There are countless styles, methods, and techniques to biohack fitness and improve your body, physically-speaking. Some of them increase your strength, others help you lose weight, and many will improve your flexibility and help you build strong, lean muscles.
The biggest drawback most of these methods and techniques have is that they take too much time to accomplish. Today, most of us are running around like chickens without heads, to begin with, and fitting in an hour’s workout five times a week simply isn’t possible. Sure, 5 minutes (or less) would be much easier, especially if you could work out at home. But, again, most of the methods we’re talking about take much longer and require specialized equipment.
The good news is that, if you want to get in a fantastic workout in much less time with practically no equipment, Dr. Izumi Tabata figured it out for you. He and his team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports over in Tokyo, Japan, discovered a faster, better method that you can easily do at home. Not surprisingly, it’s called the Tabata workout. In today’s article, we’ll look closer at Tabata and give you some easy, effective Tabata workouts you can use starting right away. Enjoy.
The Birth of the Tabata Workout
Dr. Tabata and his team carried out a research study that included two distinct groups of athletes. The first group of athletes was given moderate-intensity workouts, while the second was given very high-intensity workouts similar to HIIT (high-intensity interval training). With the moderate-intensity workouts, the first group performed an hour-long work out five days a week for six weeks. The second group with the high-intensity workouts were instructed to exercise for 4 minutes using twenty-second intervals. Also, instead of working out five times a week, they only worked out four times a week.
Amazingly, the second group had a higher increase in both their aerobic (cardiovascular) and anaerobic (muscular) systems. In contrast, the first group, who actually worked out more days per week and for much longer periods of time, only increased their aerobic system. The Tabata method was born, giving you the ability to get in a hard-core workout in far less time and with better results.
The Tabata Workout Method
The Tabata workout is very straightforward and simplistic. You’re going to be performing a single exercise for four minutes. You start by giving as much effort as you can with whatever exercise you’re using for 20 seconds. Then, you take a 10-second break and repeat the exercise for another 20 seconds. You repeat this eight times for a total of four minutes. That’s all it takes and all you need to do to get excellent results. (We suggest 4 to 5 times a week.)
Keep in mind, however, that you can also extend your Tabata workout and use three or four different exercises to extend your workout to 20 minutes. Again, though, the Tabata workout can give you excellent results only with four minutes a day, four or five days a week. That’s why many people consider it so effective because you get results in a very short amount of time.
Dr. Michele Olson, Ph.D., is an exercise science professor who teaches classes at Auburn University / Montgomery. She says that the Tabata workout is “a quicker interval method on steroids.” She adds that “since the intensity is all-out, 100% effort, taking you into the aerobic plus zone, it requires less time and also provides a bigger afterburn.”
One interesting and excellent result of the Tabata workout is that you burn about 14 calories per minute and, after you finish, your metabolic rate increases significantly. What this means is that, for about 30 minutes to an hour after you finish, you’re still burning calories even if you aren’t exercising. That’s what’s called the “afterburn effect.”
Easy, Effective (and Fast) Tabata Workouts
One of the best reasons to use high-intensity Tabata workouts is that you don’t need specialized equipment. All you need to do is perform any aerobic exercise for a very short period of time at a very high intensity. Below are several excellent Tabata workout exercises that you can easily do at home and, again, in a very short amount of time.
Lunges are an excellent exercise, no doubt. However, jumping lunges require you to use additional strength and power because the level of difficulty is much higher than the traditional lunge. Jumping lunges target several muscles and muscle groups, including the hamstrings, gluteal’s, and quadriceps, and arena of the better Tabata workout exercises.
Burpee’s, truth be told, are one of the toughest Tabata workout exercises but, on the other hand, are extremely effective. If you use them regularly, you will significantly increase your endurance, strength, and power. As with every other exercise, you want to go full-on for 20 seconds and take a break for 10, repeating the process eight times.
Two of the most popular exercises that you can do without equipment are jumping jacks and squats. Squat jacks combine both and are an excellent Tabata workout for both your legs and your cardiovascular system. They’re relatively simple to perform, but, as with all other exercises you follow using the Tabata method, the results can be excellent.
Push-ups (Great for Beginners!)
Push-ups have been used for decades and are among the most popular exercises you can do without equipment. You can also do them in several different ways, including elevated push-ups and knee push-ups. As with all of the other exercises, you should perform as many as you can in 20 seconds before taking your 10-second break. Of course, as with every other Tabata exercise, you want to use good form so that you don’t injure yourself or get lesser results.
Mountain Climbers (Great For Beginners!)
While definitely an interesting looking exercise, mountain climbers are truly amazing. They significantly increase your heart rate and, at the same time, improve your endurance and supercharger your leg strength. This is one of the best Tabata exercises for beginners and will provide phenomenal results.
One of the most effective exercises around is jumping rope (and it’s also relatively easy and portable). As with the other exercises on this list, jumping rope is a great cardiovascular workout that can greatly increase your leg strength and help chisel your arms, shoulders, and upper body.
This is, to be sure, an advanced Tabata exercise. You will also need to purchase a set of kettlebells (or at least one) and learn how to use a kettlebell so that you don’t injure yourself. (YouTube has a plethora of videos that can help you do exactly that.) One thing to keep in mind about kettlebell swings is that you will be sore as heck the next day (especially in the beginning) if you do them correctly. Also, we highly recommend that you watch a video or two or go to a gym where you can learn how to use kettlebells correctly. If you don’t, you can seriously injure yourself.
Here are a few other exercises that you can perform following the Tabata HIIT exercise routine.
- Reverse lunges
- Lateral leg raises
- Skater hops
- Standing oblique crunches
- Side lunges
- Lateral plank walks
How To Time Your Tabata Workout
If the Tabata workout does have a drawback, it’s the fact that, especially when you’re working out alone, it can be difficult to time yourself correctly. You need to workout for 20 seconds and then take a break for 10 seconds and do that eight times, which can be difficult to follow correctly if you don’t have a clock right in front of your face.
For that reason, it’s highly suggested that you download the Tabata HIIT Interval Timer. (This link will bring you to Apple’s App Store. If you have an Android smartphone, you will need to go to their app store, of course.) The app makes it much easier to follow the Tabata method correctly and get the best results. It will keep track of your timing so that you can concentrate on performing your exercises correctly and quickly.
Mixing Tabata Into Your Current Workout Routine
Some of our readers will likely already be using different exercise methods and routines. If that’s you, and you want to mix Tabata into your normal routine, it’s quite easy. You can throw one or two exercises into the mix and use them following the Tabata method of going full-out for 20 seconds and taking a 10-second break. (Any of the exercises that we talked about, above, will work just fine.)
The one thing to keep in mind is that you can do practically any exercise following the Tabata method. You can even do it with your stationary bike, in the swimming pool, or while you’re out running on a track. (Using the Tabata app that we mentioned earlier would be helpful except, of course if you’re in the pool. In that case, you might want to ask a friend to time you.
The Tabata exercise method is one of the best ways to get in a fantastic workout in very little time. You can use a wide variety of exercises, as we’ve seen, and get excellent results with all of them. Use good form, time yourself, and go full-out.
Did you enjoy this article? We sure hope you did, and that it answered most of your questions about Tabata. If you have more or would like to leave a comment, please do so in the space below. Also, please share any stories or anecdotes you have about using Tabata with us, and we’ll share the best with our readers. Thanks!