It’s going around the internet lately: A 4-minute workout that will change your fitness. The Tabata workout takes the concept of high-intensity interval training to another level — a really tough level. But can you get fit in just four minutes? And should you try it?
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is touted by the American Council on Exercise as a way to add some variety to your workouts while improving your fitness. It alternates higher intensity spurts with recovery to increase the overall intensity of your workout. It also combats the boredom of steady-state cardio sessions and can get you results in a short amount of time.
Tabata takes the standard HIIT workout up a notch and gets much more specific. While your standard interval workout can be whatever you want it to be — a 1-minute push followed by a 2-minute recovery on the treadmill; jumping rope for 30 seconds followed by a brisk recovery walk, for example — the Tabata workout follows a specific timed interval. After a warm-up, you choose one exercise, like push-ups, and do it for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. You repeat that eight times for a total of four minutes per move. Tabata workouts can be done on cardio equipment, but lately fit pros are incorporating strength moves for a torturous and effective workout.
When I tried a Tabata workout, I thought it would be challenging, but I wasn’t prepared for the sweat. The Tabata workout I did consisted of four moves for the required four minutes each: push-ups, jump rope, squats, and mountain climbers. Four minutes may not seem like a lot, but it feels like an eternity after a couple of rounds of one move. On the flip side, the 10 seconds of recovery flies by way too fast! My Tabata workout made me so sore, in a good way, only I couldn’t really move my arms very well for a couple of days.
So while Tabata is definitely effective and will have you pushing your workouts and yourself to the next level, you have to exercise caution. Tabata is called “punishing” by some fitness pros, and those who want to take on the challenge should move at their own pace (and have doctor approval, as with all exercise programs). With that said, here are a few tips for Tabata first-timers.
Tabata Tips for the Newbie
1. Don’t be fooled. It’s not a 4-minute workout, although that sounds awesome. The focus is on each move for four minutes. If you do several moves, you add four minutes per move, plus a warm-up and cool down.
2. Warm up and cool down. Move around for a few minutes at a minimum to warm up and do the same to cool down afterwards. Your muscles will also be screaming for a stretch afterward, so listen to them.
4. Start small. You might be tempted to go for a 40-minute Tabata workout right out of the gate, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.
5. Work to your own level. As with any workout, you want to be challenged, not miserable or in pain. If something hurts, stop. Don’t be afraid to slow down. There are no Tabata spies making sure you don’t skip a 20-second interval.
Now, who’s ready to get sweaty?