Pfft, what can be achieved in four minutes? Quite a lot actually. If your idea of a tough workout equates to time spent training, think again. No, we are not suggesting you haul the kitchen sink, ahem…your gym bag, to the gym just for four minutes, we are merely making the suggestion that, one can achieve rather a lot in a short space of time.

So what is this four-minute workout we speak of with such confidence? Welcome the Tabata, the brainchild of Izumi Tabata, which consists of:

(20 seconds of exercise; 10 seconds of work) x 8

Why the tabata? First tested on Japan’s speed skating team in the early 90s, four sessions of the tabata protocol a week, as well as a 30-minute session of steady exercise, over a period of 8 weeks, resulted in a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity and a 15% increase in VO2 max. Now, the Japanese speed skating team went absolutely all out in each sprint on a stationary bike, working at 170% of their VO2 max, which in layman’s terms means they brushed a little too close to death’s door by the time they finished. Now since we are not the Japanese speed skating team, but nevertheless fabulous and willing, we will take their idea and make it our own. And frankly, doing burpees as a tabata protocol is bloody tough and akin to what it might feel like, if one found oneself at death’s door.

Choose your poison as follows. Warm up for 10 minutes beforehand. Ensure it is an exercise you can do, the protocol itself makes it hard. If you already find any of the below exercises a challenge, work on improving them on other training days, rather than giving them a starring role in the tabata protocol. Keep the exercise the same throughout so that you can keep track of each twenty-second burst, trying to maintain that score, or better it, in each round. Recommended exercises are as follows:

Squat jumps
Jump lunges
Push ups
Pull ups

Tabata anywhere…where to have fun with your tabata:

  • The perfect hotel room workout after a long day at the beach and before dinner.
  • As a “finisher” at the end of a workout
  • As a replacement for a longer workout if you run out of time at the gym.

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