Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 9, 2024 ·  7 min read

Tabata: Improve Your Fitness with 4 minute HIIT Exercises

Tired of the same old routine, or spending 30 minutes on a workout that doesn’t challenge you? You’re not alone. Tabata workouts are emerging as a more convenient and rewarding way to get your sweat on. These workouts only take 4 minutes of your time but improve your fitness and energy levels significantly more than a 60-minute workout.[i] Adding Tabata workouts to your routine is not only a good way to shake things up, but it can be better for your health.

How Does Tabata Improve Your Fitness?

Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which means your hardest for a short period of time. You have to do 20 seconds of hard work followed by 10 seconds of rest. You do these exercises eight times to experience a nice satisfying burn in only 4 minutes.

Most workouts involve four activities that are repeated twice, but the main thing is to push yourself as hard as you can for those 4 minutes. In a study done by Dr. Tabata, he determined this to be a more efficient way to improve your fitness; those who did 4-minute high-intensity workouts were able to access energy easier making them more powerful athletes. Another study on 27 men and women found that those who did HIIT used more energy and lost more fat than those who did low to moderate intensity training even though they exercised longer.[ii]

HIIT is a great alternative for those of us that are struggling to find spare time, want to be in better shape, and are eager to have a leaner looking body.

Getting Into Tabata

These workouts are intense and you need to ease yourself into them if you’re just starting out or a casual exerciser. The best way to get into Tabata is to start with some regular interval training.

Interval training involves a variation of speeds and intensities to get you working out at a high level for a longer time, by periodically decreasing the intensity so you can get your breath back. At the same time, you aren’t working too slow or putting in a lack of effort that doesn’t get your heart rate going. Interval training takes from the best of both worlds.

Once you’ve done some interval training you can ease yourself into Tabata by doing half of the workout which means 2 minutes and just 4 exercises. However, use some of your extra time to make sure you’re doing the exercises properly because we don’t want any injuries. [iii]

Tabata Tutorial

Now that you’re read, find the workouts that push you to the limits; they can involve weights, rubber bands, or just your body weight. When doing them, don’t cheat, and if it’s too easy, try doing them quicker or with more weight.

The best way to keep track of time during these workouts is to download a Tabata timer on your phone to keep track of your 20 seconds of exercise and 10-second break. Don’t waste your energy counting, and trying to keep track of the time.

Watch this video for one tough Tabata workout:

This exercise requires:

  • Squat and drive up into a fake jump
  • A rocking plank or a standard plank if you’re just getting into it
  • Jumping jacks or running in place whichever one you like more
  • A mountain climber exercise

Getting in these workouts every day is easy even if you’re pressed for time, or you don’t have a lot of equipment.

Weekly HIIT Tabata Routine

Try doing a different Tabata workout every day of the week to keep things fresh and to get maximum benefits. Do 20 seconds of exercise and 10 seconds of rest between each one for 4 minutes.

These exercises use your whole body to get as many muscles involved as possible.


Start with the tutorial. The exercises are simple and won’t require any equipment so you can start without any excuses not to.

The Exercise:

  • Squat and drive up into a fake jump
  • A rocking plank or a standard plank if you’re just getting into it
  • Jumping jacks or running in place whichever one you like more
  • A mountain climber exercise


This can be a tough day to workout if it’s not something you enjoy or do regularly, so just start the work week with a simple Tabata workout that can help you get focused rather than figuring out complicated moves. Try this calorie killing cardio Tabata.

The Exercise:

Repeat these eight times instead of only twice

  • Sprint for 20 seconds
  • Jump rope for 20 seconds


Now it’s time to push yourself and indeed improve your fitness. You’ll need a box you can jump on and a dumbbell.

The Exercise:

  • Box Jump push ups – Jump on the box then jump down and do a push-up. Get up and do it again. (You can also do a jump and push up if you don’t have the right box or you need an easier exercise to start out).
  • V-Sit Ups – Sit up like normal but bring your legs up as well
  • Plank alternating leg lifts – do a regular plank and kick back with your leg, alternating them.
  • Kettlebell (or Dumbbell) Swings – They can injure you if done wrong, watch this video to do it right:


You’re now in the middle of the week, and your muscles ache but try to push yourself a little further and keep going.

The Exercise:

  • Calf Raises – just spring up on your toes using your calves to push yourself – add dumbbells to make it harder if you want
  • Burpees
  • Leg raises – lie on your back and lift your legs in the air
  • Lateral Raises – These require some weights and it is very important you do them right so you aren’t hurting yourself.


Here are some familiar workouts with a challenge at the end.

The Exercise:

  • Squats
  • Crunches
  • Sprints
  • Renegade Row – watch this video to make sure you’re doing it right:


Friday – Thigh day.  You’re going to get your legs into this one.

The Exercise:

  • Squat Jump turns – Squat, then jump. Mid jump you want to rotate 180°.
  • Stairs – Just run up and down stairs
  • Lunge with High Knees – Make a standard lunge then raise your knee at the end
  • Speed skaters – pretend you’re a speed skater, and stride from one foot to the other.


We’re at the end here for an all ground workout, because we’re getting down to business, and finishing strong.

The exercise:

  • Spiderman Pushup – In a regular push up position but you push up on only one leg while you lift the other to your chest, similar to climbing a wall like spiderman
  • Sit ups – Add weights if this is too easy
  • Froggers – Start from the push-up position, and jump forward with your hands still on the ground. Ideally, you want your feet leveled with your hands, but if this is too difficult to do right away get your feet as close to your hands as you can.
  • Russian Twist – this exercise requires some additional weight, dumbbells work well. Follow these instructions to do it right:


There are so many variations to Tabata workouts you’ll never get bored, and you will always be satisfied with the burn. To Improve your fitness always do a workout that you can come back to consistently with enthusiasm as exercise should be part of your lifestyle, not an unsustainable quick fix. For many, HIIT is a great workout for this because you can do them quickly, they give you results, and there are so many variations you’ll never get bored.

Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.


  1. [i] TABATA I, NISHIMURA K, KOUZAKI M et al. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and ??VO2max. Medicine &amp Science in Sports &amp Exercise. 1996;28(10):1327-1330. doi:10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018.
  2. [ii] Tremblay A, Simoneau J, Bouchard C. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994;43(7):814-818. doi:10.1016/0026-0495(94)90259-3.
  3. [iii] Tabata Training: The Most Efficient 4 Minutes of Your Life. Nerd Fitness. Available at: https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/tabata-the-most-efficient-4-minutes-of-your-life/. Accessed April 26, 2017.