How to do a Tabata Workout and five reasons you should be doing them.

How to do a Tabata Workout and five reasons you should be doing them. - WELLFITandFED

I have a good friend who is starting back to exercising and asked for my help. In preparation for our next meeting, I suggested that he look up “Tabata”.


After doing a little research, he texted me a very frightened icon face and said that he thought I might be trying to kill him. Somehow a little internet education on Tabata led him to believe I was going to attempt an assassination on his life with the murder weapon being vigorous exercise.


I was not.


But, he was right. Most definitions of Tabata are a little misleading. Online you will see super-fit, muscly, people jumping up and down from metal boxes and throwing themselves through series of burpees circuits. (Still, don’t have to do these. Read why!) These articles would have you believe that any slightly out of shape person should appraise Tabata with a “scrunchy” face interpretable only as “NO. WAY.”




Tabata is not a cruel and unusual punishment. Put very simply, Tabata is a method of exercise developed by some Japanese dude. His intention was to intuit a way to give athletes an edge over their competitors. After much study, Dr. Izumi Tabata determined that a method of specific interval training boosted strength, speed, and endurance more effectively than traditional forms of exercise. So, he slapped his name on it and ran.

Tabata was born.


Dr. Izumi tested his methods on Olympic caliber athletes, and it worked, really, really well. But good news Squishy, most anyone can do Tabata and reap the same great rewards. 

You do not have to fear catapulting through exercises for which you are not capable or ready.

So defined simply, Tabata is a workout of intervals comprised of intense, 20-second rounds with 10-second rest periods in between.


You can perform just about any exercise during the 20 seconds as long as it is physically taxing. It is commonly recommended that the Tabata be performed for eight rounds (give or take) depending on the athlete’s (or squishy person’s) ability. If you stick to pure Tabata style, your workout is 4 minutes. (What??- Not lying.)

However, lots of folks recommend doing back to back Tabata to comprise a 20-minute workout. (See insert examples of Tabata)


photo (1)


So what specific reasons can I provide to convince
you to implement Tabata into your fitness regimen?


The Five Reasons You Should Be Doing Tabata Workouts.

1) Faster Workout: Tabata workouts, because of their level of intensity, are by their very nature, shorter workouts. These speedy workouts are fantastic when you want to get maximum reward for minimal time investment. Tabatas are super to do on days when “you don’t have time” to work out!
2) Cardiovascular Improvement: Challenging the heart above and beyond the typical 30-minute steady pace on the elliptical (come on, I’ve seen you!) is going to greatly improve cardiovascular endurance and strength.
3) Weight loss: Although you are active for less time with this type of workout, Tabata training creates an “after burn” that helps burn more calories for the rest of the day. Tabata-style workouts are also extremely effective for burning fat more efficiently.
4) Muscle Strength: Explosive movements often performed during Tabata stress the muscle differently than slow, steady pace movements. Think of sprinter’s body versus a long distance runner. Who has more muscle mass? You will become stronger with a shorter workout, and in less overall time, than with traditional weight lifting or cardio workouts.
5) Mental Challenge: Want to take your mind off working out? When you are trying to beat the clock with these 20-second intervals and then begging the clock to slow down on the ten second rests your workout is over before you know it. Your brain responds positively to this type of challenge readily staying engaged during the whole workout process instead of tuning out. Trust me, you cannot check Facebook while going through a Tabata.

Yes, these workouts are likely more intense than you are used to and if you have any injuries or are severely deconditioned you should not try Tabata right out of the gate. But, many able bodies shy away from this fantastic and efficient form of exercise when they could be making significantly speedier gains toward health goals. 

So in case you are not clear what a Tabata workout looks like you can see a nice simple, non-life threatening one I put myself through in a little fishing village in Nazare, Portugal. Here I used five exercises and performed each for twenty seconds with intensity. This is referred to as a “mixed-Tabata” workout. Only ten second rest periods. I also note you could add additional cardio if you wanted to (or are crazy). 



[Tweet “TABATA is a great way to lose the “squish”. “]


first-steps-logo-RGBThe next time you work out consider choosing four different exercises. I like to select an upper body, lower body, core and balance exercise for my Mixed-Tabata. Perform each exercise as rapidly as you can (safely and with proper form) for 20 seconds. Rest for ten seconds and then go to the next exercise. After completing the four exercises repeat the circuit 4-5 times. Push yourself to about 80 percent maximum output to get the most challenge and positive effects of the Tabata workout. If you want a great sampling of exercises, check out this article

Some other Exercise Posts you will love!



33 Responses

  1. This sounds interesting! I had never heard of Tabata before but it looks like it is worth trying out. Thanks for explaining it and giving me some ideas to implement it.

  2. I love Tabata. I tell myself all I need to do is get through the next 20 seconds and then I get to rest. And before you know it the whole work out is done!

  3. My workouts have come to a screeching halt over the last several months, so this will be good to have a mentally easy focus to get me going again. Thank for the kick start

  4. I chose Pilates as my work out of voice because I could work out lying down!!

    I do want to integrate something a bit more challenging, so maybe… I’ll do these lunges you were talking about!

    1. Ha ha! Have you seen Pitch Perfect? “Horizontal Running!!” Pilates is awesome but I do believe that you have to have heart rate challanging workouts as well. Good luck with your new challange!

  5. Tabata workouts are awesome! It’s such a great way to get the most out of a small amount of time. I’ll be trying out your “Workout Wednesday” suggestion.

    Happy New Year,

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About Dr. Denniston

Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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