Have you tried a Tabata workout yet? As we’ve talked about in our post about heart rate zones, there can be a lot of strange sounding jargon to understand if you’re an exercise newcomer. One such term, Tabata, has become quite popular in the last few years, but what exactly is it?
Put simply, Tabata is a style of HIIT (High intensity interval training) workout based on research from 1996 conducted by a Professor Izumi Tabata, hence the name. The study was initially carried out on Olympic speed skaters. It found that by using precisely timed bursts of high intensity training during a workout, athletes were able to achieve results comparable to longform training sessions in a much shorter amount of time (and with fewer workouts overall!). What this essentially means is that intense interval workouts can be a much more efficient way of progressing compared to regular exercise.
In recent years, Tabata has been more commonly used as a catch-all term for HIIT training. But planning a pure and proper Tabata session is worth the effort!
Planning your ideal Tabata workout
So one round of a Tabata workout has the following template: 20 seconds of work then 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times for a total of four minutes. This can be repeated as many times as you want, with whatever exercises you want. Usually you’ll want at least 60 seconds of rest between rounds in order to avoid injury. The exercises you choose to use within the Tabata workout are entirely up to you! During bodyweight or strength based Tabata courses, more common choices can include burpees, sprints, tuck jumps, high knees and crunches, but really anything that gets a sweat on and keeps you mobile can work here.
It’s important to remember that whatever exercises you choose to incorporate into your own Tabata workout, you need to hold yourself accountable and make sure you are giving 100% maximum effort throughout. Slacking for a few reps isn’t going to cut it if you want to reap the benefits of the HIIT. Here’s a couple of ideas so you can get to creating your perfect, personalised Tabata circuit!
Beginner Tabata workout circuit
High knees are a fantastic addition to any mobility based workout. They’re fun and easy to understand. It’s basically jogging on the spot, but seeing how close you can get your knees to your chest with each step. Make sure you have enough space around you in case you lose your balance!
Squats are the marmite of bodyweight strength exercises. You either love them or hate them. People usually hate them because they either find the form hard to get right or because they think they look a little silly doing them. Don’t shy away just because of appearances though! Squats (and all of the squat variants) are fantastic at building glute and leg strength. They are also just as simple to slot into just about any other workout. Just make sure you are standing shoulder-width apart for a standard squat, and lean back slightly so you are driving through your heels, work on that form!
Often mistaken simply for a stretch, lunges (especially high mobility variants like the jumping or plyometric lunge) are fantastic at challenging your entire leg’s worth of muscles, as well as being an all-round solid cardio choice.
Crunches are a common addition for lots of these circuits, and it’s easy to see why. They can be modified in so many ways to optimise their placement. Crunches are also perfect for a Tabata workout where timing is key. There’s no space to get confused about form and miss out on bits of an interval.
Mountain climbers can be a killer until you get used to them, which is why a 20 second interval is a perfect home for them! Mountain climbers are performed in straight arm plank position, by bringing your right knee to your right elbow, returning to start and repeating on the opposite side. Some workouts call for slow, controlled balance here, whereas others favour a faster, more mobility focused mountain climber.
Advanced Tabata workout circuit
Burpees (or ‘bastards’ as my ex-fitness teacher father remembers them as) are a common, oft-hated mobility exercises. Starting from standing, drop down to plank position, jump your legs back towards your hands and jump up to standing. Then immediately repeat. Definitely one that works your whole body, and very hard to keep up for longer lengths of time.
Think Spiderman. Feel Spiderman. Be Spiderman. The spider crawl is one of those fun (yet challenging) exercises that work your full body wonderfully.
A killer move, not for the feint of heart! This is essentially a normal push up, but with the addition of spider legs! Definitely good material for a Tabata workout as doing this for longer than 20 seconds takes expert level fitness.
A jumping (or plyometric) lunge is a regular lunge, with a jump as you move to your opposite side. Simple enough but we guarantee you’ll start to feel this one quick!
Last but not least, any form of rowing, either with weights or using a rowing machine, are fantastic for a Tabata workout. They are easily scaled with different weight or resistance settings, and fun to do in short bursts.
All levels Tabata workout circuit
Total time: 26 minutes
- 5 min warm-up with stretching
- 8 rounds of exercises below (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest)
- High knees
- 5 min cool down with stretching
Remember, each ‘round’ consists of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Repeating this eight times gives us a total of four minutes per exercise!
Is a Tabata workout safe?
As long as you know your limits and listen to your body, it’s perfectly safe to give a Tabata workout a try. Make sure you properly stretch before and after your workout to make sure your muscles are prepped. We would recommend aiming for about 20 minutes total for your session. Any more and you increase the risk of injury. Anyway, a Tabata workout is supposed to be a short session anyway, so going for longer kind of defeats the point.
Due to the high level of intensity involved with a Tabata workout, two or three times a week should be your limit for this kind of session. You’ll definitely know what we mean the day after you complete your first one anyway. And if you feel like you can do more – you aren’t doing them hard enough.
Is a Tabata workout right for me?
Tabata workouts are designed to increase your overall performance as an athlete, but some of us might not be very focused on that. Even if you have a more casual attitude to fitness and exercise, don’t put off trying a Tabata workout. Any form of HIIT circuit can be a fantastic way to burn calories (even after you stop working out) and honestly, they’re really fun! Being able to fit this much efficient exercise into such a short amount of time is perfect for our modern, 21st century lifestyles. We would easily recommend a Tabata workout to anyone able, at least give it a go!
Trying Tabata with Auro
If you’re signed up to our app, Auro has plenty of Tabata style classes to choose from, for all skill levels. Most of them don’t include much in the way of equipment (if any) so they’re easy to pick up and try at home during lockdown. Here’s three of our favourite from across our library. And don’t remember you can sign up to the free trial if you want to put yourself to the test, no strings attached!
- Credible crunches: Brand new to Auro is Ellie’s fantastic crunch circuit. An ideal starting point if you’re looking for your first Tabata workout. A breezy 10-minute session featuring three crunch variants and a bear crawl tap, so you’ll be spending the whole class on the floor!
- Tabata training: A perfect class for intermediate level users. Ban blasts though an 18-minute Tabata workout including jumping lunges, high plank jacks, high knees and much more! Perfect if you like to keep mobile, and easily doable at home as it requires no equipment.
- It’s time for glory: Something a little different for our more experienced users. Lucy gives the Tabata workout method the cross trainer treatment, with a punishing half hour session that we guarantee you will feel after.