HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, involves short periods of intense exercise followed by recovery periods. Tabata, a specific type of HIIT, was founded in Japan and proven to improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness more than steady state exercise. Adding Tabata is a way to add variety to your workouts. It also allows you to get a great workout in a short amount of time. Make sure to have a stopwatch, or download a Tabata timer on your phone, so you can complete the workout as designed.
(Check out the Tabata Songs on Spotify, which are perfectly timed, and count down the intervals for a 4 minute Tabata cycle)
A Tabata cycle takes four minutes. You work hard for 20 seconds (AMRAP-as many reps as possible) then you rest for 10 seconds. This pattern is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. You may add additional Tabata rounds as your fitness and time permits.
Tabata is no walk in the park! While this looks easy on paper, Tabata is designed to be very challenging. With the intense work portion twice as long as the rest, you will feel the burn on the sixth interval. The rest is not quite long enough to fully recovery, so you will get out of breath, anaerobic, and stay there.
Tabata can be a nice addition to your regular exercise program. You can easily throw a 4 min round into your regular walk or run. Go easy when you try your first Tabata workout. Start with easier, beginner exercises, to get the feel of Tabata.
Plan your Tabata exercises ahead of time. Complete a thorough warm-up including walking, and/or light jogging. Include some dynamic movements to complete the warm-up. Start easy with one or two exercises, like bodyweight squats and boxing jabs, that are manageable. Work as hard as you can (AMRAP) for the 20 seconds. Enjoy the short 10 seconds rest.
Nearly any exercise will work for Tabata so long as you stick with the 20/10 pattern. Experiment with a combination of an upper body and lower body exercise. Just make sure to work as hard as possible during the 20 seconds.
- Jumping jacks
- Run in place
- Skip in place
- Bicep curls with light weight
- Bent over row with light weight
- Hold plank
- Stationary lunge
- Standing crunch-knee to elbow and opposite knee to elbow
- Boxing jabs
- Modified pushup
- Bicycle crunch
- Jump squat
- Modified burpee (no jumping)
- Bicycle crunch
- Jump rope
- Mountain climbers
- Walking lunges
- Russian twists
- Add weight to various exercises for additional challenge
Tabata can also work well applied to your walking or running, or stationary cycling. Just pick up the pace for 20 seconds and recover for 10. Try walking hills or stairs for the 20 second portion.
As always, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program, especially HIIT work.
by Christy Coughlin, Wellness Coach