Tabatas. The word strikes fear into the hearts of fitness enthusiasts around the world.
But the 4-minute, high-intensity interval workouts named after Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata can burn about 14 calories a minute, say scientists at the University of Wisconsin. It also improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness more than an hour of steady-state, moderate cardio.
That’s probably why it’s one of the most popular workouts ever. You’ll see it used in CrossFit boxes, home workout DVDs, fitness bootcamps, team sports, and personal training sessions.
Here’s the thing, though: In Dr. Tabata’s original study, he had elite cyclists do 20-second, all-out sprints followed by 10 seconds of rest on stationary bikes for 8 rounds straight.
The level of intensity required was off the charts. Most of the world-class cyclists couldn’t make it the full 8 rounds.
Nowadays, people take this protocol-20 seconds on, 10 seconds off-and bastardize it. If you browse social media or search YouTube, you’ll find “Tabatas” that are borderline silly or downright dangerous.
Why? Because they choose the wrong exercises.
If you want to work at a high intensity with a negative work to rest ration (you’re working twice as long as you’re resting), then you need movements that are as low-skill and as low-impact as possible. That’s why cycling worked well in the original study-it’s not technical or complicated.
So doing endless joint-jarring plyometrics, high-skill Olympic lifting, or gymnastics moves is a recipe for injury.
You also need exercises that can be done with enough velocity so that your heart rate shoots into the stratosphere. Doing slow, grinding moves like heavy deadlifts just doesn’t make sense here.
As a rule of thumb, you should be able to get at least 10 reps within every 20-second work period-unless you’re doing a locomotion movement that’s measured in distance, like running, rowing, or cycling.
You should use light loads or regressed exercise variations, too, so you can move fast and hit your total reps every round.
After all, the goal here is continuous movement at maximum velocity to achieve the desired cardiovascular and metabolic response.
The Ultimate Tabatas
So what are the right exercises to use in the protocol?
I use them in the Lightweight Leanout workout, which you can check out in the video above. You can find this routine in THE 21-DAY METASHRED, my all-new, body-shredding DVD plan. (You’ll also get 8 other 30-minute fat-loss workouts. One guy lost 25 pounds in just 6 weeks.)
Instead of doing Tabatas with just on exercise the entire time, you’ll do two-an upper-body exercise and a lower-body move-and alternate between them. That way you can keep the intensity high throughout the session, manage fatigue, and push for longer than just 4 minutes.
The exercises are as low-skill and low-impact as possible, too. In fact, the workout requires only a light pair of 5 to 10-pound dumbbells and your bodyweight, so you can move fast with good form.
These Lightweight Leanout movements are also more functional, taking your body through multiple planes of motion and moving you up and down in away that a bike can’t. The result is a greater calorie burn, a higher heart rate, and improved athleticism.
Finally, the workout is structured so you can go 30 minutes. This hits the right blend of intensity and density to maximize calorie burn during and after your workout. So you’ll burn fat while you sit at your desk!
Do it: Do each exercise below in order for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds between each move. Once you complete all 8 exercises, rest 1 minute. That’s 1 round. Do 6 total.
1. Jumping jack
2. Skier swing
4. Rotational punch
5. Diagonal chop (switch sides halfway)
6. Discus (switch sides halfway)
7. Ground and pound
8. Speed Z press
('You Might Also Like',)