Tabata Training 101

In 1996, Dr. Izumi Tabata introduced a select group of septuagenarians to one of the most diabolically effective training methods ever conceived by the mind of man:

Tabata Training

And for the next 13 years, these four women endured the physical torments of Dr. Tabata’s training protocol.

The Results?

old lady squat Tabata Training 101


fitness competitors Tabata Training 101


I am pleased to say, that after 13 years, not only have these women completely transformed their bodies, they have each carved out lucrative careers as female fitness models….just kidding.

What Can Tabata Do For You?

Aside from burning off pounds and pounds of excess body-fat, Tabata Training can help you:

  • Improve your cardiovascular function (aerobic endurance)
  • Improve your anaerobic endurance
  • Improve your muscular endurance
  • Make you strong and fit and look fantastic

How’s that for a fitness training method?

The Science Behind Tabata

The basis for all of the excitement surrounding Tabata Training comes from the good doctor’s 1996 research study published in the journal – Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

In that study, Dr. Tabata concluded that high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) was a much more effective and efficient training method than tradional cardio training.

Not only was Tabata Training more effective at improving anaerobic endurance, it was also more effective at improving aerobic or cardio-vascular endurance.

And Why is Tabata Training so Effective?

Dr. Tabata believed that the reason behind the success of his training protocol was:


The good doctor believed that exercising at a high level of intensity for a short period of time was more effective than  exercising at a low intensity for a long duration.

And he wasn’t alone.

Ever since Dr. Tabata released the scientific genie from the bottle in 1996, other researchers have built upon his work. Here are just a sample of the available research:

And there is lots more where this came from.

I just did a quick PubMed search and came up with 1110 studies related to Tabata’s work.

So, What is Tabata Training Anyway?

Dr. Tabata’s training method is a very specific version of High Intensity Interval (or Intermittent) Training.

In his 1996 study, Dr. Tabata had seven subjects perform:

  • An intermittent training exercise 5 days a week for 6 weeks
  • Each individual training session consisted of seven to eight sets of a single exercise
  • Each set was performed at the high intensityof about 170% of ˙VO2max.
  • Each set was timed to last for 20 seconds
  • Each period of rest between sets was timed to last for 10 seconds
  • This means that each Tabata Workout lasted for only 4 minutes.
  • 4 minutes of Tabata Training x 5 days a week x 6 weeks = 120 minutes or 2 hours of exercise over 6 weeks
  • In comparison, Tabata’s cardio-vascular group performed 30 hours of cardio training over the course of the experiment (60 min workouts x 5 days per week x 6 weeks)

And still, the Tabata workouts were more effective than the cardio-vascular workouts.

How Do I Design My Own Tabata Workout?

I am glad you asked.

In tomorrow’s post, I will give you two Tabata style workouts.

Each workout is to be performed 2x per week for the next 6 weeks.

I guarantee that those of you willing to give this program a serious effort will see some serious improvements in their physique and their overall level of fitness.

And while it’s not required, I highly recommend using an interval timer with your Tabatas. Trying to watch the clock an do these workouts is a real pain in the butt.


Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.


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  10. Roberta Nolan

    September 15, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I have tried everything and now I give this a try, I know interval training really works but don’t know
    know if I can keep up with the pace. I am 72 and have exercised all my life and I it is getting harder
    and harder to lose weight, but I will never give up.

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  12. P90xer

    April 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    The problem with most of the posts you’ve published is that you require a lot of gym equipment. What about a full program with just dumbbells and pull up bar

    • healthhabits

      April 25, 2012 at 4:59 am

      I was thinking about a post where I provide a variety of different ways to do a specific movement – machine, free weights, bands, bw, etc. Kind of a teach a man (woman) to fish article

      Thanks for the feedback btw

  13. goodnewsmarketing

    April 6, 2012 at 9:25 am

    This is a great idea. Now I just need to get up the courage to do it :)
    Do you know if this would work with running also?

    • healthhabits

      April 7, 2012 at 7:00 am

      Running sprints (hills & flats) & Tabata go together like peanut butter & chocolate

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  18. Advanced Ab Exercise

    August 26, 2011 at 1:42 am

    It is my first time know about TABATA. I am not familiar with it not until i read this post. Now i do have another thing to do besides from my exercise routine,can add on it. Thankyou for posting.

    Advanced Ab Exercise

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  24. Matt

    February 16, 2011 at 11:57 am

    What kind of exercises work for a tabata workout? Can it be anything? Like, all kettlebell swings one day, all box jumps next, etc? Or are there specific “tabata” exercises that must be used?


    • healthhabits

      February 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      You want exercises that use lots of muscle – swings, jump squats, etc…no bicep curls, lateral raises, etc

  25. Corrine Hoffmeyer

    January 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    This is awesome. I was trying to put together some type of tabata workout I can use at the gym at work. No kettle bells there. A good Tabata workout me a serious but fast workout and have plenty of time for a shower and chill for a minute before returning to work. Can you make sure this is easy to get back to as well? I really want this info.

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  28. Kris

    November 22, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Great post – can’t wait to see what exercises you post tomorrow – we can compare notes ;-)

  29. MC

    September 13, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Tabata’s are savage and super effective. I used to use a timer on a website but recently got myself a gymboss. Perfect addition to the end of another session when you still have some gas left in the tank.

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  31. Wally Chute

    July 20, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Looking for other COMBINATION kettlebell exercises for my class. As examples I use clean/squat/press alot. I think squat/sumo row/2 arm swing would work. Posssibly figure 8’s/1 arm rows would be fine. Any other possibilities would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks so much!!

  32. Wally Chute

    July 20, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Could you give me some examples of effective/popular COMBINATION kettlebell exercises to do with interval training? I use Tabata protocol a great deal. I use clean/squat/press combo alot. Looking for others. Thanks!!

  33. Jay

    July 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Doug, that’s one trippy .gif image that you’ve used. :)

    Interesting stuff about Tabata for sure…

  34. James

    June 17, 2010 at 7:41 am

    @Nikki : Your site rox! I love that chihuahua.. She is so cute…
    By the way, I do have a packed schedule everyday. I guess Tabata Training is for me. Cmon, who else don’t have 2 hours for 6 weeks? That’s less than 4 minutes a day!

  35. Nikki

    January 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Check out
    In the archived workouts tab select the 20 minute interval cardio workout which is based on Tabata training. It’s kick-ass and Zuzana is one of the fittest, most feminine athletes I’ve seen. She’s inspirational and tough! Enjoy!

  36. Seher

    January 7, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Sounds quite interesting and attractive. Can’t wait to give it a shot!

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  38. zackick

    December 5, 2009 at 6:09 am

    I do believe that a new type of training like Tabata can help gain the fit body coz i dont have much time to spend on the exercise( work demand). I only have time on sunday. When i see this article that say do exercise in more efficien and effective that is great to try it out. Thank for your info.

  39. Jordan

    October 29, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Hi DR, I love your site. Thanks for all the info.

    I’m hoping you can answer my question regarding the study you link to above. (Link Title: HIIT training and Growth Hormone Response) The author concludes that HIIT training “…blunted the hGH response to sprint exercise, despite an improvement in sprint performance.”

    Can you translate that for me? Is blunting the hGH response good or bad in terms of positive health and fitness results?

  40. Ruben

    August 11, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Muscle and Fitness has a good Tabata workout in issue April 2009!

  41. Bill Johnson

    May 2, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    You can find a Tabata Timer for your iPhone or iPod Touch at It has visual as well as auditory cues so that you can watch or listen for your activity and rest periods. If you are listening to music on your device, the sound cues will overlay your music.

  42. froggywoogie

    January 19, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I’m interested in the Tabata training but I don’t want to look like any of these women!