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At its most basic, Tabata is simply a timing technique.

It goes like this:
  1. 20 seconds of intense (or moderate to intense) training
  2. 10 seconds of rest
    (Repeat 8 times)


You can use Tabata to speed things up in cardio like:

Or try:




Get the timer.

You can find free Tabata timers online at You can also find apps for your smart phone. Most timers and apps will allow you to set the length of your work and rest intervals any way you like.



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Perk up a dull workout routine

Look up the word “Tabata” online and you might be turned off by these words: intense, uncomfortable and monotonous. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

“If you think Tabata is all those things, then rethink it,” says Alicia Erlandson, personal trainer and assistant manager at the Well for Life Center at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

“Tabata can be anything you want it to be,” says Erlandson. “I incorporate Tabata into all of my classes and personal training sessions,” says Erlandson. “It just shakes things up enough to make it interesting. Add a little to your regular go-to exercise and see where it takes you.”

Mix and match

Most people would prefer not to do the same exercise eight times in a row, says Erlandson. That’s where it gets fun. Get creative with Tabata by mixing and matching exercises in the same Tabata cycle. For example, alternate a jumping jack with a squat.

Or, consider trying Tabata with an area you want to work out that day, for example, abdominals. Instead of 25 crunches, try planks, crunches, reverse crunches, and bicycle crunches, and repeat until you’ve completed 8 rounds (or 4 minutes).

Why Tabata?

Tabata originated in 1996 with the exercise research of Dr. Izumi Tabata. He used his timing training on cyclists. The results were so striking that the training was named after him.

“True Tabata training requires participants to push themselves to the max — and that level of intensity is not for everyone,” says Erlandson. “Anyone can try Tabata-inspired intervals at a lower intensity that’s more appropriate for their fitness level.”

Two Tabatas to try

Abs Tabata set:
  1. Crunches (20 seconds) (10 second break)
  2. Bicycle crunch (20 seconds) (10 second break)
  3. Leg lifts (20 seconds) (10 second break)
  4. Plank (20 seconds) (10 second break)

Repeat the series and you’ve got one Tabata under your belt!


Beginner full-body Tabata set:
  1. Squats (20 seconds) (10 second break)
  2. Pushups (20 seconds) (10 second break)
  3. Walk the stairs (20 seconds) (10 second break)
  4. Crunches (20 seconds) (10 second break)

Repeat the series and you’ve got one Tabata under your belt!


Find more information about Tabata at

For specific instructions on how to do most any exercise, from a plank to a squat, visit the American Council on Exercise (ACE) library.

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