Tabata: This Four-Minute Fitness Trend Might Be the Fastest Way to Lose Weight

Tabata training is trending on the health and fitness circuit right now–and with good reason. It’s a fast, effective, fun (if you like working up a sweat), way to shed fat, and you can do it by simply following a free YouTube tutorial at home.

This trendy method is a type of high intensity interval training (HIIT), another buzzy phrase you’ve probably seen doing the rounds on fitness blogs lately–and when it comes to HIIT workouts, Tabata is one with the most scientific research backing it. In the ’90s a Japanese professor led a study showing that exactly four minutes of intense interval training was just as effective as hours of lighter workouts–the “Tabata Protocol” was born.

Fitness instructors are starting to throw in a few minutes of Tabata training to traditional circuit workouts, however there are a few things to remember to do if you want to see actual results from the training.

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A proper Tabata workout should include a 10 minute warmup during which you increase your heart rate by doing stuff like lunges or high knees. Then, the “Tabata” part of your workout should only last for exactly four minutes, and usually involves repeating one exercise quickly and intensely (like squats or jumping jacks) for 20 painful seconds, and then taking a 10 second recovery.

This is repeated eight times, with a focus on working just one muscle group, and really pushing yourself 100 percent during the 20 second working period. While many exercise classes claim to follow the Tabata method, they focus on different areas of the body, or don’t push gym-goers hard enough, so really fail to bring the results classic Tabata training has been shown to achieve.

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So, you might be wondering what all the hype’s about. Well, if done correctly, the four minute workout pushes your body to break through its aerobic and anaerobic threshold. It can increase your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, and resting metabolic rate, which means you keep burning calories way after the workout ends.

PJ Stahl, a Tabata program director and coach based in L.A. explains: “Tabata’s bodyweight exercises are large, multi-joint movements, and multi-planar activities, instead of single-joint movements.  Using the largest amount of muscle during training has enormous implications for hormonal and metabolic responses, resulting in the vastly improved muscle definition and calorie and fat burn. This will get you the results you want.”

Importantly, Tabata can help you burn more fat and make you look much leaner than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout, making jogging on the treadmill seem a lot less impactful.

If it sounds like something you want to try (because: Spring, swimwear, short dresses, etc.), follow this free YouTube workout.