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Tabata - High Intensity 4 Minute Crossfit Workout

Updated on January 27, 2014

What Is Tabata

Tabata is a high intensity workout which only takes 4 minutes. If you have been hitting the gym for hours and hours and you are not getting many results, then Tabata may be an answer for you. I learned about Tabata style workouts through Crossfit and I believe it's the best way to get results fast.

In order to perform Tabata exercises you have to be 100% in. You cannot cheat at this workout because if you do, you will not get any results. If you do a Tabata workout as intensely as you can, you should look like this lady in the picture - you should fall out!

If you are still skeptical about a 4 minute workout, read on and you will understand why it's so powerful.

Photo Credit: Dain Sandoval via Compfight cc

How is Tabata Workout Performed

Tabata workout ranges in it's workouts. No specific exercises are required, but instead a range of exercise can be chosen prior to performing Tabata. These exercises can be full body, cardio, strength, leg, etc.

You will perform an exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, then repeat for 4 minutes.

Tabata usually consists of 8 sets of exercises. Each set lasts 30 seconds. If you are a beginner, start with 4 minutes. Once you feel comfortable performing at this type of intensity, you can increase the duration to 8 minutes (2 rounds) or 12 minutes (3 rounds). Each of your rounds can be a different exercise.

During the 20 seconds of exercise you will be giving it all you can. You need to perform your exercises as intensely as possible while holding the right form.


Do not eat at least 2 hours before performing Tabata workouts. You don't want anything to stand in your way before you complete these exercises.

How To Do A Tabata Workout - Squats And Push Ups

As you can see in this video, basic movements such as squats and push ups can go a long way when performing them in Tabata style workout routine. As I mentioned earlier, you can start with only 4 rounds and then increase it to 8 as they show it in this video.

Have You Done High Intensity Interval Training Before?

See results

Get A Timer For Your Workouts

As you can see Tabata style routine requires for your to have some sort of a timer. You need to know exactly when 20 and 10 seconds are up so that you stay on track. I would not recommend jumping into this workout without a timer because you won't be able to count in your head and as you get tired you won't be able to think straight. This workout is all about having fun and bringing your intensity to the table, counting in your head will make it dull and will take away your focus from the exercise.


Gymboss Interval Timer and Stopwatch - ORANGE / BLUE SOFTCOAT

This timer is very durable, you can easily clip it to your clothing or to an armband. It's perfect for Tabata workouts by easily setting work and rest times.

It beeps as well as vibrates if you do not want to disturb others around you.

Unlike many other timers on the market, this one allows you to set intervals between 2 seconds and 99 minutes.

Crossfit Timer Apps For Android Devices

If you have an Android device, then you can get an app instead of getting a physical timer. I personally love apps because they can be used on a device I already own and they are cheaper. Here are some of the best apps for Android. Below I am also including a link for my lens which lists best iPhone and iPad Timer Apps.

Tabata Timer Pro
Tabata Timer Pro

Another great app, you can configure 1-4 exercises for 1-8 sets and separate exercise and rest intervals, each configurable from 10-60 seconds. This app also gives warning beeps so you know when the time will start or finish.

Tabata Pro - Tabata Timer
Tabata Pro - Tabata Timer

Last but not least awesome app. Intervals can be set as in other ones, but this one also comes with visual queues if you do not want to have alarms going off.


Leg and Full Body Tabata Workout

Tabata Workout Sample
Tabata Workout Sample

Here's a great Tabata routine. You will first do the first four exercises for 20 seconds of exercise and 10 seconds of rest for sets 1, 2, 3, and 4. Then, you will repeat the sequence again for sets 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Feel free to change it up as you need or change up the order of the exercises. This particular routine concentrates on full body and leg exercises.

Before you start this routine, make sure you know how much weight you will be using. KB stands for Kettlebells, I usually use a 25 lb Kettlebell for a swing.

You can do Russian Twists without any weight or use a dumbbell or a kettlebell to add more resistance to your twists. In general I use 10 or 15 lb weight for this exercise. I am a short 5'2 lady, if you are a big guy, then use your weights accordingly.

Other WOD Ideas For Tabata

Here's a list of Crossfit WODs which can be used for Tabata. Basically any exercise which can be performed intensely should do.

When you are creating your routine, you can either use just one exercise for the whole 8 sets, 2 exercises, 4 exercises, or even vary all 8 exercises.

Also keep in mind that you do not want to perform the same workouts every day, you want to vary them and keep your body guessing. You can also concentrate on one body part per day so that each body part can get some rest and recover during the week.

1. Burpees - See how to perform Burpees the right way .

2. Push Ups

3. Squats

4. Lunges

5. Sit Ups

6. Turkish Get Ups

7. Rope Jumps

8. Double Unders

9. Box Jumps

10. Pull Ups

11. Snatches

12. Wall Balls

13. Rope Climbs

14. Jerks

15. Ball Slams

See More WODs And Video Samples

See More Crossfit Exercises For Tabata

Another great video which demonstrates a number of different exercises completed during a Tabata workout. All of these particular exercises require some type of equipment.

When To Expect Results

Your result times may vary, depending on many things. For example, how often you perform these exercise, how much intensity you bring to your WODs, how many rounds you perform, etc.

In general, you should see changes within a couple of weeks. Make sure that you are not only excising, but also eating clean. Remember that food is your fuel for the body. You get out what you put in (garbage in garbage out).

See how Paleo diet can help you reach your goals

Personally I started seeing differences within a few days. While I started seeing more muscles and less fat in my body, I also realized that I felt rejuvenated. I started feeling like I was on top of the world and that I could conquer anything.

I also went from exercising for at least an hour on my workout days to being able to cut some time while still getting awesome results. The workouts are never boring and that keeps me consistently coming back to perform high intensity workouts which in turn is paying off greatly. No more plateaus!

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    • Hannah David Cini profile image

      Hannah David Cini 3 years ago from Nottingham

      A really interesting article, I am looking forward to giving this a try

    • profile image

      SylvainZ 4 years ago

      Thank you, very helpful lens

    • profile image

      mithiljadhav 4 years ago

      Nice info. Thanks! I think there are lot more beautiful timers which you could consider. Like iCountTimer for Android, Bittimer for iPhone etc

    • aviwolfson profile image

      Avi Wolfson 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great lens, thanks for sharing!

    • karmanGhia profile image

      karmanGhia 4 years ago

      Wow - I've never heard of this! Very interesting - great lens!