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Tabata 101: My Top Tips for Trying This Hot Fitness Trend


You’ve probably heard the word ‘Tabata’ by now (and if you haven’t you will!). So what exactly is this hot new fitness trend and why you should care about it?

What is ‘Tabata’?

The term ‘Tabata’ was coined after the Japanese researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata, who compared the effectiveness of short, very high intensity training (bursts of maximal effort for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of recovery, repeated for 4 minutes in total) to a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. And a new study shows that it can blast off an average of 13.5 calories a minute and double your metabolic rate for at least 30 minutes afterwards.

Who should do it?

Anyone looking to amp up their fitness level, maximize their cardio time and burn more calories and blast off more fat in way less time. The key to a successful Tabata session is being able to hit the high levels of intensity (the participants in the Tabata study worked at170 percent of their VO2 Max – that’s killer!). Because of it’s SUPER HIGH intensity, if you are new to exercise or returning after a long hiatus, you may want to progress slowly into trying a Tabata workout (and of course, get your doctor’s clearance first before trying this or any other exercise program.)

How can I try it?

The Tabata protocol can be done with almost any method of exercise, so long as you can reach that maximum intensity point quickly (for example, its tough to do Tabata on a treadmill because the machine takes awhile to adjust up and down and your intervals are so quick). Some great moves to try Tabata with include: squat jumps, burpees, mountain climbers or cycling sprints. Repeat pushing yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then allow yourself 10 seconds of rest. Try to do this for four minutes straight.


Everyone’s maximum effort feels different – and the more fit you are, the harder you will have to work to reach it. Be sure to listen to your body, stay hydrated before and after and stop anytime you feel like the intensity is just too much. The great thing about it is that it may be tough, but at least it’s short lived! And while many ‘Tabata’ sessions use plyometric or higher impact moves, it can also done low impact by using a cycling bike (stick with one that uses a resistance knob versus a tech console since there is little time to make changes to your intensity during such short intervals).


So does this mean all of your workouts can be 4 minutes in length from now on? Don’t count on it. For one, I’m a big fan of finding workouts that you enjoy and look forward to, so if pushing yourself to all-out maximum capacity – even if its only for 4 minutes- doesn’t inspire you, then don’t do it! There are also plenty of benefits from low to moderate intensity training too, so as with all things, everything in moderation does a body good.

Tips for trying Tabata

One of the biggest challenges with Tabata training (besides the fact that you will be working so hard you’ll want to throw up) can be timing it! If you don’t want to worry about having to fumble with a timer or think about which exercises to do during your Tabata session, check out this Tabata Coach mix album on iTunes created by MotionTraxx. You’ll be coached through every second of your Tabata workout so you can concentrate on what is most important — pushing yourself to your absolute limits during your intervals. (And if you get tired of the coaching after repeat workouts, there is also a music only option that just includes your timer cues). If you just want to try a short video session, check out my Cardio Abs DVD, which includes a 4-minute Tabata bonus workout – guaranteed to make you sweat and help torch tummy fat! We also recently put together a fun Tabata-inspired workout for Halloween that you can check out here.

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2 comments… add one

  • Denise November 1, 2015, 10:54 am

    Thanks for your good sense as always. I’d much rather do a longer workout that doesn’t make me want to throw up!

  • DebV October 23, 2015, 9:19 am

    Great info, thanks for clarifying…I am ready to try!


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