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