Cardio Workout: Total Body Tabata


Who’s ready to Tabata?! Wait. Are you familiar with Tabata workouts? A Tabata workout is a type of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT workout, that pairs bursts of high intensity followed by low intensity. The technique is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, dean of the Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Sport and Health Science in Japan, although Izumi Tabata gives credit to Olympic speed skating coach Irisawa Koichi for creating the technique. Regardless of its origins, this HIIT workout is an incredible way to improve your endurance, and get a great workout in a short period of time. The Tabata protocol calls for 20-second intervals of work paired with 10 seconds of rest. One round of Tabata is four minutes long and contains eight total rounds of work and rest. Tabata can be done with any type of movement: core, cardio, strength, etc.! Some people like to stick to cardio, while others will do a floor workout, and others will focus on arm or leg strength movements. The choice is 100% yours!

If you’ve never tried a Tabata workout, why start now? Read on! The specific Tabata protocol has benefits that go beyond a regular treadmill or circuit workout, regardless of your ability or fitness level. Researchers have completed studies that have shown that Tabata has serious fat burning and metabolism-boosting powers, compared to other workouts. Tabata is an anaerobic activity, which means it’s performed without oxygen. In anaerobic activity, your body is solely relying on the glucose stored within your muscles for energy. That glucose has to be replenished, which is why one of Tabata’s main benefits is calorie burn. In addition to burning calories, researchers have also found that Tabata can improve endurance and aerobic capacity. And if fat loss plus increasing your endurance and metabolic system isn’t enough information to convince you to try it, well, know that it’s an full-body workout you can complete in a short period of time. 

Below, you’ll find a workout that mixes cardio tabatas with simple bodyweight exercises that’ll act as your active recovery between tabatas, plus it’ll work your core. You’ll want to find a place at your gym next to a cardio machine so that you can quickly jump off and do floor movements – bonus points if you can watch a video on the machine to keep you distracted from how hard you’re working. You can also jump rope if you’re performing this at home – a jump rope is a great piece of equipment to keep for at-home cardio! In total, this workout should take you around half an hour to complete, including the equipment and non-equipment sections. Try this workout with a group, coach or teammate to keep it interesting – this can even be a fun workout to do with kids!

Tabata Cardio and Bodyweight Workout

Warm up with two minutes of light cardio. You can do this on your cardio machine, or you can jog in place with moves like high knees or jumping jacks. 

Tabata Cardio

Choose a cardio machine and set your resistance or incline to medium. You’ll want to sustain this resistance during the entire tabata. When you’re doing cardio, whether you’re on a bike or a treadmill, make sure you’re pushing with your leg muscles rather than your feet. Obviously you have to do some pushing with your feet, but the goal is to work your legs, not your feet! Even when you’re tired, do your best to push through and strengthen those legs. It’s similar to how planks use your arms – but the primary muscles being worked are your core muscles.

  • 20 seconds of work/high intensity (push it hard)
  • 10 seconds of rest/low intensity (make sure to keep going, bring the intensity/speed down, and keep the resistance where it’s at)
  • Repeat 8 times

Rest for 30 seconds.

Bodyweight Exercises

Get ready to work your core and lower body with these floor exercises! Remember, proper form is key to getting the most out of these movements. Perform the prescribed number of reps, feel those abs burning, then jump back on your cardio machine!

  • 30-second plank: You’ll want to find a comfortable spot on the floor for your plank. If you want to change this ab movement up, you can try heel touches, side crunches, mountain climbers, or even planks with hip dips. Make sure you’re in the proper plank position with your legs straight and your hips parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders strong – if balancing on your elbows is too challenging, you can always try out the high plank position on your left hand and right hand, or drop to your knees instead of your toes. Way to work those abs!
  • 15 Squats: Get ready to work those glutes! From your plank on the ground, jump up to a standing position and drop right back down into a squat position. For people who want to make this more challenging for their glutes (if your legs aren’t burnt out from the cardio sprints), you can level up by adding a pair of dumbbells or squat jumps. If you use a pair of dumbbells, hold them above your hips and perform regular squats, making sure to keep your weight in your heels instead of your toes. For jump squats, jump as many inches off the ground and into the air as you can, then land on your feet as softly as you can. If squats don’t work for your hips or knees, try lunges instead! Perform 7 reps on your right leg, then 7 reps on your left leg. You can also try side lunges (with the same number of reps on your right leg and left leg) if you’d like. You’ll definitely feel the burn in your butt!
  • 10 Push-ups: Ah, push-ups. We love to hate them, but they’re one of the most effective upper body and chest moves around, and they get more effective the fewer inches you’re away from the ground. However, if these are too challenging after sprinting and sweating it out, you can perform them on your knees, or switch to another chest and shoulder stability move like mountain climbers. For people who want to push through until the end, swap push-ups for burpees. If you go for burpees, make sure you have plenty of floor space for this powerful entire body move!

Repeat the entire round 4 times total.

At the end of your Tabata session, take two minutes (minimum) of cardio at a low speed to cool down.

An important thing to keep in mind with Tabata is to listen to your body! It can be easy to push too hard when you first try it out, and you want to make sure you avoid injuries. Check in on how you’re feeling after every round, from your head to your hips and your legs to your feet. You won’t be able to maximize your calorie burn if you’re injured or overworking your muscle groups. Make sure you’re drinking water – but not too much, so that your stomach isn’t sloshing around. And when you’re done, snap a sweaty selfie for the ‘gram – you just completed an awesome workout! Don’t forget to tag us so we can give you a virtual high five. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get started with this Tabata workout today! If you keep at it, we have a feeling that you’ll see improvement in your endurance within weeks.

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