Tabata Training: lose weight with the 4 minute workout

  By Néstor Sánchez  /  

We can agree that Tabata training (AKA Tabata Protocol or “the 4 minute workout”) is the most popular format for a HIIT workout, and in this article we’ll show you how to do a tabata workout.  

But what is Tabata training? And what is HIIT?

tabata training

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT has become a buzzword, and for good reason–it’s a method that’s extremely effective in burning fat and strengthening.

But HIIT has its limits, and its soaring popularity has lead to a lot of (sometimes misleading) headlines like “ lose weight in 7 minutes” or “hey you, yes you, forget aerobic workouts!”

In this article we explain the history of Tabata, why it works and is effective, it’s limitations and missuses. And bonus: we’ve provided a Tabata workout for you that takes four minutes and will feel like you’ve done an hour long workout.

What is Tabata training

Tabata training is defined as being 8 rounds of 20 seconds of one high-intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. It’s also known as “the 4 minute workout ” ( 8 x (20 seconds of effort + 10 seconds of rest) = 4 minutes).

Its inventor, Izumi Tabata, developed this method while conducting research on HIIT. He discovered that combining intense efforts with short breaks in a single session can develop both the aerobic and the anaerobic systems.

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Why is Tabata effective

Until Mr. Tabata’s findings, physiology texts recommended hard, short intervals with long rest periods to improve anaerobic system and longer intervals with short rest periods to train the aerobic system.

The big surprise and revolution of the method is that it proved 20 seconds of activity with 10 seconds of rest is optimal to improve both aerobic and anaerobic capacity at the same time. So, you can earn great results with very little time using a Tabata workout.

Regardless of the exercise used, when performed at a high intensity, both metabolism and heart rate increase immediately. That is, the heart pumps faster and you burn more calories. Winning!

Tabata and other HIIT methods are highly effective methods to lose weight because the benefits last a number of hours after working out, so you continue to burn fat longer.

Benefits of Tabata training

    • Decreases cortisol (stress hormone which leads to weight gain) production and improves your tolerance to stress, as you can see here.

Improves your management of sugar. By increasing your metabolism, you burn more calories and keep burning more for much longer than you might think.

  • Stimulates the release of testosterone (vitality) and growth hormone (regeneration).
  • They’re very short. Perfect training for the days when you don’t have even half an hour to train (Tabata workouts are only 4 minutes long on average).

How to lose weight with Tabata training

  1. Choose exercises that use several muscle groups at once. The more muscles you use, the more oxygen your cardiovascular system will require. For a list of best options to create a Tabata workout, here’s a list of the best functional exercises to do at home.
  2. Give it your all. The key to this is the intensity: high.
  3. Warm up and cool down after your workout. It will help you recover and opens a larger window for you to burn fat (check out our specific fat loss plan)
  4. Workout during any strategic fasting you’re doing (at least 3.5 hours after the last meal). This makes fat burning multiply (checkout the benefits of working out on an empty stomach).

Before starting a Tabata Workout regime

It’s demanding, both physically and mentally.

It requires motivation.

After the completion of the study, even the method’s creator warned that the training is “designed to stress the cardiovascular system of Japanese skaters who won medals at the Olympic Games. It’s a very difficult workout. After the sessions, study subjects were lying on the ground, exhausted. I don’t know how many people will want to do this kind of exercise.”

Keep the following in mind before you start a Tabata workout regime:

  1. If you do not put in the intensity, it’s useless.
  2. Since it is stressful, you should not abuse it or overtrain. For beginners, doing a HIIT routine twice a week is a good start.
  3. Although this workout can effectively improve your aerobic health, solely training using this method will not make you marathon ready. Your body has to realize the improvements, so don’t banish long workouts completely.

Example Tabata Workout

Burpees: 8 intervals of 20 seconds of activity and 10 seconds of rest. A good reference is between 6 and 8 burpees per set.

Pushups: 8 intervals of 20 seconds of activity and 10 seconds of rest. A good reference is between 7 and 14 pushups per set.

Squat jumps: 8 intervals of 20 seconds of activity and 10 seconds of rest. A good reference is 10-18 squats per set.

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