Focus On: Tabata Training

Something about cooking dinner on the grill makes it so more exciting.

Like family pizza night:


Fun in the oven, party on the grill.

After making cinnamon rolls this weekend, the last thing I wanted to do was mess around with yeast and dough –I contemplated a brown rice tortilla for my pizza crust- but when I saw that the Bob’s Red Mill dough only took 20 minutes to rise, I was ok with that. Something about bread-making, yeast and dough is intimidating, even though it really is NBD. I froze half the dough for our next pizza night,

and the Pilot’s dough was pre-made by the lovely deli section at Sunflower Market.

Oiled and garlicked the dough:


Added toppings,

(sauce, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, oregano, olives, anchovies and the sad last little bit of goat cheese for me)

and the Pilot grilled away.

pizza (2)

I enjoyed mine with a simple green salad

pizza (3)

and it was pizza perfection.

So today, I thought it would be kind of fun to talk about Tabata training, since I’ve received quite a few questions about it and it’s one of my current favorite training methods to teach. It’s a perfect cardio component to bootcamp classes and a nice way to effectively spice up your workout routines, as it doesn’t require much time at all.


jump rope

What is it?

It’s an extremely popular form of high-intensity interval training, based on a 1996 study by Dr. Izumi Tabata. In the study, they observed 7 participants, who first followed a 6-week moderate cardio endurance training (70% VO2max) for 60 minutes each day, 5 days per week. The anaerobic capacity didn’t increase significantly. To compare, 7 participants then followed a routine of 7-8 rounds of 20 seconds on (170% of VO2max– really freaking intense work) with 10 seconds of rest, 5 days per week for 6 weeks. This group gained anaerobic capacity benefits, and only worked out for 2 hours total over the course of the study, compared to 30 hours of exercise from the steady state group. The aerobic systems of both groups increased by a small amount, but the unique thing about this study is that it shows that just because aerobic capacity slightly increased in both groups, the high-intensity interval training could improve both aerobic and anaerobic systems.

So of course, any type of cardio is beneficial (strengthening the heart, burning calories, fat, improving circulation, reducing stress and risk for diabetes, and so on), but including a form of high-intensity training into your workout routine is a great way to increase your performance and calorie-burning potential.

Little nugget of gold: lower-impact activities burn more calories during the activity, but less afterwards. High-intensity workouts burn less during the actual workout because they’re shorter in duration, but the resting metabolic rate is higher in the 24 hours after the workout. High afterburn!


How do I do it?

Tabata intervals are set time periods of work and rest: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, repeat 8 times for a total of 4 minutes.

The convenient thing about Tabata is that you can do it anywhere- you don’t necessarily have to take a class (even though they’re popping up at gyms everywhere) to reap the benefits.

If it’s your first time trying Tabata, or any type of interval or cardio training, I’d definitely get the ok from a doc first and start out with less intervals. Try adding in 2 sets at the beginning or end of your next cardio sesh and build on from there, depending on how you feel.

-Warm up for about 3-5 minutes, complete the Tabata intervals (20/10 x 8: 4 minutes), cool down and stretch. That’s it!

-Some of my favorite methods (keep in mind that you want to choose an exercise that you can go 170% VO2max aka balls to the wall for the entire 20 seconds):


Elliptical – I like the crank the resistance and speed for this one




Jump rope

Plyometric exercises – be wary of which one you choose, for safety factors and ability to quickly increase and decrease intensity. For example, I’d do jumping lunges or jump squats, but maybe not box jumps or something else I’d be guaranteed to eat the floor with


-As with any type of high-intensity training, I wouldn’t do this on consecutive days. Alternate days, 2-3 times a week max. Remember, your heart is your most important muscle, and just like all of our other muscles, it needs rest, recovery and variation, too <3

-Its also fun to throw in Tabata intervals in between strength training exercises to switch things up and increase the calorie burn. Here’s a sample training schedule:

Sunday: OFF

Monday: Tabata mixed with strength training (total body or upper body)

Tuesday: Steady state cardio

Wednesday: Tabata mixed with strength training (total body or lower body)

Thursday: OFF

Friday: yoga/flexibility

Saturday: Steady state and/or Tabata

-YouTube is an excellent source for Tabata-style workouts. Mindy Mylrea posts them often on her YouTube channel. Here’s a fun one:

When was the last time you Tabata-ed? If you’re a newbie to intervals, don’t be intimidated. Check with your doc and take it easy until you feel comfortable adding in more interval rounds and increasing your intensity. As always, if you’re injured or have other health considerations, honor your body.

It’s workout time over here 🙂

Have a great day!




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  1. fittingbackin on December 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Family pizza night! Love that!

    We do tabata in a class at my new work gym. We’ll do push-ups, squats, lunges, bunny hops, you name it – that way!

  2. Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food on December 27, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Grilled pizza is definitely a good time! With cold winters in the NE, I miss my grill all winter! Maybe we just need to bundle up and get out there and use it!

  3. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on December 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this! HIIT workouts hurt so bad but I always feel so proud of myself afterwards!

  4. Courtney on December 27, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I absolutely love tabata workouts! I’ve been using tabata intervals for about a year and I can see incredible improvements. Plus it’s so quick and effective! What a great explanation and helpful tips for newbies 🙂 I’ll pass this information on to interested patrons.

  5. M.E. on December 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I had a dream you had your baby last night! I wasn’t there or anything creepy I just dreamed that you blogged a single photo of you in a hospital gown, the pilot in his jumpsuit, and a tiny darkhaired bundle of joy!

    • Fitnessista on December 27, 2011 at 11:23 am

      whoa!!! maybe soon! (i hope)
      that is AWESOME 🙂

  6. Felicia on December 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

    HIIT and tabata are seriously awesome. my body responds so well and i’ve seen such drastic changes. the fact that its only 4 min or a 20 min HIIT is a huge bonus, so i can easily talk myself into sprints for that amount of time. it has definitely replaced long runs for good, and i only need to do it 2-3 times a week !

  7. Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life on December 27, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I’ve been hearing SO much about Tabata lately. I’m a huge fan of high intensity interval training, but I have yet to try the 20/10 Tabata format. Reading about it here definitely makes me want to do it more now though. I think I may have to try this later in the week. Thanks for posting Mindy’s youtube video!

  8. Ali on December 27, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Yum! Those pizzas look delish! I totally hear you on the not wanting to make bread thing, it can be so much work. Thanks for all the Tabata info!!

  9. Chris on December 27, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I just started incorporating some Tabata work in my spin classes. I have been using some songs from this cd: and they work great because the intervals are already timed out for you.

  10. Becs in Britain on December 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Hey lovely, thanks so much for the heads up on tabata – it was a really interesting read! Must give it a go soon! I just wanted to share a pizza recipe – the dough takes literally a minute to whizz together and it tastes fabulous! I’ve not tried it with wholemeal flour, but I’m sure it would be easy to sub whatever flour you fancy:
    It’s Jamie Oliver’s recipe, and I always use it for our pizza nights! Enjoy! x

  11. Cat @Breakfast to Bed on December 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I have been wondering what the hell tabata training was. I thouught it was Corey’s wife on “Boy Meets World”, but I couldn’t figure out how watching tv would burn calories.

    • nicki on December 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      I laughed out loud when I read this… I miss Topanga!

  12. Liz @ Southern Charm on December 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing this!! I’ve been curious, but have never tried it.

  13. Haley @Fit, Young, and Fabulous on December 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I LOVED this post!! I have been wanting to try Tabata for a while now!! Thanks so so much! (:

  14. Lindsay on December 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I just watched Mindy’s video and she uses an iphone app to count the intervals. I just found a free one that seems very simple and easy to use! It counts down 20 seconds, then 10 seconds and keeps track of what interval you’re on. If anyone’s interested it’s called Tabata-Timer and it’s free!

  15. Anna @ The Guiltless Life on December 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    That sounds great! I love that it’s maximum intensity but for such a short period of time because – as my yoga instructor likes to tell us during dolphin plank in hot class – you can do ANYTHING for 1 minute, so you sure as heck can do anything for 20 seconds! 🙂

    This will be a great way to spice up my gym strength training workouts. I tend to get cardio from Zumba/dance classes or hardcore yoga classes as I don’t do too well on a treadmill…get bored too fast! But I like to go to the gym for strength training so this is a great way to make those workouts more sweaty ;).

  16. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on December 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Just did a tabata style workout last night! Love it, it’s definitely easy to keep going and push yourself when you know it’s almost over!

  17. Lena @Fit on the Rocks on December 27, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Awesome post. I haven’t done a Tabata in awhile, so thanks for posting the video. I’ve never done Mindy’s moves before, and they look do-able.

  18. Brittany on December 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I have the tabata app on my phone and love doing them! I’m excited to check out Mindy Mylrea’s video. 🙂

  19. Kaila @healthyhelperblog! on December 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I never really knew exactly what tabata was so this was really helpful! I am gonna try that you tube video out later!

  20. Laura @ LauraLivesLife on December 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I loved grilled pizza – when I have pre-baked crusts (or pre-bake flatbread), I like grilling it directly on the burners! I swear, something about the grill marks make everything taste better!

  21. SweatyGirl on December 27, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Those pizzas look GOOD! Mm so many toppings, just my style!

  22. Kristi @ Sweetly Fit on December 27, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    mmmm, pizza on the grill definitely makes it so much more delicious. It’s all about the grill marks. 😀 Yours looks great!!

    I get such a high when I do tabata. Plus, the fact that I can squeeze in such an effective workout in such little time is a huge plus!

  23. Army Amy* on December 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I love pizza! I could eat it every day of the week!*

  24. Kimberly on December 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for posting about this! I have been seeing this all over blog world!! I actually just made a quick little video of my first attempt doing tabata intervals – I was thankful I did not have any visitors stop by because I looked ridiculous! 🙂

    I found this online tabata timer that I thought your readers might enjoy — I also linked this post on my blog because you did a great job explaining everything — I just made a silly video to show people how easy it can be and that you can do it anywhere!!

    Thanks so much Gina!

    The tabata timer link:

  25. Kasey @ The Spinach Monologues on December 27, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, I’ve been reading/hearing so much about HIIT lately and I’m really excited about it! Also, your pizza looks delicious!

  26. Lindsay on December 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Gina, does the higher afterburn compensate (speaking in terms of calorie burning) for the extreme brevity of this tabata workout? I want to obviously become more athletically fit, but not gain weight or a massive appetite as a result of crazy high intensity. Thanks! <3

    • Fitnessista on December 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      it really depends on your body. i find that i’m definitely hungrier on days i do tabata or hiit training since i’m burning extra calories, so while i’m eating more, i make sure it’s clean food. if you do it twice a week or so, you’ll definitely see fitness gains from this type of training and continue to fuel yourself well, just pick the good stuff 🙂

  27. Jennifer on December 27, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Happy Holidays, Gina (and family). I’ve been doing the Tabata thing since the last time you linked to a couple stories about it. I have to do them on the elliptical and I love it. I have Lupus and suffer from a ton of inflammation. I have to try to get as much as possible done in a short amount of time otherwise I’m in pain for days. You would think the intensity of the Tabata workout would be worse for the inflammation but it’s not. It lets me get in a good cardio workout with much less time spent putting stress on the joints.

    Also I just wanted to say that you’re even prettier pregnant. Kind of weird saying that to another woman but it’s true. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on December 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      wow, that’s awesome that it’s working so well for you!
      thank you- what a wonderful compliment <3 especially when i've been feeling extra awkward haha

  28. Gen on December 27, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I looove tabata-style workouts!! Quick and challenging!

  29. Liz on December 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I feel like I’m in pretty good shape, but I just attempted Tabata intervals and got through 4 before I wanted to die! I love a challenge so thank you for sharing this!

  30. Stephanie Madden on December 27, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Completely random- I’ve looked high and low for Nike Dance Low Huaraches and cant find them anywhere 🙁 What do you think about the Nike Air Max Command for Zumba? My knees get a little sore after classes, and I really want to find an awesome stylish shoe lol. Let me know what you think, thank you!!!!

    link to Nike Air Max Commands on Ebay:

  31. C on December 27, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Tabata must be the word of the day! My trainer just had me do a tabata session tonight and my legs are still screaming after 2 hours. He really helped to keep my form correct and to push me to work harder during the intervals while not hurting myself (not an easy thing to do;)
    LOOOOVE this blog so much!

  32. Lara @ beingLA on December 27, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I love tabata workouts, but it’s SOOOO important not to overdo it when it comes to Tabata/interval training. I took it to the extreme this summer when I ran sprint intervals in a tabata sequence 3-4 times a week. My Tabata workout consisted of 4 3-minute intervals each with the following: 2 min high intensity @ 9 mph or higher followed by 1 min low intensity @ 3-3.5 mph. I ended up seriously injuring my hip flexor and not being able to run or even exercise for 3 months. It was terrible! Now I know to take it easy when it comes to my Tabata workouts. Plus, my max for Tabata is just twice a week, if that. It’s such a great calorie burning exercise but that means you definitely have to consider giving your body more rest :-).

  33. mi-an d. on December 27, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    love tabata workouts!!! but yes impt to do them 2-3 times a week only!

  34. Lauren @ Fun, Fit and Fabulous! on December 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I just showed my husband this post to convince him we should try pizza on the gril!! I’ve had it once, and it was amazing! Maybe this weekend. I absolutley love Mindy Mylrae’s videos. She’s amazing. I’ve taken a lot of classes from her at fitness conferences and she is just as much (if not more) fun in person!

  35. Carla Runs The World on December 28, 2011 at 12:14 am

    I’ve heard of intervals, but never of Tabata with the specific 20sec on 10 sec off. Really good tip, and I need to start trying that for a variety! Thanks for the link to Mindy’s videos as well!

  36. Shannon (Healthiful Balance) on December 28, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Thanks for sharing! I want to try Tabata sometime 🙂

  37. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on December 28, 2011 at 6:33 am

    I’ve never formally Tabata’ed…but after figuring out what it was a few years ago, I realized that on my own, I kind of work out in the style sometimes anyway.

  38. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on December 28, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I like to cheat and use premade dough too – it tastes almost as good and it’s so much easier! 😛

    Thanks for this post! I’ve done tabata intervals in spin class before, but never in my own workouts. I’ve been meaning to give them a try!

  39. Brittany @ it's gonna be somethin' good on December 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I have never made pizza on the grill before but these look so good we’re going to have to try them! So Tabata workouts are alot like HIIT workouts, is that right?

    • Fitnessista on December 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

      they’re a form of hiit training, yes 🙂

  40. Maggie on December 28, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Gina!
    I’ve been reading your blog for about 9 months now, and I just love it! You were the biggest inspiration when I was trying to lose the 12 extra pounds I gained during my first year of marriage. Yikes! 🙂 Thankfully, I have lost the weight and am now focusing on toning up. I asked for Turbofire for Christmas and have loved it so far! Although I love the sweat I work up while doing Turbofire, I am missing my weights back at the gym. Do you think it’s safe to incorporate a weight lifting routine 3x a week with Turbofire 5-6x a week? I’m moderately fit and don’t have any injuries, but I also don’t want to push my body too far. And don’t worry, I won’t blame you if I hurt myself. 🙂 If you have time, let me know what you think. And I’ll be praying for your baby to flip and for a safe a natural birth!
    Thanks SO much!
    Maggie Lee

    • Fitnessista on December 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      hey girl!
      that is amazing! you should definitely be proud of yourself 🙂
      i think it’s totally fine to do weights with turbo- just be careful and gauge how you’re feeling.
      thank you for the flipping baby prayers too <3

  41. Katie G on December 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Would it be more, less, or equally beneficial to do tabata, for say, 10 minutes? (If you could last that long with high-impact)

    • Fitnessista on December 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      i would say more, but take a break in between sets. there are full classes (45 minutes to an hour) that only do tabata, so i’d imagine it would be ok. and it doesn’t have to be high impact per se, just high intensity

      • Fitnessista on December 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm

        and as always, go with how you’re feeling

  42. Lauren on January 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Tried this Tabata video today after heated yoga — woosh it is hard! Thanks for the video. 🙂

  43. Jentry Nielsen on January 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    I’ve never tried or heard of Tabata training before, I’m a big fan of HIIT though. This will be perfect for when I’m short for time! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  44. Laura on August 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I LOVE Tabata! It is so absolutely fabulous because you can do it anywhere!! And I’m drooling over your pizza ~ YUM!

  45. Rebecca on October 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I love your posts! I’ve taken a couple of your workout ideas and tried them out, and I hope to try this one tonight!

    I also tried the breakfast cookie and it was really good. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on October 11, 2012 at 12:40 am

      i’m so happy you liked it!

      • Rebecca on October 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm

        I did try two Tabata workouts (on different days) after I read this and wow, they’re really hard! I do intervals on the track most weeks so I thought this would be a breeze, but no, “balls to the wall” is a pretty accurate description!

  46. Abby on December 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve done Tabata training for a while now (spinning sprints, Tabata style and workouts like the ones on your blog) and have wondered how effective they really are.

    This sheds lots of light on the science behind the training. Sometimes when I only have 20 minutes to work out, I wonder if it’s worth it. But it really is! I usually combine one 4 min tabata set + a timed 8 min pushup circuit + one more 4 min tabata.

    • Fitnessista on December 23, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      yep, it’s totally worth it 🙂

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