves, but there’s a reason this type of high-intensity interval training is becoming the go-to workout not just for athletes, but even celebs like Kyra Sedgewick. “It’s the hardest exercise you’ll ever do in your life,” Sedgewick says of the workout routine she dubbed “The 4-Minute Miracle.”

But it’s worth it. Doing as little as 4 minutes (or one “Tabata”) can increase your aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, resting metabolic rate, and can help you burn more fat (and make you look 200-percent leaner) than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. That’s right-4 minutes of Tabata can get you better fitness gains than an entire hour of running on the treadmill.

RELATED: Watch a video of a Tabata routine and follow along-if you can keep up!

The trick to getting all these benefits is the level of intensity. To do a Tabata, an exercise developed in the ’70’s for Japanese Olympians, all you have to do is pick a cardio activity such as running, jumping rope, or biking and go as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Follow that with 10 seconds of rest and repeat seven more times. And when I say “as hard as you can go,” I mean 100-percent maximal intensity. By the end of the 4 minutes you should feel like you’re going to die.

When I first started doing these, I swear I even saw a light at the end of a tunnel. I have to really talk myself into doing the workout, but seeing the very real changes in my body has made me a believer. Adding two Tabatas per week to my workouts helped me shed 7 percent body fat in one month.

Try one of these 10 fat-blasting Tabata workouts and see for yourself. A few tips to get you started:

First, while you can do a Tabata interval with just about any exercise, start with one in which you’re very comfortable. Most people choose sprinting on a treadmill.

Second, get a good timer no matter how good you think you are at 1-mississippi-ing, you cannot estimate when 20 seconds and 10 seconds have passed when your brain is that fuzzy.

Third, get a good mantra that you can repeat in time with your footfalls for each 20-second burst. It sounds silly, but it really helps focus you on what you’re doing and not on your excruciating pain.

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen @CharlotteGFE

5 Mistakes Most People Make When Doing Tabata Intervals

by: Yuri Elkaim

In case you haven’t heard, long cardio workouts on the treadmill are over. For good.

At least, they are if you want to see real results when it comes to fat loss.

If you’ve read any of my previous pieces on cardio, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and the reason is simple:

Because it works.

HIIT is any workout that involves alternating between period of high intensity exercise and low intensity exercise. These alternations are performed in “bursts.”

For example, a very basic HIIT workout might involve sprinting for 15 seconds, walking for 25 seconds, then repeating for a total of 15 to 20 minutes or so.

Studies show that these types of workouts are significantly more effective than steady state cardio for fat loss. Why? Because they increase your metabolism for hours after your workout.

This effect is referred to as excess-post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC (we’ll just call it afterburn). It’s a gold mine when it comes to burning more calories over the course of your days.

Just how much can HIIT increase our metabolism, you ask?

One study found a 4.2 percent boost in metabolism after high-intensity resistance workouts. It resulted in “significantly elevated” fat oxidation over a 16-hour period (1).

Another found that out of two groups – one performing regular aerobic exercise and another performing HIIT exercise – the aerobics group burned 48 percent more calories per session than the HIIT group. But here’s the kicker: the HIIT group burned 900 percent more fat over the 15 weeks than the first group burned in 20 weeks (2).

What kind of HIIT workouts can we do, aside from sprinting, that produce these kind of results?

Tabata Intervals

One fantastic way is through tabata workouts.

Tabata was created in the late 1990s by Irisawa Koichi, the head coach of the Japanese Olympic speed skating team, and was later tested by his training coach, Izumi Tabata.

It originally used a cycle ergometer for its intervals, but any exercise that produces a high level of intensity can be substituted.

Tabata intervals look like this:

  • 20 seconds of all-out effort
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Repeat for 8 cycles through, or a total of four minutes

At this point, one can either stop the workout here or rest for a minute or two, then repeat the four minutes.

Like HIIT, tabata has been proven to be effective for fat loss and improving cardiovascular performance (3). However, before getting into tabata workouts, there are several mistakes many people make that need to be addressed.

Below we’ll take a look at these, then follow up with some sample tabata workouts for you to try.

5 Mistakes People Make when doing Tabata Intervals

1. Not Pushing Hard Enough

This is the number one mistake most people make when they do tabata workouts.

Remember how we spoke about intensity earlier? Here, doing high knees at a moderate pace is not the kind of intensity we need when trying to get the most out of tabata.

Simply put, you shouldn’t be able to talk and should definitely be very out of breath during a tabata workout. You should be pushing yourself, frankly, at about 110 percent effort.

This is why I recommend increasing your fitness level with beginner-style bodyweight moves in HIIT workouts before attempting a true, full-out tabata workout. Your heart rate will be very high, so your system needs to be able to tolerate this level of intensity.

The reason you need to push so hard during tabatas is because it’s truly the only way to get the maximum results you’re looking for in such a short period of time.

Studies show that there is a direct correlation between the intensity of the exercise performed and your results, with the best results coming from strenuous resistance exercise performed in bursts (4).

In terms of fat loss results, one study from the University of New South Wales Medical Sciences found that HIIT burned three times more body fat than steady-state cardio.

Scientists studied two groups that exercised following different protocols. The group who sprinted on a bike for 8 seconds, followed by 12 seconds light exercise for a total of 20 minutes, lost 2.5 kg of fat. Meanwhile, the other group, who exercised at a continuous, steady pace for 40 minutes, showed no loss of fat (5).

If that isn’t motivation to push a little harder, I don’t know what is!

2. Not Using Weights

Tabata intervals are classified as a cardiovascular workout, which keeps many from doing anything but traditional cardio exercises.

This is a huge missed opportunity to up your fat-loss game while still getting an aerobic workout.

This is because high-intensity interval training using weighted resistance has been proven to be superior to regular cardio for fat loss, not to mention that little thing called “afterburn” we talked about earlier (6).

Kettlebells might be your best bet when we talk about adding weight to tabata workouts, since they’re easily maneuverable. Think about integrating exercises like kettlebell swings, cleans, thrusters, and renegade rows into your intervals to boost fat burn and build muscle.

3. Believing Tabata Must Be High Impact

While high-impact moves like jump squats are a fantastic way to get your heart rate up quickly while also building muscle, your entire tabata workout doesn’t have to be filled with them.

Low-impact moves like pull-ups, kettlebell swings, and walking lunges holding heavy dumbbells will get your heart rate rocking. Cycling is also an option as long as the resistance is cranked up enough that you’re really pushing.

Heck, even swimming can be turned into a tabata workout provided you push hard enough.

4. Not Enough Recovery

If you haven’t realized it yet, tabata workouts are extremely intense when you’re doing them correctly.

It’s because of this intensity that most people see quick results. Unfortunately, this leads to the mindset of “more is better,” which makes people start to favor tabata workouts over everything else in order to see even more results.

You should really think twice before doing this, as it can quickly become too stressful on the body. At best, you might see great results for a while, while at worst you’ll become injured, extremely fatigued, or thoroughly burnt out.

Instead, incorporate tabata 1 to 2 times per week as a way to shake up your workout routine and boost cardiovascular performance and fat loss. You can also use a tabata as a “finisher,” like those found in this post, to your regular workouts a couple times a week for an extra fat-burning boost.

Trust me, if you’re doing true tabata, you will still see the results you want (provided your diet and the rest of your workout schedule is efficient, of course).

5. You’re Using a Treadmill

While I will always stand by the idea that any type of movement is better than no movement at all, there are ways you can get subpar results from your workouts. This is especially true when it comes to tabata.

One of the biggest ways to derail your tabata workout is to use a treadmill for your intervals.

The reason treadmill sprinting is a bad idea when doing tabata is simply because the active intervals are too short for a machine.

Think about it: how many seconds does it realistically take for a treadmill to get up to a sprint-level speed? Five to 6 seconds, right?

This may seem like nothing during a regular interval-style workout, but when you only have 20 seconds to go “all-out,” followed by a mere 10 seconds of rest, 5-6 seconds of additional rest time waiting for the treadmill interferes with your entire tabata setup.

Not to mention, trying to jump on and off the treadmill every half minute and sprint at full speed can lead to literal trips and injury, as there’s no real time to be mindful of how you’re moving.

This is why you would be far better off using a jump rope, sprinting on the ground, or even doing kettlebell swings for “cardio” tabata intervals, since you can go straight into them without delay.

Samples of How to Do Tabata Intervals

Below are two tabata workouts to get you started. One doesn’t use any weights and relies on a sprinting approach, while the other will integrate weights and full-body moves to get you feeling the burn.

Warm Up

Before we start, it’s important to always, always, warm up before leaping into a high-intensity workout.

Since the movements are usually quick and intense, not doing so can put intense strain on “cold” muscles, possibly causing a muscle or tendon injury.

Perform at least five minutes of a dynamic warm up that includes bodyweight lunges, squats, push-ups, and some light stretching to get your blood circulating before trying these tabata workouts.

Tabata with Weights

Note: Beginners should stick to bodyweight exercises until they improve their fitness levels enough to add weight and increase the intensity of their tabatas.

Keep in mind that you can do both of these workouts two different ways.

The first way is to do a short, four-minute tabata finisher using just one of the exercises listed below. Or, you can perform all four exercises for four minutes with 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, which would give you about a 20-minute workout, including the rest periods.

  • Kettlebell Swings (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
    • One minute rest
  • Goblet Squat with Kettlebell (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
    • One minute rest
  • Renegade Row (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
    • One minute rest
  • Jump Rope with High Knees (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)

Cardio Burn Tabata

  • Mountain Climbers (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
    • One minute rest
  • Jump Rope with High Knees (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
    • One minute rest
  • Burpees or Walking Lunges (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
    • One minute rest
  • Jump Squats (4 minutes of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)

Tabata Protocol to Burn Fat

Congratulations if you completed even one round of a four-minute tabata full-out – they truly are no joke when it comes to intensity!

Again, add in a couple tabatas to your routine a week, and you will notice an increase in performance and fat loss.

Speed Burst Workout

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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.

Photo: @basebodybabes

Tabata training is trending on the health and fitness circuit right now–and with good reason. It’s a fast, effective, fun (if you like working up a sweat), way to shed fat, and you can do it by simply following a free YouTube tutorial at home.

This trendy method is a type of high intensity interval training (HIIT), another buzzy phrase you’ve probably seen doing the rounds on fitness blogs lately–and when it comes to HIIT workouts, Tabata is one with the most scientific research backing it. In the ’90s a Japanese professor led a study showing that exactly four minutes of intense interval training was just as effective as hours of lighter workouts–the “Tabata Protocol” was born.

Fitness instructors are starting to throw in a few minutes of Tabata training to traditional circuit workouts, however there are a few things to remember to do if you want to see actual results from the training.

MORE: Baobab Powder: The Superfood Health Bloggers Are Obsessing Over

A proper Tabata workout should include a 10 minute warmup during which you increase your heart rate by doing stuff like lunges or high knees. Then, the “Tabata” part of your workout should only last for exactly four minutes, and usually involves repeating one exercise quickly and intensely (like squats or jumping jacks) for 20 painful seconds, and then taking a 10 second recovery.

This is repeated eight times, with a focus on working just one muscle group, and really pushing yourself 100 percent during the 20 second working period. While many exercise classes claim to follow the Tabata method, they focus on different areas of the body, or don’t push gym-goers hard enough, so really fail to bring the results classic Tabata training has been shown to achieve.

MORE: 13 Ways to Make Your Desk a Healthier Space

So, you might be wondering what all the hype’s about. Well, if done correctly, the four minute workout pushes your body to break through its aerobic and anaerobic threshold. It can increase your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, and resting metabolic rate, which means you keep burning calories way after the workout ends.

PJ Stahl, a Tabata program director and coach based in L.A. explains: “Tabata’s bodyweight exercises are large, multi-joint movements, and multi-planar activities, instead of single-joint movements. Using the largest amount of muscle during training has enormous implications for hormonal and metabolic responses, resulting in the vastly improved muscle definition and calorie and fat burn. This will get you the results you want.”

Importantly, Tabata can help you burn more fat and make you look much leaner than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout, making jogging on the treadmill seem a lot less impactful.

If it sounds like something you want to try (because: Spring, swimwear, short dresses, etc.), follow this free YouTube workout.

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Would you like to get a complete workout in 4 minutes a day?

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So what can the QuickGym / ROM machine do for you? With exercising consistently on the machine, in just 4 minutes a day, you will:

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The ROM exercise bike/machine sells for 14k and says only 4 minutes per day

Here’s the website– it’s worth looking at a picture of this thing. I’d love to see it in action.

The FAQ includes sections like this:
2. How can you lose more calories from only 4 minutes on the ROM than from an hour on a treadmill when almost all people, including most “experts”, believe that it requires long duration exercise to burn lots of calories?
1. A 180 pound person burns about 415 calories during a typical treadmill workout of 60 minutes. They burn 350 calories during the 60 minutes on the treadmill (walking at 3 to 4 miles per hour). During the treadmill workout you use 25% of the body’s muscles and you use them through only 15% of their range of motion. This means that only 15% of 25% or only 3.75% of the body’s muscle cells are stretched and stimulated during the exercise. These 3.75% of muscle cells that have been stimulated during a treadmill workout provide for an additional 25 calories of metabolism during the 2 hours immediately after the treadmill workout and another 40 calories for the remainder of a 24 hour period. Total calories from 60 minutes walking on a treadmill then are 350 plus 25 plus 40 calories for a total of 415 calories burned as a result of 60 minutes of walking on a treadmill.
2. The same 180 pound person will burn 465 calories as a result of 4 minutes on the ROM machine. How is it possible that more calories are burned as a result of 4 minutes on the ROM than from 60 minutes on a treadmill? During the 4 minutes on the ROM you use 55% of your muscles and you use them through an average of 80% of their range of motion (ROM stands for Range of Motion). The total percentage of muscle cells involved in the ROM exercise are 12 times as many as the 3.75% used on a treadmill because 80% of 55% of your muscles is 44% of all your muscle cells that are stimulated to an increased metabolism. During the 4 minute ROM workout the 180 pound person burns only 40 calories. But those 44% of the body’s muscle cells that have been stimulated to increased metabolism will burn another 150 calories in the 2 hours after the 4 minute ROM exercise and they will burn another 275 calories in the remaining time of a 24 hour period.
So I guess that settles it. We should all hang up our shoes and buy one of these.

You’re here because you want to learn about the Tabata protocol!

Lucky for you, we’re experts in teaching folks High-Intensity Interval Training like Tabata. Just ask our coaching clients:

We build our clients custom made HIIT workouts for their home or gym. Learn more here!

Here’s what we’ll cover so you can start doing a Tabata workout:

  • What is Tabata training?
  • How does Tabata training work?
  • What is a Tabata workout? (How to do Tabata sprints)
  • Tabata timer recommendations.
  • Mistakes to avoid when doing Tabata training.
  • Will Tabata help me lose weight?
  • Getting started with a Tabata workout plan.

It’s a lot to cover. And we only have something like four minutes to do it!

Let’s get started.

What is Tabata Training?

“Tabata” comes from Dr. Izumi Tabata, a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya. Tabata developed an extreme form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which can already be pretty extreme.

Let’s back up there a minute, because you may be asking, “What is HIIT, Steve-a-rino”?

HIIT is a form of interval training. It’s a sequence of intense exercise followed by a short pause to rest, then back to intense exercise, and then back to rest. Annnnnnd repeat!

In other words, doing sprints…

Then walking…

Then back to sprints.

Alternating back and forth for roughly ten minutes. This would be an example of High Intensity Interval Training.

Dr. Tabata wanted to see just how short, and how intense, the interval training could be to observe measurable gains.

He got an answer:

Four minutes.

The doctor designed a training where participants gave their maximum effort for 20 seconds, then 10 seconds for rest. They repeated this cycle for four minutes – in other words, eight 30-second cycles. That in a nutshell is a Tabata exercise.

Brutal, but potentially very effective for improving cardiovascular health and endurance.

Let’s dig into the study itself and the results!

HOW Does Tabata Training Work?

Dr. Tabata tested his routine on two groups of athletes. Five days a week, for six weeks, they were prescribed the following routines:

  • For all five days, Group 1 pedaled a stationary bike for an hour at 70% capacity.
  • For the first four days, Group 2 did eight intervals on the bike using the Tabata principle (sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10, repeat). On the last and fifth day, they did a 30 minute “moderate” ride, followed by an extra two minutes of Tabata sprints.

How’d the results go?

Group 1 strictly increased their maximum aerobic capacity by 9.5% (how long you can run). However, the second group crushed it.

Group 2 not only increased their aerobic capacity by 14%, but they also increased their anaerobic capacity (how long you can run at maximum effort) by 28%!

Said another way: after the experiment, the Tabata training group increased their ability to bike for longer, and harder, compared to the group who trained with regular cardio.

The amazing thing to consider is the time dedicated:

  • Group 1 worked out for 300 minutes a week.
  • Group 2 worked out for only 88 minutes (they did a 10 minute warm up prior to their intervals, which we’ll talk about shortly).

More results in less time? As a lazy nerd who also wants to look good, sign me up!

The experiment left Dr. Tabata with the belief that six to eight very hard 20-second intervals with 10-second rest periods may be one of the best possible training protocols when it comes to efficiency.

“Never train for more than 4 minutes, great! Back to the couch for me. Thanks Steve!”

Hold your horses there, partner.

For starters, what are you even doing with horses while reading this article?

Secondly, I need to mention this: Tabata developed and tested his protocol on Olympic athletes (skaters, specifically) with one specific type of exercise.

These folks are some of the top of the top when it comes to fitness. And the Tabata workout left them physically exhausted.

So, what if you’re not an Olympic athlete?

Can you still receive a lot of benefits from training in this style?

It’s worth giving it a chance.

The big point I want to make: “intense exercise” is purely subjective.

“Sprint” doesn’t have to mean ALL OUT SPRINT. If you are very out of shape and training for your first 5K, then your “sprint for 20 seconds” might be a VERY light jog.

And that’s perfectly okay.

The goal is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone for 20 seconds at a time, before resting for 10 seconds, and repeating. Everybody’s “comfort zone” is different. Which means everybody can challenge themselves.

We’ll touch on this again later.

For now, let’s chat about some practical ways to start Tabata training.

What is a Tabata Workout? (How to do Tabata Sprints)

You’ve got a lot of options for a Tabata workout, but you can’t do any Tabata training if you get hurt or end up collapsed on the ground, right!?

So no matter which one you pick, please always start with a 5-10 minute warm-up!

You want your heart rate up and muscles loose so you don’t hurt yourself. Tabata himself made sure his athletes warmed up before going all out.

And then after you’re done, cool down! Your heart will be racing and your muscles will be twitching. You need to bring them back to down to normal levels. So go for a slow walk. Do some stretches or some yoga. Bust out that foam roller.

Deal? Deal.

Here are my favorite types of Tabata training:

  • Sprints. Simple enough. Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10. Sprint for 20, rest for 10. This is tough to do without a partner yelling out your times. Personally, I run with a stopwatch with big numbers and glance at it around 20 seconds to make sure I stay on time.
  • Elliptical Machine. Less wear and tear on your joints, but tougher to go “all-out” because it can only go so fast. Crank the resistance all the way up if you can handle it.
  • Rowing Machine. This was the exercise of choice to shred pounds for Gerard Butler (King Leonidas in 300)
  • Stationary Bike. It’s a bike. Pedal like hell. This is what Tabata used with his athletes.
  • Jump Rope. Grab a jump rope, and go as quickly as possible following the Tabata protocol. Guaranteed to leave you jumping up and down like a little kid in a puddle…of sweat. Nasty. Effective.

Cardio workouts are generally the recommended type of exercise for Tabata. In theory, it’s pretty easy to rev up your effort to the max when doing sprints or biking.

That’s why they are popular for Tabata.

However, I want to note that all sorts of other exercises can offer a full-body workout when doing Tabata.

Consider these for Advanced Tabata Workouts, especially if you’re looking to build more than just endurance or cardiovascular health:

  • Squat Thrusters. Start by standing tall. You then want to squat down and explode your legs back into a plank position (top of a push-up). Then bring your legs forward to a squat position and jump up! Like so:
  • Push-Ups. Make sure you do your push-ups correctly! It pains me to see so many people with improper form at the gym. Think of your body as one giant straight line. Also, if you need to start on your knees, that’s okely-dokely. A knee push-up is WAY better than no push-up. Want a video to get started? Of course you do:
  • Burpees. A burpee is kind of like a squat thruster, but with a push-up included! Extra credit! Start just like you would with a squat thruster, but when you’re at the top of your push-up, go all the way down and back up. When your back at the top, bring your legs up to a squat and then jump. Like this:
  • Pull-Ups. (Read our guide if you can’t do a pull-up yet). My favorite exercise. Start with your hands shoulder width apart on your chosen bar. As you lift, focus on pinching your shoulder blades down and back. Once at the top, lower yourself slowly. We’ll walk you through it here:

For all the above, try and follow the Tabata protocol the best you can. For 20 seconds, do as many burpees as possible while keeping perfect form. Then give yourself 10 seconds to catch your breath before jumping into more burpees. Follow the same cadence for any of the more advanced moves.

Hang in there.

Four minutes will go quick! Here’s Everclear’s “I Will Buy You a New Life,” which is almost exactly four minutes long, and is the most obscure reason I could work this wonderful band from my youth into this article:

When you’re done with your Tabata routine, record your results (once your hands stop shaking), and next time around – try to beat your score for total reps!

In a moment we’ll chat about some resources so you don’t have to count in your head. Or coordinate your workout to pop songs.

First I quickly want to mention that our coaches build HIIT workouts, like Tabata, for busy people just like you. Whether you only have time to workout at home or if you want to make the most of your gym visit, our coaches can help!

Have your Nerd Fitness Coach build a HIIT workout for your exact situation!

Tabata Timer Recommendations

A timer is useful for doing Tabata – especially if you’re running and aren’t able to look at a screen to see the time remaining for each segment.

As previously mentioned, you can rock an old school stopwatch like a boss, or you can get a bit more technologically advanced.

This is the dawning of the age of aquarius apps, so download one of the following and use it to track your Tabata workouts:

  • Runtastic. Don’t let the name fool you, this free app is for more than just running. You can customize for many different interval workouts, including Tabata. And the interface looks slick.
  • Seconds. It’s free and customizable to Tabata and other forms of HIIT. It can also integrate with your music, which is pretty sweet.
  • Tabata Stopwatch Pro. This app is specifically designed for Tabata. And it shows. The display can be seen from far away, useful for burpees or squat thrusters. Also, it’s free.
  • Tabata Timer for HIIT. This app is one of the best reviewed on the market. Which is awesome, considering it too is free. It can also track your weight, BMI and daily workout history. Plus, the trumpet sound effect found in the app is hilarious.
  • TABATACH. I’ll be honest, I just really like the name of this one. Makes me giggle.

We’ve gone over some tools to help you during a Tabata workout. I want to make an important point about Tabata training before we get too ahead of ourselves.

Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Tabata Training

You might hear that it’s actually extremely difficult to do true Tabata training. Tabata ran his experiment with Olympic athletes, who were able to reach a crazy amount of oxygen utilization, 170% VO2max.

For a normal person to get anywhere close would probably make them vomit from extreme exertion.

Who cares!?

I don’t care if you’re doing ugly push-ups and you can’t run.

You’re trying, right!? And you’re doing the work.

Worry about getting started first. Deal with getting better next.

Studies have replicated Tabata’s results with subjects who were “recreationally active” and did exercises such as burpees and squat thrusters. So claims of not doing “true Tabata” miss the point.

Tabata himself has stated as such by explaining it’s the effort of going to one’s physical max, which is critical for the benefits of Tabata training. Don’t worry about VO2max. If you try a Tabata program, the importance is going hard for YOU. We’re not going to worry about VO2max – we’re gonna worry about challenging ourselves.

This means if you need to do “Tabata” in a way that is just walking faster vs walking slower, it’s a start!

We all start somewhere, and it begins with taking the first step.

Still overwhelmed and need help on taking your first step?

Don’t beat yourself up, we can help!

One of the reasons we created our 1-on-1 coaching program is to make exercise less scary for busy people like you. We can help you get started with interval training, strength training, or help you find something else without a stopwatch that might be a better fit for you.

Let a Nerd Fitness Coach guide your workouts and fitness journey!

Will Tabata help me lose weight?


Exercise is important for cardiovascular health and overall wellness. However, to ALSO lose weight, you need to focus on what you eat.

As we say in our Rules of the Rebellion, “you can’t outrun your fork.”

That means your nutrition is 80-90% of the battle in the war for weight loss. If you get most of your food via drive-thru, you don’t like veggies, or you’re just not quite sure how to fix your nutrition, I hear ya.

Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating for guidance on how to dial in your meal planning. We also have How to Lose Weight (Without Dieting) that might be helpful to you.

The other 10-20% of the battle for weight loss? It’s exercise. So if you’re already eating well, a Tabata or HIIT style workout would be a great tool. It’s not hard to find studies of HIIT helping with fat loss.

It’s one of the reasons interval training has become a staple in the fitness community.

Another beauty of Tabata: it only takes 4ish minutes, and ANYBODY can find 4 minutes in the day to get a quick workout in.

The REAL benefits of Tabata training comes from the fact that training for 4 minutes can:

  • Help you keep momentum. If you’re trying to stay consistent with your workouts during a hectic week, 4 minutes is better than no minutes!
  • Assist with thinking “I am exercising to be healthy, so I need to continue eating well.” I personally eat better on days when I exercise because I know how important nutrition is for overall health.
  • Be done anytime, anywhere. It’s snowing out, your kid is sick, and you don’t have any gym equipment? Great – you still have the time (4 minutes), space (anywhere), and the equipment (nothing) to pick an exercise above and go for 4 minutes.

If the idea of Tabata or HIIT freaks you out and you’re afraid you’ll hurt yourself, check out our Beginner Bodyweight Workout for a great alternative to begin.

If you are looking to develop more endurance and cardiovascular health, check out our Couch to 5K write-up and start there.

The most important thing: get moving, and course correct along the way. The best workout program is the workout you actually stick with. Tabata said as much himself with “Any exercise is beneficial.” That’s why he encouraged readers on Reddit to train in a way that is sustainable.

Check out 40 Ways to Exercise Without Realizing It for fun activities to keep your body moving!

Getting Started with a Tabata Workout Plan

HIIT and Tabata can really shock your body. Which can be good. After all, the only way to grow and get better is to push yourself outside of your normal comfort zone.

Pushing yourself to run faster, or to do one extra push-up, or to lift one more pound…that’s where the real change starts to happen!

YOUR MISSION: Try a simple and safe Tabata protocol during your next workout.

  • Go to a park (or hop on a bike at the gym) and practice varying your speed by walking, running, jogging, etc, to get warmed up.
  • Then, after you’ve gotten comfortable, bust out your timer. Start doing a HIIT protocol (alternating periods of fast and slow), or go full Tabata for 4 minutes if you’re feeling adventurous.
  • Feel free to stop if you feel yourself pushing too far, or scale the intensity way back. Push yourself, but leave some in the tank to make sure you can still walk tomorrow!

The most important thing is that you try a Tabata workout! You can always course-correct later.

Want a little more help getting going? A little nudge out of the door?

You seem like a nice person, so I’ll share with you our best suggestions for next steps:

1) If you want step-by-step guidance, a custom HIIT program that levels up as you get stronger, and a coach to keep you accountable, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

Our coaching program changes lives. Learn how!

2) Good at following instructions? Check out our self-paced online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy.

The Academy has 20+ workouts for both bodyweight or weight training, a benchmark test to determine your starting workout, HD demonstrations of every movement, boss battles, meal plans, a questing system, and a supportive community.

Join 50,000 people in our self-paced Nerd Fitness Academy! One payment, lifetime access.

3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It’ll help you start incorporating a Tabata workout into your training.

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!

  • Everything you need to know about getting strong.
  • Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

Alright, enough from me. Now it’s your turn:

Do you do Tabata training?

Sprinting or some other form of a Tabata workout?

Any other tips or recommendations for HIIT?

Let us know in the comments!

On my mark…

Get set…




Make sure you check out the rest of our content on Interval Training:

  • 3 HIIT Workouts for Beginners
  • The 20-Min HIIT Workout for Home

Photo Source: The Rebel, dog, stationary bike, Leia on Hoth, Clockwork, spin cycle, Hold on to your hats, running.

GIF Source: Cat running, Cat walk, Dog on Bike, Patrick, Fitness canines.


  • Countdown Timer – The Countdown Timer part split out, just for you.
  • Large Stopwatch – Use the Stopwatch in FULL SCREEN. Great for meetings, classrooms, conferences, schools, anywhere really… 🙂
  • Split Lap Timer – Split Laps, record times… 🙂
  • Egg Timer – An Online Sand Timer.
  • Bomb Countdown – Watch the fuse go down.
  • Clock Countdown – It goes round and round.
  • Chess Clock – A free online Chess Clock
  • Chess Timer – Clock goes UP, Timer goes Down. Simple!
  • Online Clock – An Online Clock! Full Screen and Clear
  • Online Alarm Clock – An Online Alarm Clock! Easy To Use and Very School Like!
  • Online Digital Clock – An Online Digital Clock! Why? You Wanted It! Change the Color, 12 Hour or 24 Hour.
  • Cash Clock – Time is Money! So get it right – with our new Cash Clock!
  • Interval Timer – Make your own routines, and save them!
  • Metronome – Keep the beat with our easy to use Metronome!
  • Stay On Top App – Download a Stopwatch and Countdown timer that stays on top of all open windows.
  • Make Your Own Timer! – Make your own custom countdown timer or ticker until any date!
  • Custom Countdown – Change the sounds and more… 🙂
  • Talking Clock – Our Talking Clock is great for keeping track of the time!
  • Video Timers – A Clock or Countdown with a video background. Great to Relax or Sleep!
  • – Download the Online Stopwatch Application for your PC or MAC.
  • Timer – Set a Timer from 1 second to over a year! Big screen countdown

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