Tabata training has been hailed as a 4-minute miracle by fitness enthusiasts and instructors for decades. Though it sounds too good to be true, scientific research and glowing testimonies have shown that it can provide significant health benefits over relatively short periods of time, including improved heart health and weight loss. With that in mind, what is Tabata training, and how can 4 minutes a day possibly improve your health?

Tabata Training and HIIT

Most of us have heard of HIIT (high-intensity intermittent training), which is repeated spurts of high-intensity exercise immediately followed by short periods of active recovery. For example, many runners use this technique by sprinting for 1 minute followed by 2 to 3 minutes of less-intense jogging. Tabata is a unique form of HIIT, although it has proven to be more intense than other HIIT workouts.

The term was first coined when Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata and his colleagues conducted a study on two groups of athletes in 1996. Group 1 was asked to train at a moderate level of intensity for 1 hour 5 times per week, while Group 2 trained at a high-intensity level for 4 minutes 4 days per week. Both groups performed their specified workouts for a total of 6 weeks.

The Results

By the end of the study, the results were astounding. In fact, Tabata’s data showed that Group 2 achieved more aerobic benefits during the study than Group 1. Not only that, but Group 2 showed significant improvement to their anaerobic (muscular) systems, while Group 1 showed little to no improvement.

According to this study, a person who performs the Tabata workout for just 4 minutes received the same or more cardiovascular and muscular benefits than a person who engaged at a moderate level of exercise for 60 minutes.

The Program

While a traditional Tabata workout only lasts 4 minutes, it certainly isn’t easy. Here is the basic structure of the workout:

  • 20 seconds of a maximum intensity workout
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • Repeat for 4 minutes or 8 rounds total

The key to Tabata is “maximum intensity.” That means you are pushing your body literally as hard as it can go for a full 20 seconds. Your heart should be pounding, and it should be a struggle to make it through the full 4 minutes.

The good news is that Tabata training is incredibly flexible, and you can choose your favorite exercises for the program. A few examples include jump squats, push-ups, mountain climbers, or burpees.

You can alternate your choice of exercises throughout the workout or simply choose one for the duration of the 4 minutes. Furthermore, you can extend the workout to multiple sets of a Tabata workout and maximize your results even further. If you choose this method, your workout might look something like this:

  • Jump Squats (4 minutes)
  • Rest (1 minute)
  • Push-Ups (4 minutes)
  • Rest (1 minute)
  • Burpees (4 minutes)
  • Rest (1 minute)
  • Mountain Climbers (4 Minutes)

Performing just one of these short Tabata sessions can significantly improve your health, especially if you often find yourself unable to work out due to a busy schedule. With a well rounded diet, incorporating this workout into your weekly routine can improve your heart health, help you lose weight, and increase your athletic endurance all in just 4 minutes a day.