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What Are Tabata Workouts?

iFIT Team

READ TIME:8 min.

You may have heard the word “Tabata” passed around in the fitness industry, but you may not be completely familiar with this type of workout. If you’ve done an iFIT HIIT workout, chances are you’ve worked through a Tabata-style circuit. While Tabata is not a direct synonym of HIIT, it is a specific type. Between the two, the rest periods are the primary difference. HIIT workouts are very versatile from workout to workout, meaning the rest periods are shorter or longer depending on the routine. Tabata exercises, however, have a set structure that does not vary.

Developed in 1996 by Dr. Izumi Tabata, this style of exercise is quite unique in its setup. Tabata exercises1 are primarily four minutes long. During this time, 20 seconds are spent engaged in work (like burpees, air squats, or jumping rope), followed by 10 seconds of rest. This 20-10 pattern is repeated until you reach four minutes. True Tabata occurs over eight 4-minute intervals. According to Dr. Tabata’s study above, his fast-paced, high-intensity method keeps your heart rate elevated. With Tabata, you have the potential to do a great amount of work in a short amount of time, as maintained by Tabata’s research. 

Could Tabata be a fun, worthwhile workout option for you? We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Tabata workouts, from fitness benefits to sample workout routines you can get started on right away. Once you’ve tried a few Tabata moves, you can get going with a trainer-led iFIT Tabata class that is sure to challenge your cardiovascular fitness!

What are Tabata workouts?

What are the benefits of Tabata workouts?

Can a four-minute exercise round really contribute to overall health? This is a valid question, as you might struggle to see the merit in such a short workout duration. However, as Dr. Tabata discovered in his 1996 study2, Tabata’s short time frame coupled with explosive exercises contributes to cardiovascular conditioning. In Dr. Tabata’s study, the anaerobic capacities and V02 max3 scores of the experimental group were both observed to be elevated as a consequence of Tabata-style exercise (specifically with exercise bicycle training).

Though the study is now over 20 years old, the benefits of Tabata workouts continue to hold true. There are many perks of Tabata training that, when paired with regular exercise and a healthy diet, can up your fitness game! If you’re wondering if Tabata workouts are right for your goals, here’s what you need to know.

Tabata is time-friendly

If you find yourself short on time more often than not, you’re not alone. Many skip out on lengthy exercise sessions due to other important time commitments like family, school, or work. If this sounds like you, Tabata exercise could be a great choice for getting back into a fitness routine. Since workout rounds are kept within a 4-minute time frame, you can either give it your all during those four minutes or complete eight rounds for a true Tabata workout. You’ll get an effective workout in well under 30 minutes, making it a great option for lunch break athletes, early risers, busy parents, and virtually anyone else!

It trains your body to quickly adapt

Tabata is excellent for increasing aerobic capacity. If you’re searching for a new kind of challenge, Tabata delivers high-intensity work. In a 2017 study4 examining the effect of Tabata training on aerobic capacity, researchers grouped 18 female futsal (akin to indoor soccer) players. After Tabata training, the participants’ V02 max scores were higher, indicating an increase in aerobic capacity. These results may suggest that the participants quickly adapted to the high-intensity nature of Tabata training, which can influence cardiovascular conditioning. As you get accustomed to Tabata exercises, you will find that you have an easier time pacing yourself and controlling your breathing during the workout. You can thank your body for this, as it works hard to adapt to the challenges you engage in.

Tabata is effective for cardiovascular health

As a variation of HIIT, Tabata exercises5 are very high-intensity, which makes them incredibly helpful for building cardiovascular conditioning. During the 20-second burst of activity, you’ll quickly rep out the exercise at hand. Over time, your conditioning should improve as you become more proficient at Tabata workouts. This is why many endurance athletes use Tabata exercises as preparation for longer periods of running or cycling. Even if you’re more interested in weightlifting, a few Tabata intervals offer a perfect way to warm up your muscles with a quick cardio workout.

iFIT Tabata exercise

It boosts your metabolism and offers greater caloric burn

Coupled with the spike in heart rate, doing a Tabata workout may contribute to an increase in your overall caloric expenditure. In a 2013 study6 funded by ACE, participants engaged in 20-minute Tabata workouts (five 4-minute Tabata rounds). The results of the study indicated that Tabata workouts can improve cardiorespiratory endurance and may contribute to an increase in caloric expenditure. Group a few Tabata workouts together (eight for a full session) and get your sweat on!

Tabata workouts do not require equipment

If you don’t have a home gym, Tabata exercises may be the perfect fit for you! You can do a Tabata-style workout with exercises like mountain climbers, tricep dips, lunges, and push-ups. Bodyweight alone can deliver a grueling workout just like a routine with dumbbells or resistance bands. Not only can Tabata be your next home workout, but you can also knock Tabata exercises out on the go. Since they’re short, you won’t feel like you need to break away from a family vacation or work trip to exercise. Tabata is also a good option for on-the-go users since it doesn’t require much space (depending on the chosen exercises). You can get your heart pumping with a few Tabata exercises and feel good about ticking that workout box for the day!

Tabata exercises are worthwhile for beginners

Since Tabata exercises are four minutes long, they can be a great place to start for those new to fitness. Unlike a longer HIIT session, these are easier to acclimate to, especially when you’re a beginner. You’ll be able to work on your conditioning in short spans of time. This will pay off in the long run, as you’ll have improved endurance and physical ability to tackle more challenging types of workouts in the future.

What are some examples of Tabata exercises?

You may be thinking that Tabata workouts sound interesting enough to try. Luckily, putting together a Tabata workout can be very easy! Here are a few sample exercises you can try today. Tackle single exercise Tabata workouts or opt for routines that involve several different movements. If you’re a beginner, it may be best to start with a single exercise Tabata routine.

Single exercises

Try single exercises like burpees, push-ups, or planks in this format:

  • 20 seconds on
  • 10 seconds off
  • Repeat 8x
Woman works out with iFIT Tabata exercises

Multiple exercises

Air squats and lunges (one air squat and one lunge on each leg = one repetition)

  • 20 seconds on
  • 10 seconds off
  • Repeat 8x

Burpees and tuck jumps (one burpee and one tuck jump = one repetition)

  • 20 seconds on
  • 10 seconds off
  • Repeat 8x

Squat thrusts and frog jumps (one squat thrust and one frog jump = one repetition)

  • 20 seconds on
  • 10 seconds off
  • Repeat 8x

Try an iFIT Tabata workout

If home workouts have felt boring or unorganized in the past, iFIT can change your perspective on at-home fitness! In our incredible workout Library, we offer over 100 Tabata-style workouts led by our world-class personal trainers. Our Tabata classes are engaging and motivating, challenging you to bring your very best to every workout session. Your next home workout doesn’t have to feel lackluster when you have the support of an iFIT Trainer and the structured format of a Tabata class! 

When you sign up for the iFIT fitness app, you can jump right into a Tabata class with a personal trainer pushing you through those tough four minutes. Our workouts are filmed in stunning locations all over the world, so you’ll get the opportunity to knock out Tabata workouts in the Caribbean, Italy, Turkey, and so many other must-see locales. Our Trainers will help keep you pumped the entire time, so you can keep moving forward toward your fitness goals. With Tabata, you can put in hard work and feel good about taking time for yourself without sacrificing substantial time. That is, you can get in an effective workout in under 30 minutes during a lunch break or in the early morning before your busy day starts.

Man does an iFIT Tabata workout

Top 10 iFIT Tabata workouts

With iFIT-enabled equipment, you can sign up for Tabata workouts that incorporate high-intensity running, cycling, and rowing in the classic four-minute format. Many of our workout series use Tabata for equipment-based workouts instead of bodyweight. These will help boost your cardiovascular fitness as you go all-out on your treadmill, elliptical, bike, rower, or strength machine. Here are our top 10 Tabata workouts, each of which are a part of a longer workout series. 

Which Tabata workout will you choose first? Start a new fitness journey with our Tabata classes to see for yourself how powerful these short, high-intensity workouts can be.

Sign up for your free iFIT 30-day trial to start a Tabata workout today!

References

1. Tabata, I., Nishimura, K., Kouzaki, M., Hirai, Y., Ogita, F., Miyachi, M., & Yamamoto, K. (1996). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 28(10), 1327–1330. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018.

2.Tabata, I., Nishimura, K., Kouzaki, M., Hirai, Y., Ogita, F., Miyachi, M., & Yamamoto, K. (1996). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 28(10), 1327–1330. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018.

3. Quinn, E. (2020). VO2 max testing in athletes: Measuring cardio fitness and endurance capacity. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-vo2-max-3120097. 

4. Imanudin, I., & Sultoni, K. (2017, March 1). Tabata training for increasing aerobic capacity. IOP Science. https://doi.org/10.1088/1757-899X/180/1/012205. 

5. McMahan, I. (2021, February 18). What is a tabata workout? And should you be doing them? Today. https://www.today.com/health/should-you-be-doing-tabata-workouts-t209403.

6. Emberts, T., Porcari, J., Dobers-Tein, S., Steffen, J., & Foster, C. (2013, September 1). Exercise intensity and energy expenditure of a tabata workout. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 12(3), 612–613. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772611/.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFIT assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment.


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