Four Minute Workout: Tabata Time

I used to throw the word “Tabata” around my Spin class all the time, kind of assuming everyone knew what it was.  A student once came up to me after class and told me she loved the “focaccia” workout.  It was then I realized that no one had a damn clue what I was saying.

gymboss-interval-timer-1Tabata is a term that refers to a training method, theorized by a doctor named Izumi Tabata, during which you perform 20 seconds of maximum-effort activity followed by 10 seconds of total rest, for a total of 8 rounds (4 minutes).  The concept became popular when Tabata’s study found that athletes performing 4 Tabata and 1 steady-state cardio workouts per week had significantly greater fitness gains than athletes performing 5 steady-state workouts per week.

Scienftic stuff aside, Tabata drills are simple.  Not easy; mind you, they’re very physically taxing.  But if you do them correctly, they require very little thought (can you come up with 2-8 exercises to alternate?), very little space/equipment (you can do an entire Tabata with just your body weight), and very little time (again, 4 minutes per cycle – and you can “stack” cycles onto each other to make a longer workout).

I use Tabatas all the time when I know I have to sneak in a specific body-part session (like chest, back, or biceps/triceps) or when I need to force myself to do high intensity cardio (think burpees, mountain climbers, and jumping jacks).  They are also great to use for a quick abs workout to tack on to the end of a steady-state or other workout.

Here are a few of my favorite Tabata combos – take ’em to your gym!

UPPER BODY TABATA [20 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x 8 rounds]

Biceps curls / shoulder presses / triceps dips / pushups / bench presses / lat pull-downs / lateral shoulder raises / rear flyes

CARDIO  TABATA [20 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x 8 rounds]

Burpees / mountain climbers / jump squats / jumping jacks / jump lunges / plank jacks / speed skaters / tuck jumps

CORE  TABATA [20 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x 8 rounds]

Bicycles / reverse crunches / hollow rocks / stability ball crunches / knees to elbows / Rocky crunches / plank-ups / Roman Chair extensions

You can set your watch or download a free Tabata timer app to help you stay on course, and remember – be tough!  The more effort you give to the 20-second intensity intervals, the more useful these short sessions can be.

What’s your go-to “quickie” workout – what do you do when you have 15 minutes or less to work out?

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