Tabata H.I.I.T. Cardio Training For Beginners

Most women assume that cardio is all about quantity; the longer you walk or jog on the treadmill, the faster the results. What if we told you it’s not the quantity of exercise that matters, but the intensity. Don’t believe us? Check out this article that talks all about Tabata training – a form of exercise that can help you boost fat loss in as little as 4 minutes!

Tabata training is a specific style of high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) invented by Japanese physician Dr. Izumi Tabata. For those who aren’t familiar, H.I.I.T. is a form of exercise where you exert yourself as hard as you can until exhaustion kicks in (e.g. sprinting for 15-20 seconds). This diverts your body to rely on anaerobic metabolism instead of aerobic metabolism (since oxygen is depleted.) And you end up fatiguing several energy systems in the body.

In short, Tabata training is a workout where you exert yourself as hard as possible for 20 seconds. This is typically achieved by doing intense cardio or resistance training – followed by 10 seconds of rest/recovery. The intervals are repeated 8 times, making each workout 4 minutes long.

You may be curious how just 4 minutes can produce any sort of significant results, especially fat loss. You’d be stunned at what can be accomplished in such a short period of time. The key to remember is that you must push yourself to your absolute limit during the 20 second interval; you can catch your breath afterwards.

To illustrate how effective Tabata training is, take a look at the results from a study. It was conducted by Tabata and his team at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports (N.I.F.S.):1

Two Cohorts Were Used
Group 1 performed only moderate aerobic exercise (e.g. jogging.) Group 2 performed Tabata training. 20-second high-intensity intervals (with 10 seconds rest between each).

Group Differences
Group 1 worked out for one hour, five days a week for a total of six weeks. Group 2 worked out for four minutes and 20 seconds, four days per week, during those same six weeks.

Group 1 increased their aerobic system (cardiovascular) capacity modestly. Yet, showed little or no results for their anaerobic system. Group 2 actually increased their aerobic capacity more than Group 1, and increased their anaerobic capacity by 28%.

High-intensity interval training, especially Tabata style training, has more impact on both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

Moreover, Tabata training elicits myriad metabolic adaptations that traditional low-intensity cardiovascular exercise (like walking on the treadmill) does not. Research contends that Tabata training is extremely efficacious; enhancing the fat-loss process. This is thanks to the “ after-burn effect”. This metabolic effect is a ramification of consuming large amounts of oxygen at rest after training has occurred.

There is no after-burn effect associated with low-intensity cardio since isn’t as strenuous as Tabata training. Many other benefits of Tabata training (H.I.I.T.) exist, including:
Promotes sustainable fat loss2.
Studies have shown that H.I.I.T. results in more fat loss when compared to traditional low-intensity/moderate-intensity cardio. Better yet, you’re likely to keep the fat off rather than “ rebounding” and gaining it all back like many people do.

Increases resting metabolic rate3
H.I.I.T. boosts your metabolic rate for up to 36 hours after training as part of the “ after-burn effect” . So even after you’re done training your body is still burning calories and body fat. This adaptation doesn’t occur with low/moderate-intensity exercise (which can actually do the inverse).

Helps keep your body lean4
H.I.I.T. is beneficial for toning your muscles. This is because it relies on anaerobic metabolism and stresses your body much like weight training does.

Improves insulin sensitivity5
H.I.I.T. trains your body to be more efficient at utilizing carbohydrates. Thus, you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in a sweet treat every now and then because your body will be much less likely to store it as fat.

Improves cholesterol levels and blood pressure6
Research suggests that H.I.I.T. elevates HDL cholesterol (aka“ good” cholesterol).  H.I.I.T. also lowers LDL cholesterol (aka “ bad” cholesterol) in the body to a greater degree than low/moderate-intensity exercise. Furthermore, H.I.I.T. appears to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

Supports heart health7
Many people forget their heart is a muscle, not simply a vital organ. H.I.I.T. is great for strengthening your heart as it increases your resting oxygen uptake.

Naturally, you can see why Tabata training is a great form of exercise for improving your health and longevity. Not to mention it’s much less time consuming than walking/jogging on a treadmill for hours on end!

Arguably the best part of Tabata training is that there are a number exercises you can perform, although some will work better than others:
Sprints on a track or open field tend to be best
Stationary bike or spin cycles are also great
Elliptical trainers can be useful
Various other H.I.I.T./plyometric exercises: Jumping jacks, burpees, squat jumps, etc…
High-intensity resistance training exercises: Squats, presses, lunges, etc…

To make your workouts easier to follow, consider using a timer. There are various apps you can use for your smart-phone/tablet, or even just a stopwatch will suffice.

Below is an example of a Tabata workout. It includes 4 Tabata sets – each set consists of 2 exercises done for 20 seconds at max capacity. This is followed by 10 seconds rest between each.

This is an intermediate-level workout, so feel free to modify the exercises and rest times between sets to suit your fitness level. A beginner to this style of training may only need one to two Tabata sets for a full workout.

Warm up: 5 minutes cardio, such as a light jog

Tabata Set 1
Jumping Jacks
Mountain Climbers

Perform each exercise for 20 seconds at max intensity, resting 10 seconds in between and repeat for 4 cycles (totaling 8 intervals). Rest for 1 minute.

Tabata Set 2
Perform each exercise for 20 seconds at max intensity, resting 10 seconds in between and repeat for 4 cycles (totaling 8 intervals). Rest for 1 minute

Tabata Set 3
Squat Jumps
Jogging in place with high knees
Perform each exercise for 20 seconds at max intensity, resting 10 seconds in between and repeat for 4 cycles (totaling 8 intervals). Rest for 1 minute.

Tabata Set 4
Perform each exercise for 20 seconds at max intensity, resting 10 seconds in between and repeat for 4 cycles (totaling 8 intervals). Rest for 1 minute.

Cool down: 5 minutes

Total Workout Time: 35 Minutes

Check out the official Tabata™ team’s YouTube channel to see video demonstrations of this protocol.

1) Tabata, I., Nishimura, K., Kouzaki, M., Hirai, Y., Ogita, F., Miyachi, M., & Yamamoto, K. (1996). “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 28(10), 1327–1330.
2) King, J. W. “A comparison of the effects of interval training vs. continuous training on weight loss and body composition in obese pre-menopausal women (thesis).” East Tennessee State University, 2001.
3) Meuret, J. R., et al. “ A comparison of the effects of continuous aerobic, intermittent aerobic, and resistance exercise on resting metabolic rate at 12 and 21 hours post-exercise.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(5 suppl):S247, 2007.
4) Gorostiaga, E. M., et al. “ Uniqueness of interval and continuous training at the same maintained exercise intensity.” European Journal of Applied Physiology, 63(2):101-107, 1991.
5) Gayda, M., Nigam, A., & Juneau, M. (2014). “ Body composition and insulin sensitivity after high‐intensity interval training in overweight/obese patients.” Obesity, 22(3), 624-624.
6)Drigny, J., Guiraud, T., Gremeaux, V., Gayda, M., Juneau, M., & Nigam, A. (2011). “ Long-term high-intensity interval training improves QT dispersion parameters in metabolic syndrome patients.” Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 35(2), 189.
7) Lavie, C. J., Arena, R., & Earnest, C. P. (2013). “ High-intensity interval training in patients with cardiovascular diseases and heart transplantation.” J Heart Lung Transplant, 32(11), 1056-1058.

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