Strapped for Time? Try this 4-minute Fat-Blasting Workout

One of our most common excuses for not exercising is ‘No time lah’. We get it. It’s not easy, what with work, chores and other daily commitments. When you get home, the last thing you’d want to do is spend an hour exercising.

What if we told you that all you need is 4 minutes? There is actually one workout out there that will take just a minimum of 4 minutes for you to sweat buckets, and panting like you just ran a 100m race. Everyone, meet Tabata, a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout that will last you for 4 – 20 minutes [1]! Sounds good, eh? But how does it work? Let’s get into the science of Tabata:

What is Tabata?

During a typical Tabata session, you will push yourself hard doing any workout moves (like burpees, mountain climbers etc) for 20 seconds, before resting for 10 seconds. You then repeat this 20-sec / 10-sec cycle for 6-8 sets for 4 minutes then move on to another set of moves [2].

For example, you do as many push-ups as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds (that’s one set) and continue the same cycle until you do 8 sets of it in the span of 4 minutes. So let’s say next you want to go for jumping jacks, you repeat the 20-sec / 10-sec cycle so you can do about 5 moves for 4 minutes each which could take your workout to about 20 minutes. Believe us when we say those 4 minutes would be the longest 4 minutes of your life.

What makes Tabata better than an hour-long workout?

The founder of Tabata Protocol Dr Izumi Tabata and his research team did an experiment to test out the effectiveness of Tabata training between two groups of speed skaters.

One group was instructed to do a moderate cardio exercise on a stationary bike for an hour, 5 times a week, while the other group was told to complete 10-minute warm-ups on the bike, followed by 4 minutes of Tabata intervals, 4 times a week – including one 30-minute session of moderate exercise with 2 minute intervals [3].

After 6 weeks, Dr Izumi and his team found that the group who did the Tabata intervals had a higher VO2 max (indicates your cardiovascular health and maximal aerobic power) at 15% and has an increased anaerobic capacity of 28%, while the other group did not show any results of anaerobic activity at all [4].

Safe to say that Tabata is scientifically proven to help improve your aerobic and anaerobic capacity not due to the intensity but the 20/10″ interval training system that utilizes a short recovery time [5]. Though the Tabata protocol was first introduced as a stationery bike workout, these days people are taking the usual cardio moves and infusing Tabata’s interval training system in it to make it more stimulating and difficult.

Who should try Tabata?

tricep dips tabata

If you are an athlete or someone who exercises regularly and have experienced some form of intense workout before like Crossfit then this would be a great addition to your daily workouts. Doing warm-ups and having the right form is crucial if you want to avoid a bad muscle sore the next day.

As for beginners, this workout would be difficult but there is no harm in trying it out if you are already relatively fit [6]. You can start off by making your own Tabata program. Just complete 1 or 2 body weight exercises repetitively for 8 sets, 3 times a week. This will help build up your speed and intensity as you get stronger [7]. It would be better if you are supervised by an instructor if you are a first timer so that the instructor can customize a program that suits your fitness level.

For the fit bunch, you can try incorporating Tabata workouts about 3 times a week alternately with your current workouts. You can do the workouts with equipment as well such as weights, kettle-bells and more.

Can Tabata replace my usual workouts?

This form of interval training is great if you want to burn a good amount of calories in a short amount of time. But it is best not to replace your workouts with just Tabata even though it incorporates your whole body because it is an intense workout. You have to give your body time to recover after the session so it is recommended to do Tabata workouts a few times a week only.

While Tabata is great for burning calories in a short span of time, you’ll still burn slightly more doing more than an hour of moderate cardio exercise [8]. Add regular exercise to a healthy diet, and your dream body will come along faster. So if Tabata looks intimidating for now, you can continue with your usual cardio workouts that takes a longer time but with less intensity.

Up for some Tabata workouts at home?

Get a timer or use a sports band to track your progress as you try these 5 Tabata workout videos that you can do if you are fit:

1. Tabata Workout to Tone Everyting in 10 Minutes | Class FitSugar

2. Burn Fat In 4 Minutes – Tabata Workout #1 – Live Lean TV – Follow along his series if you are up for it.

3. BURN FAT FAST Tabata Workout : You Have 4 Minutes #1 – BEXLIFE – Congratulations if you made it through her first video, you can try the next one after that!

4. Total Body HIIT Boot Camp Workout – Quick Tabata Workout

5. Booty Camp TV – Total Body Tabata – Full Workout


Did you manage to stay strong to complete a Tabata training? Feel free to share your Tabata experience here or on our Facebook page!

Sources: Ace Fitness, Muscle Evo, Breaking Muscle,

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