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Tabata Training – A Fast Way To Get Fit

Bored of plain running, lifting weights in the gym or relaxing on your couch?

Man swinging kettlebell

Do you want to try out something new, challenging, demanding and pushing you to the limit?

Sounds good, right? It gets even better. All that in just 4 minutes.

No worries, I’m not trying to sell a new miracle supplement or programme that promises you outstanding results. That’s not our vision. That’s how Emerging Athletes work.

Did you already hear about Tabata?

In today’s article, I’ll bring the idea of Tabata closer to you, folks.

Learn everything necessary about this intensity training technique and get started! Let’s get to work.

What is Tabata? – The basic concept

Essentially, Tabata is a high-intensity interval training method.

This training method is suitable for anyone who either wants to lose some pounds or improve their overall stamina.

Over a short period of just 4 minutes, normally a stress cycle is exercised on your whole body. However, this depends on how you assemble your personal Tabata workout.

For those among you who want to achieve their athletic goals effectively, quickly and with as little time expenditure as possible, Tabata training may be the very thing you were looking for.

Basically, Tabata is a specific form of HIIT and characterized by a short and high-intensity shift of stress and rest. For 20 seconds the body is demanded to its limits, followed by a 10-second break.

Usually, 8 of these intervals are performed within 4 minutes.

The rapid interplay of stress and recovery significantly accelerates the burning of body fat.

But, I am honest with you guys. No commitment, no success.

No effort, consistency and dedication, no results.

In order to get the most out of Tabata, you really have to spend all your energy during these 20 seconds and go outside the envelope.

In fact, the body spends energy hours after the workout to regenerate and continues to consume massive calories even during rest periods. As a result, this facilitates losing the eagerly awaited pounds.

The Japanese sports scientist Izumi Tabata had carried out a study in 1996 to increase performance by means of interval training in top athletes of the speed skating team.

As the results show, the best outcomes were achieved with his named after Tabata method.

Nowadays, it is still used in derived forms while running, swimming, rowing but also in classical strength training – mostly bodyweight exercises, even in CrossFit.

How does Tabata work?

As already mentioned earlier, Tabata training usually consists of 8 intervals. One interval is composed of 20 seconds stress at an extremely high load (170% of VO2max) and a 10-second break.

Man jogging on a beach

There are no additional breaks between the intervals. One Tabata workout takes just 4 minutes which makes it so attractive, especially for busy people who have many obligations but still want to give oneself a treat.

VO2max is a measure of endurance performance and describes the maximum amount of oxygen that a person can absorb, transport and utilize in the cells under load.

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The value is determined by respiratory gas analysis or Cooper test (maximum distance that can be run in 12 minutes).

Probably most of you have done this Cooper Test in school back in the days.

I can still remember running from wall to wall in that sordid gym.

Frankly, if I have had a choice, I would have been the first to find a way out. I really hated it back then…

These 170% VO2max required by Tabata, in plain English, are an incredible burden that a normal weekend warrior probably never reaches.

However, the participants in the original study were also world-class athletes of the Japanese Olympic team. Anyhow, Of course, that does not mean you aren’t able to do Tabata training.

For you, it is necessary to burn yourself out during the 20 seconds loading phase.

Give it all! Whenever you think there is no way forward, keep pushing even harder!

Nevertheless, do not neglect proper preparation along the actual workout and warm-up and cool-down before and after your Tabata session.

Including warm-up and cool-down, a whole Tabata workout should, therefore, last longer than 4 minutes – more likely around 20 minutes.

Is Tabata really as effective as said?

In general, Tabata training has three major advantages: it burns fat, requires little time expenditure and is very versatile.

In contrast to traditional endurance training, Tabata is great for fat melting, because they provide a significant afterburning effect.

This can be traced back to an increase in your basal metabolic rate (calorie consumption during the day) and the very same thing is maintained for 12 to 24 hours.

To put it simply, the stress on your body during the 4 minutes loading phase is so intense that it continues to burn lots of energy even afterwards.

The intensive short sessions train the entire cardiovascular system and improve the performance of endurance athletes.

Scientific studies have shown no significant differences in oxygen uptake and endurance performance compared to Tabata training and 60 minutes of moderate endurance exercise.

On the contrary, Tabata significantly improves the maximum oxygen uptake, so-called VO2max effect, per minute.

As a result, your body absorbs more oxygen during exercise and transports it via the blood to muscle cells, which can utilize a larger percentage.

Overall, Tabata improves both aerobic and anaerobic endurance performance.

Benefits of Tabata

To sum up some of the abovementioned advantages, I’ll give you an overview of the benefits which Tabata holds ready for us.

Tabata is more efficient than moderate endurance training

4 minutes of high-intensity Tabata training has shown to be as effective as 60-minute endurance. Scientific studies have shown that no significant differences can be seen in terms of improving oxygen uptake and endurance performance.

Exercising at maximum intensity during a short period of time increases your heart rate faster than it would with moderate stress.

Muscle maintenance and strength endurance

In 20 seconds doing as many squats, pushups or burpees as possible, ensure fast muscle fatigue while strengthening.

8 intervals within 4 minutes quickly increase reps to an amount of 50-75. The more muscles you use during a workout, the more effective Tabata training will be.

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Maximum fat burning through

To return to normal condition after a high-intensity workout, your body needs to re-energize.

As a result, the metabolism is still active hours after training, consuming calories and respectively burning fat (assumed you don’t exceed your basal metabolism and eat enough protein).

Due to this so-called afterburning effect, the energy requirement during the breaks increases.

Multifaceted diversity promotes versatile training

There are no rigid rules in Tabata training. Compared to endurance sports such as running, swimming or cycling, Tabata offers multiple exercises that always provide variety in your workout.

Whether sprints, jumps or bodyweight exercises – they can all set a new training stimulus to redefine their own load limit.

Tabata Workout

In general, Tabata is great to use as a closure of a multi-set training or in addition to a moderate endurance session.

As always, before starting your actual workout, make sure to warm-up properly. This may take about 5 minutes but at the end of the day, reduces risk to injuries and even increases your performance.

Man using kettlebell for Tabata training

Warm-up: 5-10 minutes

Loading phase: 20 seconds of maximum load

Recovery phase: 10 seconds rest

Total duration: this rhythm is repeated for 8 times which results in a total of about 15-20 minutes.

For Tabata, you neither need any devices nor much time. The clearly defined load cycles can be implemented quickly and easily.

If a load of a Tabata workout is too low, the training can be extended with additional exercises.

If you’re looking for new stimuli or want to increase intensity, you can simply modify the exercises through its resistance, speed or complexity.

How intense you go depends on your condition, goals and commitment.

Sample Tabata workout

Tabata can be done both at home and outdoors without additional weight.

Whatever your choice will be, don’t forget a short warm-up to bring your cardiovascular system to work.

I know I am repeating myself, I know it’s basic but it’s important, trust me.

Whether experienced or inexperienced, it is important to pay attention to adequate technique and execute the exercises correctly.

A timer on your smartphone or a simple stopwatch help to keep the given intervals.

Sample plan:

  • 20 sec. Squat – 10 sec. rest
  • 20. sec Push-Up – 10 sec. rest
  • 20. sec Mountain climbers – 10 sec. rest
  • 20 sec. Squat – 10 sec. rest
  • 20 sec. Push-Up – 10 sec. rest
  • 20 sec. Burpees – 10 sec. rest
  • 20 sec. Squat – 10 sec. rest
  • 20 sec. Push-Up – 10 sec. rest

At the end of the session, it is advisable to have a relaxed, slow run to slowly lower your pulse.

6 Tips for your start into Tabata

1. Do not overdo it!

If you have good fitness, just try Tabata.

You’re are a beginner? Then you may want to start with a less intense workout. Nevertheless, if you desperately want to try out Tabata, start low.

2. Slowly pick up the pace

In the beginning, limit yourself to one Tabata workout. This way, you do not overload your body and get used to the new technique of high-intensity interval training.

3. Stop the time

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Use a clock/stopwatch/smartphone to keep the interval times or ask someone to stop for you to focus fully on your intervals.

There are even Tabata apps which make everything easier for you.

4. Start your day with Tabata

If your goal is to lose some pounds, this may be exactly the very thing you’re looking for.

When doing sport before breakfast your body burns an even higher amount of fat and you get your metabolism going in the morning.

The effect? Burning more calories throughout the day.

If you cannot motivate or tolerate sports on an empty stomach, just eat a banana to get some energy.

5. Finish off your workout with Tabata

Tip four does not apply if you are planning another workout for that day or workout later during the day.

Then the intensive workout should be done at its very end. Otherwise, you won’t have the strength to keep up your usual performance.

6. Do not let boredom arise

Try out new exercises again and again. Bring a variety into your workouts. This way you prevent boredom and keep it exciting.

Nothing is worse than losing your motivation, joy and excitement for your sport.

Who’s Tabata made for?

For athletic ambitious, willing to lose weight and fit athletes, Tabata training is definitely worth a try.

It should be noted: although in a short time great results beckon, the strenuous and demanding Tabata training should be slowly integrated into your existing workout routine.

Regardless of whether you are a beginner to training, returner or an athlete looking for new stimuli: those who overdo it with new training methods and get on too high levels, increase their risk to overtraining injuries and insufficient recovery.

In particular, absolute newcomers or returners, give it a shot but please with caution. Start slowly and safely.

Since rapid changes in intensive loading and unloading strain the cardiovascular system tremendously, people who have any issues with their health and the cardiovascular system should first talk to their doctor whether Tabata training can be safely practised.

Bottom line

To conclude, Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in which short periods of extreme physical endurance exercise alternate with even shorter recovery periods.

Furthermore, it is a scientifically proven, highly efficient interval training that demands you as much in just 4 minutes as one hour of moderate jogging.

If you really put all your energy into the stress phases (8×20 seconds), followed by 10 seconds of recovery (8×10 seconds), you can improve your endurance performance and even lose weight through the afterburning effect.

The Tabata method makes you fitter, faster and healthier. It is suitable for all kinds of endurance and strength exercises, saves time and even better, can be done almost everywhere.

What are you waiting for? Unleash your ambition and start now!

I hope I managed to give you a proper understanding of what Tabata is, how it works and why you should give it a shot.

Did you already make an experience with Tabata? What do find most appealing about Tabata?

Let us know and leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading guys,


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Hi, I'm Claas. I am a passionate fitness and performance lover. For several years I have been training and developing my personality with dedication, ambition, and commitment to pursue my goals. During this time, I already had the opportunity to support many friends, family members and athletes on their journey to achieve their goals, both athletic or performance driven. Whether about nutrition, training, performance or self-development, for the last few years I was able to steadily improve my knowledge to provide our clientele with all my experience. I believe the key to a happy life, to pursue your goals, overcome challenges and convert your dreams to reality, is based upon mastering our four underlying four pillars; nutrition, fitness, productivity, and mindfulness.

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