What Is Tabata Workout: History, Structure, And How It Works?

If you want to lose weight quickly, as well as qualitatively improve your shape, regular exercise on the Tabata protocol is a great way to achieve the goal. We offer you the most complete guide to Tabata workouts with a detailed description of their features and benefits, as well as a ready selection of Tabata exercises + exercise patterns.

History of Tabata Training

Tabata training is high-intensity interval training, the goal of which is to perform the maximum number of movements in the minimum amount of time. Tabata has gained incredible popularity among those who train, because of its very simple and versatile methodology. In tandem with other high-intensity workouts, Tabata is gradually replacing classical aerobics and moderate-intensity cardio in the schedule of fitness enthusiasts.

In 1996, Japanese physiologist and doctoral student Izumi Tabata conducted research to find an effective way to increase the endurance of athletes. Izumi Tabata and a team of scientists from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo have chosen two groups of exercisers. For six weeks, one group of athletes exercised at medium intensity (MI), and the other group exercised at a high intensity (HI). The MI group was training five days a week for one hour, and the HI group was training four days a week for four minutes.

As a result, the MI group had better aerobic performance (VO2max – the amount of oxygen consumed – increased by 5 ml/kg/min), but almost no change in anaerobic performance. The second group also had an increase in aerobic system performance (VO2max increased by 7 ml/kg/min) and anaerobic endurance increased by 28%.

The aerobic system works during light, low-intensity exertion (jogging, walking, quiet cycling). The anaerobic system activates short-term heavy loads (sprinting, lifting large weights with low repetitions, explosive movements) or prolonged intensive loads (high-intensity interval training, middle-distance running).

abs exercises

Developing different types of endurance will improve your performance in any sport and will come in handy in everyday life. It will be easier for you to climb stairs, carry heavy things, and perform similar everyday tasks.

The Tabata protocol had been tested in a rigorous scientific setting. And it had become one of the strongest proofs of the effectiveness of training. Dr Izumi Tabata had authored and co-authored more than 100 scientific articles in the world’s most famous sports publications. His name has become a household name due to the invention of this training method, which is very popular all over the world.

What Is the Essence of the Tabata Protocol?

Tabata training has the following structure: 20 seconds maximum load, 10 seconds rest, and repeat this cycle 8 times. That’s the one Tabata round, it only lasts 4 minutes, but it will be a crazy 4 minutes! You have to give it 100% if you want to get results from a short workout. The workload has to be sharp and explosive. Tabata is a special case of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

So, once again, about the structure of the Tabata round for 4 minutes:

20 seconds intense load;

10 seconds rest;

Repeat 8 cycles.

There can be several such 4-minute Tabata rounds, depending on the overall length of your workout. Between Tabata rounds, you are expected to rest for 1-2 minutes. If exercising at maximum, usually 3-4 Tabata rounds are enough for a full load. In this case, the total duration of the workout will be about 15-20 minutes.

How Is Tabata Different From Cardio Training?

During a cardio workout, oxygen is the only and sufficient source of energy. This type of exercise is called aerobic (involving oxygen). During an intense Tabata workout, oxygen becomes scarce and the body goes into an oxygen-free anaerobic mode (without oxygen). In contrast to aerobic mode, it is not possible to train in the anaerobic zone for a long time.

However, these are short anaerobic workouts that are very effective for fat burning. And especially after training for endurance development, muscle strength, and growth. Anaerobic exercise is real stress and a test of endurance, but in the end, it is what makes you stronger.


Who Is Tabata Workout Suitable for?

Tabata training is suitable for everyone who has experience in training (at least an intermediate level of training) and has no health contraindications. It is especially useful to perform exercises in Tabata-mode on a regular basis for those who:

  • wants to shift weight and get rid of plateaus
  • wants to avoid stagnation in training, including speeding up muscle growth
  • wants to get new sensations from the training
  • wants to develop his endurance and improve his physical health.

But if you are just starting to train, don’t rush straight into Tabata training. It is recommended to pass to them only after 2-3 months of regular cardio and strength training.

WHO IS NOT SUITABLE FOR a set timer for 4 minutes?

We emphasize once again, that Tabata training does not suit everyone! If you decide to start exercising with the Tabata system, make sure you do not have any health contraindications.

Tabata Training Is Not Suitable for:

  • Those who are not physically fit and have no experience
  • Who have had cardiovascular problems
  • Those who have problems with the musculoskeletal system and joints
  • Who stick to a low-carbohydrate diet or mono-diet
  • Those who have low endurance.

However, if you choose uncomplicated exercises, you can do Tabata and beginners.

How Do Tabata Exercises Correctly?


Basically, plyometric exercises, power exercises with own body weight, and power exercises with lightweight are used for Tabata training. For example, jumps, burpees, push-ups, squats, lunges, jumps, sudden accelerations, punches and kicks, sprints, etc. In principle, you can use any exercises for Tabata training. The main condition is to perform them at the maximum at a very fast tempo.

Approximate schemes for performing a 4-minute Tabata round:

The same exercise is being repeated for all 4 minutes in 8 sets;

Two exercises alternate (ABABABAB);

Two exercises are paired (ABABABAB);

Four sets of one exercise followed by four sets of the other (AAAABABBBB);

Four exercises alternate (ABCDABCD);

The four exercises are paired in pairs (AABBCCDD);

Different exercises (e.g., different muscle groups) are performed in all 8 sets.

If you don’t like to repeat the same exercises, then take a workout where several exercises are alternated at once. If, on the contrary, you do not like constantly changing exercises during the class. Then take a variant with one or two exercises in the Tabata round.

How Long Does It Take to Do a Tabata Workout?

One round of Tabata lasts 4 minutes, then 1-2 minutes of rest and the next round begins. How many Tabata rounds you can endure depends on your stamina. On average 3-5 rounds are usually enough for a full Tabata workout, and the time is 15-25 minutes.

On the other hand, if you prefer long programs, you can do Tabata workouts for 40-50 minutes. In this case, structure the class in such a way that one ultra-intensive round alternates with a less intense round. For example, set a timer for 4 minutes, do explosive burpees, and for the next 4 minutes, you will do a quiet bar. During these exercises, you’ll be able to recover. Your breathe so that you’ll be able to give it your best again in the next round.

How Often Should I Do Tabata Exercises?

If you want to lose weight, you should do Tabata workouts 3-4 times a week for 15-30 minutes. Or 2-3 times a week for 40-45 minutes. It is not recommended to do intensive Tabata training every day. Because it is very draining for the central nervous system and can lead to overtraining.

If you keep in shape or want to add Tabata training to weight training, it is enough to do Tabata training 2 times a week for 15-30 minutes. You can do HIIT programs instead of classic cardio. Tabata exercises are better performed after the power load if you perform them on the same day. By the way, intensive exercise on the Tabata protocol is very useful to perform if you have formed a stagnation in the growth of muscle mass in the period of strength training. With Tabata exercises, you will not build muscle mass. But such programs are very well suited for getting out of stagnation in the growth of strength indicators.

it does not matter what time you train with the Tabata system for burning fat: in the morning or the evening. You should be guided by your biorhythms and individual possibilities. However, it is not recommended to do intense workouts on an empty stomach and before going to bed. Tabata workouts are very gruelling and exhausting, so be prepared for the fact that you will feel tired after the class. Especially at first, when the body is just adapting to the load.

high push ups

Can I Always Do the Same Exercises?

Try to change the set of Tabata exercises without repeating the same program more than three times in a row. Your body gets used to the loads, so if you train the same exercises, their effectiveness gradually decreases. Change not only the set of exercises but also their order. For example:

  • Week 1 Tabata: burpees, horizontal running, squats, 180-degree jumps
  • The second week of Tabata: running with high knee elevation, push-ups, lunges, sumo squats
  • Week 3 Tabata: horizontal run, squats, shin splash, burpees
  • Fourth week of Tabata: 180-degree jumps, spider bar, high knee elevation run, lunges

You can go back to the old routines as well. But try to change the order and add new Tabata exercises. Below you will find some ready-made plans with different exercises.

The Main Rules to Follow!

If a workout is performed on the principle of 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. It wouldn’t mean that it will be a Tabata workout. For true Tabata, you need to do 20 seconds of exercise at your maximum to make the workout an anaerobic workout. Your goal is to do the most reps in the least amount of time.

The load must be explosive and very intense, which is why a Tabata workout cannot last long. Usually, 15-25 minutes is enough if you train at full strength. You can work out intermittently on a Tabata timer at a medium pace. But for best results, the workout should be short, fast, and very intense. If you like long workouts, alternate between 4 minutes of high intensity and 4 minutes of low intensity. In the next article, we will discuss a detailed plan of exercise. Also, Tabata workout progress benefits and the best Tabata timer! To be continued…stay tuned!


1️⃣ How is the Tabata workout structured?

The Tabata workout has the following structure: 20 seconds of maximum exertion, 10 seconds of rest, and repeat this cycle 8 times. This is one round of Tabata, it only lasts 4 minutes, but it will be a really crazy 4 minutes! You have to give it 100%.

2️⃣ What is the history of Tabata?

Tabata training (also called the Tabata protocol) is a type of HIIT (high intensity interval training). It originated from research by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, on high-intensity training in the early 1990s.

3️⃣ What is a Tabata workout and how can it help your body?

Tabata is high-intensity interval training (also known as HIIT), a cardiovascular workout that increases heart rate and burns many calories in a short period of time.