Tabata training has been around for a while now, which means it may have slipped off your radar. That’s a shame because this unique Japanese workout method is perfect for anyone who wants an effective conditioning and fat-burning workout in no time flat!
A basic Tabata works like this: set your Gymboss timer up as in the picture and exercise as hard as you can for 20-seconds, enjoy a leisurely 10-second rest, and then repeat seven more times to make eight rounds total in four minutes.
But, while Tabatas ARE simple, they are not easy and could very well be the longest four minutes of your life.
Here are five tried-and-tested Tabata workouts to try. All you need to do is set your Gymboss interval timer and get to work!
1. Plain vanilla Tabata training
Straight forward Tabata training is the perfect finisher after your regular workout or anytime you need a quick exercise fix lasting minutes rather than hours. The best exercises for Tabata training use large muscle groups or, better still, your entire body.
For such a unique, short training approach to be effective, you need to turn the intensity level up to the max for each and every interval. The first two or three will feel easy enough, but then, as your exertions exceed your ability to recover, you’ll need to grit your teeth and keep working as hard as you can.
If, after completing all your sets, you can or want to do more, you weren’t working hard enough. You should finish your Tabata session feeling like you gave it your absolute all.
Good exercises for plain vanilla Tabata training include:
- Bodyweight speed squats
- Kettlebell swings
- Jump rope – especially double unders
- Sprints – outdoors and not on a treadmill
- Bike sprints – using an exercise bike
- Thrusters – a front squat-push press combo
- Sledgehammer swings
2. Tabata supersets
If you do Tabata training with just one exercise, local muscular fatigue can limit how hard you work. For example, if you do Tabata squats, you may find that your legs are too pumped with lactic acid to really “go for it” during the last few sets.
This is easily remedied by pairing two similar but different exercises and doing them back-to-back as a Tabata superset.
The change in movement will provide blessed relief and allow you to work extra hard on each and every set.
Good pairings include:
- Kettlebell swings and bodyweight squats
- Burpees and jump rope
- Medicine ball slams and thrusters
- Punchbag and sledgehammer swings
You can use this method in two ways:
- Alternate exercises for the standard Tabata duration of four minutes – four sets of each exercise
- Double up and keep going until you have completed eight sets of both exercises – eight minutes of pain!
3. Reverse Tabatas
For some people, Tabata training is simply too hard. Of course, it’s meant to be tough, but those intense work periods and inadequate rests can leave some less fit individuals completely floored.
If you aren’t as fit as you’d like but still want to try Tabata training for yourself, just switch the work and the rest periods around. In other words, work hard for ten seconds, and then rest for 20 seconds.
As well as making Tabata training a little easier, this also emphasizes the creatine phosphate energy system. The CP system is used in very short, intense activities such as jumping and throwing. If you are involved in sports that require very brief periods of activity, reverse Tabatas could be especially valuable.
4. Tabata circuits
You can use the Tabata system for short, demanding circuits. Because you’ll be moving from one exercise to the next, and each activity needs to be significantly different. This means you should be able to maintain a high workload despite using this grueling training method.
Choose four exercises and then do them non-stop using the standard Tabata training protocol (20 seconds of work, 10 seconds for rest/transition.)
Make sure the exercises are close together so you can move quickly from one to the next. Bodyweight, kettlebell, medicine ball, and resistance band exercises are especially useful. Go through each circuit twice to total four minutes.
Example Tabata circuits include:
- Jump rope
- Kettlebell swings
- Squat jumps
- High knee sprints on the spot
- Sledgehammer swings
- Tire flips
- In and out tire jumps
- Seated knees to chest
5. Tabata barbell complex
This devilishly demanding workout requires a barbell and makes an ideal finisher after a strength training session. Use an empty 20kg barbell the first time you try this one; otherwise, you may find that you are too tired to finish the workout.
Do as many reps as possible of each exercise without putting the weight down to total four minutes of fat-burning fun!
- Bent over row
- Hang clean
- Front squat
- Push press
- Back squat
- Good morning
- Reverse lunges – alternating legs
Gymboss Tabatas – wrapping up
Tabatas are simple, but that doesn’t mean easy. They can produce significant increases in both fitness and fat burning. But, there is a caveat; you must work at 100% intensity – there is no such thing as an easy Tabata workout!