The fitness world is so full of information, training methods, ‘must-haves’ and must avoid, it can be hard to identify what each one truly means and Tabata training is no different. I’m often asked what Tabata training really is and this is perfectly normal and quite common.


What is Tabata training?

Put simply, Tabata training is a popular form of HIIT training (high-intensity interval training) that utilises periods of differing intensities to provide a workout that taxes both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

The ‘Interval’ part of the training means alternating between periods of high and low-intensity exercise (which can be rest periods if needed) and the HIIT part of the training refers to a form of training that is like interval training…only the periods of exercise are much shorter with far greater intensity. The key difference between interval and HIIT training is the level of intensity in the exercise periods.


How did Tabata training come to exist?

Tabata training was discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo.

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 moderate-intensity group worked out five days a week for a total of six weeks; each workout lasted one hour. The high-intensity 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 more increase in their aerobic system than Group 1 and increased their anaerobic system by 28 percent.

In conclusion, high-intensity interval training has more impact on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.


How is Tabata training structured?

Tabata training is a timed style of HIIT training that lasts for a total of four minutes, structured something like this…

  1. Perform 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise, as hard as you can, for the entire 20 seconds.
  2. Rest for 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat this for a total of 8 rounds (this equals 4 minutes).

As you see, it is not for the faint-hearted and is taxing, but with great benefits, particularly those with limited time.

One of the great things about Tabata training is that you can do any combination of exercises that you like during the 4-minute workout period.

For example, you could include some of the following exercises into a 4-minute Tabata workout:

  • Burpees
  • Skipping
  • Jump lunges
  • Mountain climbers
  • Push-ups
  • Sprints
  • High-Knee runs
  • Sumo squats
  • Planks

This flexibility means you can tailor Tabata workouts to fit into any training program for any sport to provide something different from day-to-day training. Boredom can affect any athlete so having something to ‘mix things up’ can be beneficial for motivation.


What are the benefits of Tabata training?

  • It doesn’t matter how fit you are

It’s great if you are first starting out because, even though you’re supposed to go as hard as you can during the high-intensity periods, it allows you to go at your own pace. Over time, the fitter you become, the more repetitions you may be able to fit into the timed period.

  • Tabata doesn’t require equipment

While you can use some equipment like a skipping rope or light weights to increase the intensity of your movements, you can also go equipment-free and rely on bodyweight exercises. It really comes down to your preferences.

  • Tabata can involve cardio or resistance training

While I’ve focused on Tabata as a cardio training style in this blog, you can also incorporate resistance training into this structure to build muscle and reduce body fat at the same time. Simply add weight-based exercises into the 4-minute time periods.

  • Tabata is more efficient than traditional cardio

Tabata originated in Japan and is named after scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata. He found that high-intensity interval training has a more significant impact on your aerobic and anaerobic endurance than traditional, longer forms of less-intense cardio. As with interval and HIIT training, it is thought to be a more effective way of training.

  • Tabata is quick

Tabata training involves short bursts of exercise so even if you are short on time, you can still squeeze in a workout and feel results. This makes it ideal for those with limited time on their hands!


Tabata is great to get a quick workout in if you’re short on time, you need to switch up your routine, or you want to improve endurance and speed. Incorporate this type of workout into your fitness routine and produce results.