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Tabata Training Guide (Don’t Make These Mistakes)

By Greg Brookes

Tabata Training Guide

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Tabata training so I thought I would answer them here for you:

1. What is Tabata Training?

​​​​​​​Developed by the Japanese Speed Skating Coach it involves a 4 minute workout of very short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by very short rest periods.

Traditionally the format looks like this:

  1. 20 Seconds x Very Hard Work
  2. 10 Seconds x Rest
  3. Repeat 8 times

2. Who should use Tabata Training?

Tabata Training requires bursts of high intensity, so it is not ideal for beginners.

You would need to develop an exercise and cardio foundation first before attempting these workouts.

3. What are the benefits of Tabata training?

Simply put you get a lot done in a very short period of time.

Research has shown that Tabata Training is more effective at improving your cardio capacity, and inducing fat loss than longer steady cardio.

With long steady cardio you only benefit from calories burnt during the workout, but with Tabata training the big benefits are delivered for hours afterwards.

4. What exercises should I perform?

The best Tabata exercises are full body reciprocal movements. For example:

Here’s an image of the Kettlebell Swings exercise below:

Kettlebell Swing Two Hands

5. Can I put lots of Tabata Workouts together?


If you feel you can do more than 4 minutes of Tabata training you are not pushing yourself hard enough or you are using the wrong exercises.

Traditionally when the system was developed the Japanese Speed Skaters could not even finish the 4 minutes, that’s how hard they were working.

6. How often should I use Tabata Workouts?

Everyone responds and recovers from exercise differently depending on age, nutrition, genetics etc.

If you are just performing Tabata training without any other types of demanding exercise then 3 – 4 times per week is a good guide.

7. How does Tabata Training fit into an exercise program

Depending on your goals I would use Tabata Training to work on Cardio and Fat Loss by itself or add it to the end of a workout if you are focusing on muscle building.

8. How do I know when to progress my Tabata Workouts?


If you find 8 rounds of 20/10 too easy then it’s time to change the exercise or increase the weight.

9. How do I start Tabata Training?

Providing you are not a beginner:

  1. Choose a full body exercise you feel comfortable with (see examples above).
  2. Perform a good warm up similar to the exercise you will be performing (so for sprints you would do some less intense running, for swings some lighter swings, for goblet squats some bodyweight squats)
  3. Set your timer for 20 seconds work 10 seconds rest, or have a clock with a second hand in front of you.
  4. Go for it, maximum effort.

Don’t expect to finish the full 8 rounds or 4 minutes on your first attempt, if you do, the exercise is too easy or the weight is too light.

It is very common to reach around 5 rounds before having to stop.

Wait a day or 2 and then try again. Try to add another round each time.

10. What Tabata training is not…

  • Spending 60 minutes putting lots of Tabata Workouts together
  • Using exercises like Planks, Bicep Curls, Dips or Crunches

To see more posts about cardio workouts, go here.

I hope you found this useful, you can see lots of Kettlebell and Bodyweight Tabata workouts here

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    1. Dan Avatar

      Could someone please commend a good Tabata timer?