The 4 Minute Workout – Is Tabata Training the Ultimate Fat Burner?

Recent studies suggest Tabata training can burn up to 13.5 calories per minute....can that be right!?

Recent studies suggest Tabata training can burn up to 13.5 calories per minute….can that be right!?

Tabata training is nothing new, but talk to any personal trainer, fitness head, or blogger, and it’s clear this training method is experiencing something of a resurgence in popularity.  It comes as no surprise – recent coverage on major media sources like CNN and Fox News have detailed recent studies demonstrating the powerful effects of Tabata training.  One such study out of Auburn University, led by Exercise Science professor Michele Olson, showed Tabata training can be as effective as five times as much standard cardio exercise, as measured by calories burned.  What this means is, your eight minutes of Tabata training will burn the same number of calories as that 40 minute jog on the treadmill!

Surprisingly, this Auburn study was the first time anyone looked to see exactly how many calories Tabata training burned, as well as what kind of metabolic increase it generated. Olson found that intense Tabata training can burn up to 13.5 calories per minute, making it one of the very best forms of exercise for those wanting fast, yet consistent, fat loss.  Not only that, Olson found Tabata training increased metabolic rate (number of calories you burn) for 30 minutes post-exercise.  This means even when you’re back in your office after that lunch break workout, your body is continuing to burn calories like you’re still working out.

So what does this mean for you?  This means if you’re trying to lose some LB’s, tighten up, and/or increase your endurance, Tabata training is exactly what the doctor ordered.  Additionally, if you’re one of those people short on time (isn’t this nearly everybody?), Tabata training is a fantastic way to minimize your time spent working out, while maximizing the benefits of your training.

How Tabata Training Works

Tabata training is actually quite simple – 20 seconds of high-intensity work of a particular exercise, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated eight rounds for four minutes of total work.  From there, the sky is the limit – you can literally mix and match different types of exercises to create a longer, more comprehensive workout.

Another great thing about Tabata training is how versatile it is.  This 20/10 format can be adapted to nearly any type of exercise.  Whether it’s purely cardio, strength, or a combination of both, Tabata training remains an effective method of fatiguing your body and slashing through calories like a madman (or woman).

Personally, I’ve been using Tabata training in my own workouts for about three years now.  While my goals might be a bit different from yours, I’ve found Tabata training to be an excellent way to continually burn fat while sacrificing the muscular gains I’ve made.  The problem with a great deal of cardio exercise is the fact it not only eats up your fat stores, it’ll make a dent in those lean muscle mass gains you’ve worked so hard for.  Since Tabata training is typically much shorter in duration than most other forms of cardio work, I’ve found it spares muscle better than almost anything I’ve tried.

Now what does this mean?  This means if you’re already in shape or perhaps just a person wanting to get toned and defined without losing your muscle, Tabata training is a powerful tool to have in your arsenal.

Your Tabata Workouts

But of course, we can’t stop there.  I want to give you some of the Tabata workouts I’ve actually been using that delivered awesome results for myself.  After all, what good is any of the information above if you don’t have something practical to takeaway from it?  The three Tabata workouts listed below are perfect for nearly anyone – but especially ideal for those wanting to cut fat, develop more definition or tone, and increase endurance.

Tabata Workout #1 

Our first Tabata is great for those short on time – we’re only going for 16 minutes.  I usually use this workout at the end of a regular training day, or on those days when I literally can’t leave the house to get to the gym.  I’ve used more intense exercises to be sure we’re making the most of those 16 minutes we’re training.  This Tabata uses combination cardio/strength exercises so you’re getting the best of both worlds here.

Tabata Workout #2

The second Tabata I often use is when I have a bit more time (32 minutes) and want to focus more of my training on endurance, while also maximizing my caloric burn and fat loss.  This workout uses more traditional cardiovascular exercises to gradually bump my heart rate and melt away fat.  This workout is intense (and long) enough that I can easily use it as a standalone workout and feel good about the work I did that day.

  • Mountain Climbers – 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest/repeated 8 times total
  • Jump Rope
  • Twisted High Knees – 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest/repeated 8 times total
  • Tuck Jumps - 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest/repeated 8 times total
  • Mule Kicks – 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest/repeated 8 times total
  • Triple Plank Hops – 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest/repeated 8 times total
  • BOSU Stand Ups – 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest/repeated 8 times total
  • 180 Planks – 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest/repeated 8 times total

Tabata Workout #3

The third Tabata in my rotation places more of a focus on strength/muscle gains.  I’ve adapted the typical Tabata method for use with five different strength exercises.  I’ve found that not only do I get a great muscle burn by training in this format, I also get some added cardiovascular benefits due to the uptempo nature of this style of training.  If you’re pressed for time but still want a killer total body workout, try this Tabata out – I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Go ahead and play around with any or all of the above workouts.  Ranging from 16 to 32 minutes in length, you should easily be able to find something that fits in with your schedule.  Remember, Tabata training is just one weapon to use in your fight against fat.  While it’s an awesome way of working out….it shouldn’t be the only way you’re working out.

Keep your training varied, increase weights over time, try different exercises, include a variety of fitness disciplines into your overall plan, and you should see measurable and continued progress.

Have any questions about Tabata training?  Need help with your own fitness plan? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you shortly.



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Co-Founder at Share It Fitness
Matt has been involved in the fitness industry for over 10 years and has worked with, and helped countless individuals improve their lives. After college, Matt started his fitness career working in the trenches as a personal trainer for a big corporate gym. It was here he saw how impersonal Big Fitness really was. Clients weren't people, they were just sales waiting to be made. After branching out and starting his own personal training business in San Diego, Matt soon developed the idea of Share It Fitness and started our (now highly successful) blog. A fitness junkie himself, Matt knows the importance of incorporating exercise into your life. When he isn't working at Share It Fitness, you can find Matt running, biking, taking yoga, or pumping iron around San Diego.
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    Thanks, I’ll try these out in the coming weeks! Can’t wait for the results!