What is tabata? Tabata is a very specific type of HIIT which mandates 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest. That is then repeated 8 times for one tabata. It’s one of my favorite kind of workouts, because I can customize it to exactly suit my fitness level, energy level, and goals. I don’t always do this, but if I’m really struggling with what to do for my workout, I can easily throw together a custom tabata workout to fit my needs.
If you’ve ever heard me talk about fitness at all, you know I love HIIT. It’s my absolute favorite kind of cardio. If you’re a complete beginner to exercise, you can try something easier like this floor workout before amping up the intensity, because HIIT is not easy! But it is highly effective.
I learned about HIIT about 4 or 5 years ago, and I fell in love immediately. I’ve been enamored ever since. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it simply comprises of high intensity intervals between periods of recovery. It can vary a lot as to how long each interval is and what exercise you’re doing. I like to do all kinds of HIIT and create all kinds of custom workouts, but Tabata is great because it is more specific in its parameters. This leaves you with less to think about.
Tabata is based on a 1996 study by Professor Izumi Tabata that originally involved speed skaters. It was found that the specifically short intervals of tabata caused the athlete to receive aerobic AND anaerobic benefits, essentially killing two birds with one stone. Their health also improved more over the course of the study than the participants which only practiced solid-state cardio. These are some of the reasons I love to do this kind of workouts. You get so many benefits in such a short time. Plus, HIIT has been shown to give more of an after burn, meaning you are burning more calories AFTER your workout is over also.
I think tabata workouts are super fun and everyone should give it a try at some point. To get you started, I’ve written a step-by-step process for how I quickly and easily create a custom tabata workout.
Your Custom Tabata Workout
Choose a Pattern
You can choose to do the same exercise for 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. But that can get REALLY boring, not to mention difficult. It’s helpful to mix it up! Especially if you are moving from the floor to your feet, or vice versa, during the rest, this can help burn more calories and increase results.
I’ve listed some common patterns below:
ABCDEFGH**If you do any one-sided moves with this pattern you will need to make sure you do this tabata an even number of times, so that you can do the other side during the second interval.
Choose your Exercises
This is the fun part, you can be as brutal or as kind to yourself as you want. You can focus on any area of the body you feel you need to work on. The key here is having a bank of moves that you know and love easily at your disposal, or off the top of your head.
I sometimes like to do a slightly easier exercise after a more difficult one, or I’ll do a move that works a different part of the body.
I’ve listed out many of my favorite exercises here, and grouped them by difficulty for easy planning. Most of these moves are equipment free, but you can absolutely use equipment such as weights or plyo boxes. As long as you’re able to prepare the equipment during your 10 second rest break, nothing is off limits!
Running Man (also called body run, skinny jack, etc.)
Dolphin Push Ups
This list doesn’t nearly cover all the different moves that I like to do. Look around online for different moves that you like. They should be challenging, but they should also work for your fitness level, abilities, and goals.
And that’s it!
Decide how many tabatas (4 minute rounds) you want to do and if you want to switch up the moves between each tabata. A good, full-body tabata workout can be anywhere between 1 and 8 tabatas (I usually like to do 4 or 5 when I do a custom tabata workout). Download this free (and ink-friendly!) printable to guide you through creating your own custom tabata workout.
I find creating custom workouts is extremely valuable to my fitness, instead of just following a program. This is because I’m able to specifically make the moves challenging to me and focused on my specific goals. Tabata is a great way to get a lot of work done in just a short amount of time, so it’s ideal for anyone who thinks they don’t have time to exercise.
Let me know in the comments below which exercises you want to try in your custom tabata workout!