“In a time where most people are searching for an efficient and effective workout, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) techniques such as Tabata are ideal.” – Kristina Earnest, PT, NASM

There have been so many “cutting-edge” workout routines produced in the last decade-plus that it’s hard to keep track. Most of these routines – usually sold as some type of product for a profit – soon head into the “bargain bin.”

Then there are fitness methods developed using on actual, objective science; high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is one such method. CrossFit is perhaps the most universally recognized name that incorporates HIIT training, and the company has been a tremendous success.

CrossFit was also developed 20-plus years after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese scientist at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, discovered a superior method of HIIT. It wasn’t until 2013 that Dr. Tabata licensed-out his method for commercial use – a home workout DVD simply coined “Tabata.”

The Tabata Method

The Tabata Method can be explained using a few bullet points:

  • Only one exercise is required, though you may choose to combine exercises.
  • Both strength and aerobic exercises are used.
  • The method integrates more intensity than traditional cardio.
  • The method targets more muscles groups than traditional cardio.
  • One workout takes four minutes.

The basic idea behind a 4-minute Tabata workout is:

– Choose any exercise (or combine exercises)

– Work out as hard as possible for 20 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds (this is one set)

– Complete eight sets

Research shows the effectiveness of just one 4-minute Tabata workout:

Tabata and his team conducted research on two groups of athletes. The first group trained at a moderate intensity level while the second group trained at a high-intensity level. The (first group) worked out five days a week for a total of six weeks; each workout lasted an hour. The (second group) worked out four days a week for six weeks; each workout lasted four minutes and 20 seconds (with 10 seconds of rest in between each set).

The results: Group 1 had increased their aerobic system (cardiovascular), but showed little or no results for their anaerobic system (muscle). Group 2 showed (a much higher growth) in their aerobic system than Group 1, and increased the anaerobic system by 28 percent.

In other words, a regular 4-minute Tabata regimen demonstrated greater aerobic and muscular benefits than a 60-minute regiment – all while exercising one less day per week.

Workout options

Another terrific aspect of Tabata’s method is in its flexibility; allowing the individual to choose which exercise(s) to perform.

As your fitness level improves (which it will), you may want to increase from four minutes to eight minutes; 8 to 12, 12 to 16, and so on. No problem. Simply add another exercise to your routine, and you’re good to go.

Here are a couple of pieces of advice before you get started:

(1) Choose an exercise that you’re comfortable with (have done before)

(2) Have a good, quality timer to keep track of seconds

(3) This workout is difficult – even at the 4-minute level. Your body will be “screaming” for you to stop. It helps to have a mantra/saying/quote to remember to keep yourself motivated.

Burn Fat Quickly With This Workout That Takes Less Than 5 Minutes

As mentioned, you can choose pretty much any activity you’d like. Pushups, mountain climbers, bodyweight squats, and burpees are all favorites. If you’re a lifter, you may incorporate weights into your workout; the same goes for kettlebell users. (Note: if lifting, choose a lighter weight as you’ll fatigue quickly).

First, choose whether you want to do cardio or lift. Second, get your circulation going by doing a light 5 to 10-minute warmup on a stationary bike (optional, but recommended); if no access to a bike, do some dynamic stretching or light calisthenics.

Here are some basic exercise recommendations:


– Mountain climbers

Bodyweight squats

– Burpees

Jump squats

– Lunges

Kettlebell swings

– Sprints

Here are some intermediate-to-advanced exercise recommendations (as these are easier to perform following video instruction, we recommend using a search engine to see appropriate technique):

Lateral lunge to knee drive

– Lunge Chop

Mountain climber to single leg pushup

– Skater to curtsy lunge

Squat thrust to lunge jump

– Russian twist

Plank with Row

As always, please be safe when attempting any new exercise program. Checking with your family doctor before beginning HIIT training is a good idea, as well.



– Please perform a light 5 to 10-minute warmup routine (stationary bike or light calisthenics), if possible.

– Hydrate before, during and after exercising.

– STOP if you feel pain (not explainable by muscle fatigue or “burn”)

– Go at your own pace. Start at 4 minutes and increase intervals when comfortable (if desired).