TABATA: Why it Works and How To See Maximum Results

TABATA is a form of interval training. It involves performing an exercise for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds, and repeating this pattern for 4 minutes– giving you 8 total rounds of the exercise.
Interval training has proven to be more effective for fat loss and for improving both aerobic and anaerobic fitness than long duration cardio at low/moderate intensity. So, why is it that working out for less time can actually give you better results than working out for a longer period of time?


The simple answer is that since Tabata is performed for a shorter amount of time, you can work at a much higher intensity. Working at a higher intensity means that your energy systems (metabolism) are working harder to create energy from its available sources (stored calories). Basically, you work harder, so you burn more calories. You also continue to burn more calories throughout the rest of the day because you have amped up your metabolism from working so hard during your Tabata workout.


Here are a few guidelines for designing the best Tabata workout for yourself:

1)    Choose exercises that use as many muscle groups as possible. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with doing bicep curls in a Tabata format, you won’t see nearly as much benefit as if you did front squats, for example, because front squats require more of a total body effort than a bicep curl.

2)    Avoid doing Tabata on consecutive days. Because Tabata is so exhaustive, you want to wait at least a day in between workouts to allow for full recovery.

3)    Keep it simple. The exercises don’t have to be complicated to get the results you want.

 4)    Choose a maximum of 4-5 exercises to do in a Tabata workout. A total of 20-30 minutes is the most you should do at once. Be sure to rest 1 minute in between exercises.

A Tabata workout would look something like this:

  • Warm up
  • Exercise 1 (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest) x8
  • Rest one minute
  • Exercise 2 (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest) x8
  • Rest one minute
  • Exercise 3 (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest) x8
  • Rest one minute
  • Exercise 4 (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest) x8
  • Rest one minute
  • Exercise 5 (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest) x8
  • Cool down with light stretching


Try out Campus Recreation’s Tabata Bootcamp during NIRSA Fitness Week on Thursday, February 25 from 10:00-10:40 AM or 5:30-6:10 PM. Register at


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