Tabata: The 4 Minute Workout

Recently, me the guys in the house have been doing ‘Stop Drop & Tabata Burpees.’
At any time during the day, someone will shout ‘Tabata Burpees,’ meaning we all have to stop what we are doing and get the 4-minute workout done.

This is us doing Tabata burpees mid-kitchen clean πŸ˜‚

I like Tabata because it’s quick and gets my heart rate high.
If I’m having a mid-afternoon energy slump Tabata will energise me, plus it has some decent health benefits.

As we were throwing ourselves on the ground today, it got me thinking, β€˜where did Tabata come from and what’s the science behind it?’

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a high-intensity 4 minute workout.
It’s 8 rounds of 20 seconds exercise with 10 seconds rest in between.
The 20 seconds of exercise is maximum effort.

Where did Tabata come from?

Tabata was designed by a Japanese scientist called Dr. Izumi Tabata in 1996.

The doctor and his group of researchers worked with a group of athletes and spilt them into two groups:
Group A did 60 minutes of moderate exercise on an exercise bike, five days a week for six weeks.
Group B did a four minute Tabata workout on an exercise bike, four days a week for six weeks.

At the end of the six week test period, Group A had improved their aerobic fitness, but not showed no improvement in their anaerobic system. Group B showed improvements in both their aerobic and their anaerobic fitness levels.

What are the benefits of Tabata?

The high effort and short rest mean the body doesn’t get time to recover. This pushes the systems in the body, forcing them to adapt, which in turn makes it fitter and stronger.

Below are some of the health benefits of Tabata:

  • Maximum results in the shortest amount of time
  • Burn fat
  • Build muscle
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Improve anaerobic fitness – increase power and muscle strength
  • Improves lactic acid tolerance helping build endurance
  • Improve VO2 max – the amount of oxygen uptake during exercise

Good Tabata workouts

Tabata is suited to exercises which use large muscles groups.
Ideal exercises are:

Bodyweight exercises:
Jumping squats

Exercises using equipment:
Rowing machine
Bike – the assault bike is one of my favourites for Tabata
Kettlebell swings
Ski erg – another of my favourites
Battle ropes


– I’m not keen on Tabata push-ups because it fatigues my muscles too much and leaves me achy the next day.
I also can’t push hard into the cardiovascular system doing pushups.

– I feel the same about treadmill sprints – I would rather sprint on a track or in a field. Setting the treadmill to the right speed and doing maximum effort gives me visions of laying in a heap at the back of the machine.

– I’ve seen suggestions online to do four Tabata workouts back to back, using 4 different exercises for each set. I’m not sure how I feel about this as this defeats the point of the workout being a Tabata – 4 minutes.

– Tabata should not be the only style of workout you do, nor should it replace all workouts. Instead, it is a great supplement to support your existing fitness programme.

– If you are new to exercise or have injuries I would recommend you seek professional advice before starting a Tabata workout. Your muscles and cardiovascular system may not be conditioned and you might do more harm than good.

Do you do Tabata workouts? If so, which exercises do you like?
Come find me on social media and let me know.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. I write this for research and as a reference for myself because I do Tabata workouts a few times a week.
I like to know the history behind it and how it works on my body.
If you are unsure whether to do Tabata workouts, please seek advice from a medical professional.