A true Tabata workout lasts for only four minutes, consisting of intervals that alternate between 20 seconds of high intensity activity followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated for eight sets.
Tabata developed the four-minute training regimen while conducting a study meant to evaluate how high intensity interval training effects anaerobic capacity and VO2 max in comparison to moderate-intensity endurance training.
Part of the six week long study involved seven subjects who completed an interval workout that consisted of seven to eight sets of extremely high-intensity exercise for 20-seconds with 10 seconds of rest between each 20-second interval.
They performed the workout five days per week and when the study concluded the researchers found that the participants had increased their VO2 max levels as well as their anaerobic capacities, proving that high intensity interval training “may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.”
Related: What is VO2 Max?
The important thing to keep in mind when implementing Tabata training into your workout routine is that to see improvements in your athletic performance your workout will most likely need to last longer than four minutes. This is because the participants in the study reached an intensity level of 170% of their VO2 max during the 20-second high-intensity intervals, a level that the average exerciser would most likely have difficulty reaching.
Because it’s probably unrealistic that you could reach such a high intensity, common Tabata workouts tend to last for 15 to 20 minutes and might include three to four different exercises. An example of a Tabata workout that might work well as part of your workout routine might look like this:
- Squat Jumps
- Plank Walk-Ups
- Kettlebell Swings
Perform 8 sets of 20 seconds of squat jumps, resting for 10 seconds between each set.
Rest for 1 minute
Perform 8 sets of 20 seconds of plank walk-ups resting for 10 seconds between each set.
Rest for 1 minute
Perform 8 sets of 20 seconds of burpees, resting for 10 seconds between each set.
Rest 1 minute
Perform 8 sets of 20 seconds of kettlebell swings, resting for 10 seconds between each set.
Since Tabata workouts tend to be short in duration, they’re especially great for exercisers who are short on time but still want to see significant improvements in their overall fitness. Just remember, the higher the intensity that you reach during the 20-second intervals, the more improvements you will see, so make sure to give 110% effort when working out Tabata style.
Note: Because interval training is an intense form of exercise, it is recommended that beginners build a base fitness level before incorporating it into their exercise routine. Be mindful of your fitness level and always consult your doctor before beginning a new training program.