Due to my schedule, I’m not able to work out for long periods of time. My workout sessions typically consist of a quick, dynamic warm up, followed by a bout of Cardio Strength Training (think circuits and supersetting), and then Tabata at the end as a “finisher.” Since I don’t have the time to do long bouts of cardio (i.e. jogging for 20 minutes), nor the attention span, I prefer my workouts to be shorter but more intense. I love Tabata because it gives me the most bang for my fat-burning buck.
So what is Tabata? Tabata is a form of interval training that requires you to perform an exercise AS FAST AS YOU CAN for 20 seconds, followed by only 10 seconds of rest. You do this for 8 rounds, which adds up to just shy of four minutes total. I wrote “AS FAST AS YOU CAN” because speed is the name of the game with this protocol. You won’t reap the fat-burning benefits of Tabata if you are simply pacing yourself in order to last the full four minutes. There are plenty of times where I have to stop 2 or 3 minutes in because I just can’t take it anymore and don’t want to cheat by loafing my way through the rest, turning it into steady-state cardio.
I recommend building yourself up before going for the full four minutes. Try doing 1 minute for a week, then two minutes the next week, then three minutes, until you’re ready to graduate by doing four minutes of Tabata! You can also build yourself up by doing 10 seconds hard, with 20 seconds of rest for a week or two, then go 15:15 until you’re finally ready for 20 seconds on, 10 off. And of course, don’t do Tabata every day. You’ll get burned out and/or “used to it.” I personally do it 4 or 5 times a week maximum. Two or three times a week is plenty.
I typically like to pick four exercises so that I don’t murder myself, but still feel adequately challenged (four minutes of mountain climbers is Hell on Earth. But hey, don’t let me stop you from trying it!). Some of my favorite Tabata exercises are:
Kettlebell Swings, Squat Jumps, Lunge Jumps, Burpees, Mountain Climbers, Jumping Jacks, Sprints, Shuffles, Battle Ropes, Grasshoppers, and High knees, to name a few.
If you’re confused by my rambling, or just want to see a full four minutes in action, check out this video of Erin Stern doing Tabata: