What is Tabata training? | Your Essential Guide


What is Tabata Training? 

Tabata training, also known as Tabata protocol was developed in the late 90s by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. This high-intensity interval training style was originally developed to improve both aerobic and anaerobic performance in Olympic speed skaters, but has since become a favorite among athletes and fitness enthusiasts seeking maximum results in as minimal time - 4 Minutes to be precise.

Tabata workouts are very short but very intense high-intensity interval training workouts. Each exercise in any given Tabata workout lasts just four minutes - 20 seconds at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 8 rounds (2:1 work-to-rest ratio).

Now while 4 minutes per exercise in a Tabata workout might sound like a walk in the park, it’s anything but! Tabata training is extremely tough and will challenge not only your physical strength but also your mental determination.

Which exercises are included in a tabata workout?


The great thing about Tabata protocol is that you can tailor the workouts to your specific fitness goals. If your goal is to promote muscle growth, you would primarily include strength training exercises like squats, bench press and pull-ups. If your goal is Weight loss, you would focus your workout on cardiovascular exercises like skipping, box jumps and sprints.

The number of exercises included in a Tabata workout is very much dependant on the fitness level and goals of the individual, although the most common tendency is to include 4-6 exercises per workout.

It’s recommended to take between 30-60 seconds between exercises. You’ll probably need 60!

Sample full body workout

  • Skipping
  • Plank
  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Kettlebell swings

Benefits of Tabata workouts

  • Incinerate up to 15 calories per minute.

  • Easily tailored to your specific fitness goals and workout plan.

  • Great for those on a tight schedule.

  • Great range of exercises to choose from. 

  • Improves aerobic, anaerobic and athletic performance.

  • Activates EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) allowing you to continue burning calories post workout.

  • Improves glucose metabolism burning more fat as energy during and even after workouts.

  • Great full-body workout.


Downsides to Tabata workouts


Tabata training doesn’t come with many downsides, however there are a few points to consider before taking part in a Tabata workout.

  • Tabata can cause injury if you aren't careful. It’s important to warm up properly before a workout and make sure to keep strict form throughout, something that becomes very difficult to do towards the end of each exercise. If you can’t make it to the end of any given 20 second active period with strict form, stop and rest until the next round. If you’re unsure whether you are correctly performing the exercises, ask a personal trainer at your gym to spot you.

  • Tabata training was originally designed to improve performance in athletes hence it is not best suited to beginners.

  • While 4 minutes might seem easy, it’s anything but. During a Tabata workout your body is forced to perform without a full recovery – you’ll be working at full capacity shortly after you begin. If you have a tendency to cop out with the tough gets going, Tabata probably isn’t for you.

The Tabata 2:1 work-to-rest ratio principle

While the exact definition of Tabata protocol is 20 seconds exercise with 10 seconds rest for 8 rounds, t is definitely worth experimenting with different work-to-rest ratios, rounds and total workout length.

I often use a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio of 30 seconds for 5 rounds with my personal training clients - a method that has proven to produce very effective results.

You can also incorporate the Tabata method into almost any exercise routine. Try finishing off your next leg day workout with a 4 minute round of box jumps. Your legs will that you later!!