Tabata 101: Plus How to Get Started

Got 10 minutes? You’ve got time for Tabata.

By: Lexy Parsons

When you want a killer workout but you’re short on time, Tabata is the answer. Forget spending hours in the gym — Tabata is quick, efficient, and wildly effective! As one of the most popular forms of HIIT (high-intensity interval training), this intense workout will leave you sweaty within minutes. Leave all your effort on the mat — we promise you’ll be happy you did! 

New to Tabata training? We’re breaking down all you need to know.

What is Tabata?

You’ve probably done Tabata training without realizing — whether in a FitOn workout or workout class! As a popular and effective way to rev your metabolism and break a sweat, this workout is popping up everywhere. 

The Tabata design is simple — 20 seconds of all-out effort, 10 seconds of rest. You then repeat this 20:10 cycle for a total of eight rounds. The minimal-time, maximum-burn workout is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a scientist who first confirmed the aerobic and anaerobic fitness benefits of this HIIT workout exercise.

It looks like this:

Step #1: 20 seconds of all-out HIIT exercise

Step #2: 10 seconds of rest

Step #3: Repeat the above steps for 8 rounds, totaling four minutes

After the four minutes, your body should feel exhausted to the point that it can’t handle anymore. Because Tabata requires a higher intensity and workload than traditional training, you are going to push yourself harder than ever due to the shorter work cycles and minimal rest. It sounds intense, but remember, it’s only four minutes! You got this!

And, if you’re a beginner, that’s great too! One of the best things about this training style is that it’s easily adaptable to any exercise or fitness level.  In fact, you can train like this with just about any exercise you want — from strength training to cardio. No time for a 5-mile run? Do a Tabata run. Can’t lift weights for an hour? Do Tabata strength with a compound exercise like thrusters or deadlifts.

Tabata can also be a great finisher at the end of your workout. Whether you want to squeeze in some HIIT after you’re done lifting or want to turn your shoulders into toast with some Tabata overhead presses. It’s a great way to torch some extra calories and really burn out your muscles. 

Benefits of Tabata

Aside from the short amount of time it takes to be done, Tabata offers some pretty incredible benefits that you may not expect from a four-minute workout:

Torches Calories and Reduces Fat

Fat loss in… minutes? Here’s what the research says!

Because you’re exertering all-out effort, Tabata training is highly effective at reducing body fat and supporting weight loss goals. When performed correctly, Tabata increases your RMR (resting metabolic rate), which is the rate at which your body burns energy while at rest. When your BMR is raised, so will the rate at which you burn fat. This metabolic boost is due to a process known as EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Also known as the ‘afterburn’ effect, EPOC represents the period during which your body burns calories while at rest (aka while you’re doing absolutely nothing) as it attempts to rebalance and return to homeostasis. 

Increases Cardiovascular Endurance

If you can get through Tabata sprints, burpees or jump squats, how much more manageable do you think steady-state cardio exercises will be for you? A lot more manageable since now you’re used to working at a greater intensity. Now your body is more efficient when you do your regular cardio training. Specifically, Tabata improves VO2 max, which represents the amount of usable oxygen available during exercise. Increased oxygen means increased endurance!

It’s Quick & Convenient 

Tabata basically caters to our fast-paced society. With no equipment needed and only a few minutes of time required, it’s the perfect quick and convenient workout for anyone who wants the best ‘bang for their buck’ when they’re short on time. So long as you come prepared to work (maximum effort is required for optimal results!!) you can sweat it out in less than 15 minutes – any time, anyplace. 

Great For Beginners

The biggest problems people have when starting an exercise program is that they don’t have time or they don’t feel that they are physically ready for extended workouts. Tabata is the answer to both of these issues. For the time-restricted beginner, Tabata takes four minutes at the very least. For the exerciser who has physical restrictions and can’t do a full workout, starting off slowly with a few four-minute cycles can get them started and hopefully on the path to where they eventually want to be.

Putting Together a Tabata Workout

If you want to try Tabata on your own, here are a few popular and highly effective Tabata exercises that will give you the intensity you want:

  • Burpees
  • Squat jumps
  • Thrusters
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Battle ropes
  • Jump rope
  • High knees
  • Mountain climbers

And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one four-minute sweat sesh. While the goal of Tabata training is to push yourself to your max in the least amount of time, you can certainly increase the number of rounds you do! 

And with so many workout variations, it’s easy to mix up your workout routine with something new! You can try a strength Tabata after lifting and then go for a cardio one after that. Many gyms offer Tabata-style classes, and of course, there are plenty of options on the FitOn app!

Try Tabata at Home 

Ready to add some Tabata to your fitness routine but not quite sure where to start? FitOn can help by offering you some Tabata-based workouts that you can follow on your own, whether you’re at the gym or at home. From low-impact to Tabata to glute and arm-focused Tabata, there’s something for everyone 

Low-Impact Tabata with Breann Mitchell

All you need is a mat and 20 minutes! This low-impact workout will keep your joints happy and healthy – but don’t be fooled, come prepared to work! 

Take Ten Tabata with Breann Mitchell

Short on time but still want results? Work through this high-energy, full-body Tabata designed to maximize every minute.

Tabata Torch with Breann Mitchell

Following the 20-on 10-off model, Breann puts your stamina to the test with this 14 minute workout. Put in the work now and see the (metabolism-boosting) benefits when you’re finished! 

Thankful Tabata with Kenny Ferrer

As you push past your limits and leave it all out on the mat, how often do you thank your body for all it can do? With an emphasis on gratitude (and hard work), sweat it out during 3 different Tabata intervals with Kenny. 

Tabata Glute-Camp with Breann Mitchell

Grab a pair of dumbbells and get ready to combine HIIT + strength in this glute-focused Tabata workout!

The Takeaway on Tabata 

When you’re sweaty, tired, and feel like giving up, remember: You can do anything for 4 minutes! Yes, it’s a tough workout. But, if you put in the work, the benefits will follow! That said, listen to your body. You can always modify or adapt your workout to meet your fitness goals and exercise level. And don’t forget to schedule in some rest and recovery. In order to push yourself in this high-intensity workout, you’ll need to allow time for proper recovery!