My Great-Grandma doing her Tabata workout

Tabata Training 101

My Great-Grandma doing her Tabata workout

My Great-Grandma (circa 1996) doing her Tabata workout

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?


The same four women (circa 2009)

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 cardio-vascular 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 for those of you that can’t wait until tomorrow:

Here are some of my posts about HIIT training

And if you like what you see here, click here for updates

47 thoughts on “Tabata Training 101

  1. Bill Johnson

    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.

  2. Jordan

    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?

  3. DR

    If your goal is to add muscle mass, we would have to assume that the GH blunt caused by sprints would be bad.

    Elevated GH = Elevated IGF-1 = more muscle

    And for older trainees, increased GH helps with a bunch of aging related health issues.

    BUT, overall health & fitness is much more complicated than high GH good vs low Gh bad.

    HIIT is much more effective for fat loss than endurance cardio,
    but endurance cardio is better for cardio-vascular efficiency
    but HIIT improves the quality/quantity of fast twitch muscle fibers needed for strength
    but, but, but

    And, to build on the initial study, here is another study that shows that endurance exercise increases GH better than HIIT and resistance training.

    In the end, this type of research contributes to my belief that there is no one style of training that is the absolute best.

    Each style of exercise has different pluses and minuses. We get to pick and choose depending upon our goals as well as our current state of health.

    I hope this helps.

    Feel free to shoot me other questions if you want more help

  4. 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.

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  6. Nikki

    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!

  7. James

    @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!

  8. Wally Chute

    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!!

  9. Wally Chute

    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!!

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  11. MC

    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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  14. Corrine Hoffmeyer

    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.

  15. Matt

    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?


  16. healthhabits

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

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  26. goodnewsmarketing

    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?

  27. P90xer

    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

  28. healthhabits

    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

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  30. Roberta Nolan

    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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