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Tabata Intervals: 4 Minute Workouts you can do Anywhere

Updated on September 10, 2015
A chair and a little floor space is all you need for this Tabata workout.
A chair and a little floor space is all you need for this Tabata workout. | Source

Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer or a medical doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. If you have any uncertainties about yourself either physically or medically, you should always consult a professional in those fields before you start any new exercise routine, especially if you have a known condition. Safety is ALWAYS the priority above all else.

Where does the time go?

As a society, we are all very busy people. Whether you’re a student, a working professional, or a parent (or both!), there just never seem to be enough hours in the day. Prioritizing how we spend our time can be difficult, and as we get older and have more responsibilities leveraged upon us, our free time begins to suffer. One of the first things that a lot of people cut from their daily routine is time focused on health and fitness.

I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! What if I told you that you could make your health and fitness more of a priority in as little as 4 minutes a day with Tabata Training routines? AND what if I would told you that you would be able to do it almost anywhere in the world…would you do it?

So what is Tabata Training?

In Short

Tabata training is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routine that lasts just four minutes. The Tabata protocol consists of 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for a total of 8 rounds or four minutes. Despite being very short in duration, it has both weight loss and general fitness benefits, and is a perfect style of workout for someone trying to fit exercise into a busy schedule.

Each Tabata Interval lasts just 30 seconds
Each Tabata Interval lasts just 30 seconds | Source

The Experiment

The moniker “Tabata” is derived from the Japanese physician and researcher, Dr. Izumi Tabata, who conducted a study against an interval-based training model. His goal was to understand if there were notable benefits gained from a shortened, but more intense exercise routine. Two groups of study participants were put on an aerobic exercise program lasting six weeks. The control group worked out 5 days/week at a moderate-intensity for one hour. The study group also worked out 5 days/week utilizing the Tabata protocol. At the end of the six week study, the control group had exercised for a total of 1800 minutes and the study group had exercised for 120 minutes, for a delta of 1680 minutes between the two groups. Put another way, the control group exercised for 28 hours while the study group exercised just 2 hours.

Ok, so what happened?

Ultimately, the study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training (the control group) improves aerobic performance but has little to no effect on anaerobic capacity, while an HIIT protocol (the study group) resulted in improvements to both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, with anaerobic capacity increasing 28% after the training period!

You can read more about it here - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392.

Well, why is this important?

To answer that question it’s important to understand the distinction between the two training methods, aerobic and anaerobic.

Aerobic training utilizes the aerobic metabolic processes within your body, requiring an ample and steady supply of oxygen to meet your energy demands, and is typically associated with long duration, steady state activities. An example of this would be going for a jog and maintaining the same pace for the entire duration of the workout. When you train in an aerobic state for long periods of time your body will burn a relatively constant level of energy for that period, however once the training period ends, so does the consumption of energy.

Anaerobic training is on the other end of the spectrum, utilizing your anaerobic metabolic processes, or exceeding your ability to supply the amount of oxygen your body is currently demanding. Anaerobic means “without oxygen”, so with this type of training you are burning energy faster than your body can access oxygen to be used to replace the spent energy, and your muscles incur an oxygen and energy debt. This has the desirable effect of putting your body into a state of increased metabolic activity that can last for several hours after you’ve stopped exercising. Unlike with aerobic exercise, the training period has ended, but the consumption of energy has not. Your body will continue to burn fat for hours after the workout has concluded.

Tabata Benefits

Aside from the aforementioned post-workout fat burn that will continue to occur long after the activity is completed, a Tabata workout also carries the following benefits:

  1. Simple – 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Repeat eight times.
  2. Brief – It is over before you know it even happened. It’s perfect for a quick workout in the morning, or for when free time is sparse.
  3. Versatile – It can be done with just bodyweight movements, or can incorporate weights and/or other equipment, movements, and drills.
  4. Scalable – Additional 4-minute rounds can be added if desired, with a one minute rest in between rounds.

Tabata Bodyweight Workout

This routine utilizes easy, straight-forward body weight movements that can be done without a gym. It’s perfect for business travelers and could be done in any hotel room around the world. All that is needed is an amount of floor space that you could lay down in, and a bed or chair.

Remember, Tabata is a HIIT workout, so the idea is to REALLY PUSH YOURSELF for the full four minutes. But a word of caution, this type of training is not for beginners. The intensity builds over the four minutes and peaks at the end. It’s important to understand your limits and to take it slow if necessary. And don’t forget to warm up!


Set a running clock and complete the following:

  1. Jumping Jacks (20s)
  2. Rest (10s)
  3. Squats (20s)
  4. Rest (10s)
  5. Push-ups (20s)
  6. Rest (10s)
  7. Sit-ups (20s)
  8. Rest (10s)
  9. Dips using chair (20s)
  10. Rest (10s)
  11. Plank (10s)
  12. Rest (10s)
  13. Alternating Lunge (20s)
  14. Rest (10s)
  15. Burpees (20s)
  16. Rest (10s)


That’s it, you’re done – Congratulations!


The Takeaway

Tabata is a fantastic workout routine that maximizes efficiency and can be done almost anywhere with little to no equipment. As someone who travels a fair bit and spends a lot of time in hotels, I utilize it regularly while on the go. It’s not only a great workout on its own, but it’s great for filling in the need for exercise when you cannot make it to a gym or complete your usual training program.


Have you tried Tabata? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments!

Did you complete it? How was it?

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