Tabata Training Workouts

Professor Izumi Tabata, creator of Tabata Training WorkoutsI learned about Tabata training workouts from Dr. Deborah at the WAPF conference in Hotlanta last November. I fell in love with the workout instantly. It’s just what this old fitness broad needs to keep a handle on decrepitude.

The mantra “use it or lose it” applies quite specifically to muscles over the age of 30. Over the age of 50, well, the downhill slide is faster than I ever dreamed possible.

Four Minutes 2x a Week

Tabata training workouts are short and sweet. You have to go all out, but for only FOUR MINUTES only TWICE A WEEK. I hollered that because it’s so unbelievable. Anyone can do four minutes at their maximum effort, even me and even you. Once you are comfortable doing four minutes, you can double it. Or not.

Seriously, four minutes twice a week. That’s enough to keep you ahead of losing it all. So says Izumi Tabata.


Tabata Definitions:
One Tabata training workout session is 4 minutes total. A session has 8 intervals of 20 seconds each with a 10 second rest in between each interval. During those 20 seconds, you are going all out. ALL out.

If you do more than one session, you take a 1-minute rest between sessions.

You can do any exercise you want in an interval: march in place, jumping jacks, step side to side, pull-ups, squats, sit and stand. You can use weights or gym machines and do any of those exercises: leg press, leg curl, squat machine, rowing machine, dead lifts, military press, etc. Or you can use a Kettlebell and add some of those exercises, which is what I do (my workout is below).

You can do any combination of exercises or do the same exercise for all 8 intervals. Do all sit-ups one day, all Kettlebell swings one day, half and half another day, 8 different exercises the next… you decide.

Tabata training workout with a KettlebellIf you go with a Kettlebell, pick a weight that allows you to maintain good form for all 8 intervals. I bought one at Walmart for $18. I dropped it coming in the house and the handle cracked but, hey, duct tape fixes everything. My repaired KB does the job.

The exercises must be hard enough so you breathe heavy (so you can talk but not sing), yet easy enough so you can last the whole session (8 intervals in 4 minutes).

Tabata Training Timers

I use the free online Tabata training session timer at Simple and perfect.

Tabata Training Workout TimerThere is also a handy iPhone “Tabata-Timer”  app for anytime you need a 4-minute mental clarity session.

Remember, you can do ANY movement that gets your heart rate up: step side-to-side, sit in a chair and stand up, sit-ups, yoga moves — even the plank held for 20 seconds.

So, yes, you can do this in your cubicle.

Tabata Training Workout Details:

  1. One interval = 20 seconds. Do as many reps as you can as quickly as you can in those 20 seconds
  2. Rest for 10 seconds between intervals
  3. One session = 8 intervals = 4 minutes
  4. Rest for one minute after a session (critical if you do more than one session)
  5. An entire Tabata session is 5 minutes including the one minute rest
  6. For a 10 minute workout, do 2 sessions.
  7. For a 20 minute workout, do 4 sessions

funny-picture-how-i-think-i-look-like-while-planking-how-i-truly-look-while-plankingMy Basic Tabata Training Session

It consists of four basic exercises that work my entire body: Kettlebell Swings, Kettlebell Squats, Push-Ups and Bicycle Crunches (sit-ups). I do them in any order I like — I don’t have to think using the timer. For variety, I’ll add a plank or pull-ups.

How-tos for my Tabata Training Session:

Kettlebell Swing Stand with feet wider than hip-distance apart. Grab the KB in both hands. Swing it up, then sit back to a squat position — knees over your ankles like you are sitting in a chair — and swing it back between your legs, keeping your chest open (so back is flat), then swing the KB forward to about shoulder height, snapping your glutes at the top. The key is to squeeze your butt tight at the top of the swing and push it forward a bit. You use momentum* in this exercise: the KB ball should not hang from your hands at the top of the swing, but swing out parallel to floor.

*Using momentum with a weight in your hands was a no-no for all the years I taught fitness. With a KB, momentum is your friend.

Following is an excellent beginner video demonstrating the swing as well as a few other KB exercises. She uses perfect form! Her chest is always open and lifted, knees never travel forward over her toes.


The one exercise I would caution against is the twist. Your abs have to be super strong to do this without hurting yourself.

Kettlebell Squat Following is another excellent short video demonstrating the KB squat. Notice that he sits all the way down. Squatting lower than your knees was also a no-no, but not any more. The key is to squat only as low as suits you; I don’t go all the way down. Sit back into your heels, chest up and don’t let your knees come forward no matter how low you go.

Bicycle Crunch Lay on your back, hands behind head (do not cross your fingers, don’t pull on your head), feet on floor hip distance apart. Raise your upper body, touch right elbow to left knee, switch sides without lowering upper body. Touch toes to floor between knee touches to elbow.


The moms lower the upper body between crunches. I don’t: once I’m up, I stay up, just twisting my body to touch elbow to knee. As a beginner, it’s the up and down during the twist that might strain your lower back.

Push Ups Mark Sisson has the ultimate push up primer. You’ll find one on the plank and also for pull-ups there as well. All excellent.

Four minutes twice a week. I can do this. If I couldn’t, that would make me an actual slacker. I cannot live with that moniker so I’m doing my Tabatas, count on it!




Sally Oh

Sally Oh lives in the Bluegrass area of Kentucky with her husband of 21 years and two gigantic sons. She is a Weston A. Price chapter leader and blogs to meet like-minded farm food freedom advocates. She's hoping you join us in the real food rEVOLution!

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