The Tabata Cardio Workout

Equipment: Elliptical, stationary bike, treadmill, Versaclimber, rowing machine or pool (providing you’re an experienced swimmer).

Warm-Up: Five minutes at a steady pace, light tension setting (if on a cardio machine that offers tension resistance); for a treadmill, jog at 4–5 mph.

Workout: Perform 20 seconds of all-out effort, adjusting the tension 1 or 2 notches if applicable (on a treadmill, you’ll step off to the sides and increase the speed to 6 mph or above, depending on your fitness level, and leave it at that speed, stepping on and off between work and rest bouts), then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat seven more times. The “working” portion of this training session equals out to four minutes. (Those new to Tabata should start with 3–6 intervals instead of eight.)

Cool-Down: Slow to a steady, reasonable pace for 2–5 minutes.

A Note on Intensity: Subjects in Tabata’s study worked at an intensity of 170% of their VO2 max during each interval. That’s extreme. To instead keep it simple, just go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, to the point where you’re panting (but not to the point where you feel lightheaded or faint — if that happens, stop immediately and rest).

Non-Machine Tabata Workouts:

For those who wish to try Tabata training without relying on cardio machines, we recommend any of the (beach side) movements. Do only one of the exercises shown here, focusing on perfect form during the early going. Don’t worry, you’ll work up a good sweat and have your heart pounding the very first time you do a Tabata protocol. You’ll follow the same format as in the cardio example — don’t bother counting reps, simply do as many as possible with challenging 20-second intervals, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

Assume an upright stance, legs spread shoulder width and toes pointing slightly outward, arms extended directly in front of your body. Drop down into a squat position, until hamstrings are parallel with the ground, keeping your torso in a natural alignment (don’t lean excessively). Drive up quickly through your heels into the upright position, and repeat.

Assume an upright position, legs spread shoulder width and toes pointing slightly outward, fingers entwined behind your head. Drop down into a squat position, until hamstrings are parallel with the ground, keeping your torso in a natural alignment. Drive explosively through your heels, jumping into the air as you extend your legs. Land softly onto the balls of your feet and repeat.

Stand upright with feet together, arms hanging at your sides. Lower yourself into a crouch, placing your hands on the ground just on the outsides of the upper thigh area. Thrust your legs and torso rearward until you assume a push-up position. Hold for a count of one, then reverse the process and repeat

Assume an upright position, legs spread shoulder width and toes pointing slightly outward, as you hold a pair of dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Drop down into a squat position, until hamstrings are parallel with the ground, keeping your torso in a natural alignment. Immediately drive upward through your heels, and as you arrive at the start position, smoothly extend your arms overhead into a shoulder press. Reverse the process and repeat.

NOTE: The Tabata Cardio should be approached with all due caution. You should consult a physician and be cleared for strenuous activity before trying it. Yes, the workouts are short, but don’t let the duration fool you — done at a proper intensity, the Tabata sessions will kick your ass.