The name may sound funny—Tabata—but for those who have tried it, there is nothing funny about it. It is one of the most challenging, yet highly effective interval training methods that has hit the fitness industry. For those unfamiliar with this style of training, it is quite simple. Choose an exercise (either a strength move or a cardiovascular exercise) and perform it for twenty seconds straight followed by ten seconds of rest. Continue this 20/10 split seven more times for a total of eight rounds. When those four minutes are up, you will definitely realize the challenge and intensity of this type of training. What is great about Tabata is that it is not only extremely effective for fat burning and muscle building, but it is also time-efficient.
The best part about Tabata (named after a Japanese professor) is that you can use any exercise you want—pull-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, jumping rope, sprints. You name it, you can Tabata it. The more difficult the exercise, the harder the four minutes will be and while just about any exercise is going to be a real challenge when done Tabata style, there are five moves you should definitely include in your Tabata routine.
1. Burpees: Just mention the word burpees and most people go running for the hills. But doing them Tabata-style gives a whole new meaning to tough. And regardless of whether your burpees are chest to the floor, include a push-up or are of a modified intensity, those four minutes will feel like forever. Quite honestly, after four minutes of burpees, you may not have any need to hit the treadmill or elliptical—it is that good!
2. Shoulder Presses: This total-body strength exercise will also serve as a cardiovascular exercise if you use heavy weights. Hold a set of weights at your shoulders and squat. As you come up from the squat (not after), push the weights up and overhead. Bring them back down to your shoulders as you go right back into your squat. Aside from improving your strength, it is also a great abdominal exercise.
3. Rail Hops: As the name implies, picture yourself jumping over a railing or in this case, a bench (or a high step). Place your hands on the end of the bench/step with your legs on one side. Hop both legs at the same time over the bench. Go as fast as you can for the twenty seconds of work. Try to keep the focus on using your abdominal muscles rather than your hip flexors to get your legs up and over the bench. Your upper body will get a great workout as well as your heart.
4. Renegade Row/Push-up Combo: Nothing builds upper body strength like push-ups and rows. Grab a challenging set of weights and hold them while in a push-up position. Perform a one-arm row on the right side and then do one push-up. Repeat the row on the left and do a push-up. Keep alternating between rows and push-ups for the twenty seconds. I often perform these as a finisher to my chest and back workout and they are a killer! Again, the heavier the weight, the more challenging it will be for both your muscles and your cardiovascular conditioning.
5. Jump Lunges: Take your lunges to the next level by adding jumps to them. Start in a lunge position with your right leg front and left leg back. Quickly jump while switching your legs so your left leg is now front and your right leg is now back. Keep jumping and switching through each cycle of twenty seconds. Make sure that you are lunging and not just performing small ski jumps. You really want that back leg to be bent. Keep your abdominals tight and your upper body tall throughout the movement.
If you have not yet tried Tabata, choose one of these exercises or one of your own. Start with a lighter weight to get used to doing this type of training. Twenty seconds may not sound like a lot, but after eight completed cycles you will soon appreciate its effectiveness and why people have added Tabata to their regular routine.
My daughter recently asked me which class I teach is the most difficult. Without hesitation, I said Tabata. That is right—an entire hour of Tabata burpees, push-ups, jump lunges, mountain climbers, push presses and much, much more. It is the one class everyone loves to hate, but can never get enough of. So grab your stop watch, take a deep breath and give it a try. Hey, it is only four minutes, right? You can’t beat that for heart-pumping, muscle-building, fat-burning, metabolism-boosting exercise!