If you’re looking for a fast, intense workout that will hit every aspect of fitness look no further than the venerable Tabata. The deceptively simple Tabata is a super high-intensity workout that lasts only 4 minutes yet blasts your fitness to hitherto unseen levels. But don’t confuse simple for easy: if you’ve done it right you’ll be sucking wind and lying on the floor after 4 minutes.
I was first introduced to the Tabata when I was stationed at FOB Sharana in Afghanistan in 2010. A small group of us did CrossFit and we had very little equipment available to us, so we did mostly bodyweight routines. The Tabata is ideal for a bodyweight workout and can be performed just about anywhere with little to no equipment. Nowadays, my buddy Ron and I workout every day in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown and we are constantly challenging each other. I remembered the Tabata and dusted off my workout journal from deployment and looked up a few routines. We did our first one today, hence “Tabata Tuesday”.
How to Do a Tabata
A Tabata workout lasts just four minutes. It consists of eight exercises; each exercise is done for 20 seconds then there’s a 10-second break before the next exercise. What could be simpler? The key to an effective workout is to go full bore and give 100% effort during that 20 seconds. I’ve found that there is one little piece of equipment that makes that Tabata much easier, and that is a good gym timer. I really, really like the Gymboss Interval Timer; it’s small and lightweight, you can clip it on your waistband, and it will time just about any type of interval you need.
The Tabata routine we did today consisted of a series of four exercises that we repeated. We did Squats, Pushups, Mountain Climbers, and Burpees (if you’re gonna have a punishing workout you’ve gotta have burpees in there!) You can put just about any bodyweight exercise in there, and you can do eight unique ones if you want. You can also add dumbbells or kettlebells into your Tabata if you’ve got them. Start your timer, do 20 seconds of the first exercise balls-to-the-wall, then during the 10-second break get into position for the next exercise. When the timer sounds again you’ve got another 20 seconds of all-out workout. Repeat the pattern until you’ve done all eight exercises. I’ve found that it helps to write the routine down using a fat marker on a sticky note that I stick to the timer so that I can see the routine while I’m working out. Believe me, you can lose your brain when you’re in a Tabata! The GymBoss and the written list will keep you on track of where you are. The workout we did today was grueling and at the same time satisfying.