Exercise hacks: 4-minute workout to drop the weight in seconds

If you are trying to get fit but don’t have a lot of time to devote to working out, the Tabata protocol might just be the workout for you. Tabata is a 4-minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout named after Izumi Tabata, Ph.D. In his 1996 study, Tabata analysed the data of a group of athletes following a training protocol which involved a mix of 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds periods of rest for eight rounds. He compared their data with a similar group of athletes using steady state training, and he found that the first group of athletes had more measurable athletic gains, including anaerobic capacity benefits. But what are the benefits for us regular folks, you ask? A recent study found that Tabata burns an average of 13.5 calories per minute (several participants burned much more), making it one seriously efficient workout! “This particular style of interval training has profound effects even on short-term post-exercise metabolism," says study author Michele Olson, PhD., lead researcher at the Auburn University Montgomery Kinesiology laboratory. "It would take five times the amount of typical cardio exercise to shed the same number of calories you can in a 4-minute, all-out effort Tabata segment." Read on to see a 6-minute Tabata-inspired fat-blasting workout.

Maximise your training

First and foremost, according to study author Michele Olson Ph.D., you’ve got to go all out with Tabata. “In my study, subjects did jump squats as high and as fast as they could, crouching super low for every 20 second round,” she says. The results showed that participants pushed close to 95 percent max on average. “It's a tough training method if you do it correctly; but if you are doing eight rounds of the 20-10 formula and not truly pushing beyond max, you won't see the benefits of the authentic Tabata format.” Olson notes that getting to that max level every time may mean you need to stick with only five to six rounds in the beginning and build up to eight full rounds. It’s best to cut your rounds short and go all out; otherwise you are just doing a variation of circuit training.

EXERCISE 1: High Knees - 1 Round

Olson recommends a 5-minute warm-up. Jumping rope – real or imaginary – is a great way to break a pre-Tabata sweat. After you’ve warmed-up, you’ll be ready for your first interval; high knees. Start by running in place as fast as you can (remember to GO ALL OUT!), driving your knees up as high as you can lift them. Pump your arms back and forth to help propel your knees higher for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and then move right into the next interval.

EXERCISE 2: Squat Jumps - 2 Rounds

Lower into a squat position, pushing your hips back and knees tracking over (but not past) toes. Keep your chest lifted and arms bent with your elbows touching your knees. Quickly jump straight up, reaching your arms overhead. Land softly in squat position and then immediately repeat for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and then repeat once more.

EXERCISE 3: Dumbbell Snatches - 2 Rounds, One per Side

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Holding a dumbbell with your left hand, extend your right arm out straight to the side of your shoulder. Olson recommends using 4 to 5 kilo (8-10-pounds), depending on your level. Lower into a squat position, sitting back into your hips, pressing your thigh slightly outward to keep knees tracking straight over your toes. Next, explode through your hips, driving energy through the hip joint (as if you were about to vertically jump off the floor) and perform an upright row motion with your left arm, raising dumbbell to shoulder level, rotating your palm front. Immediately press dumbbell vigorously overhead as if you were going to punch your knuckles through the ceiling. Repeat as quickly as possible with good form for a total of 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

EXERCISE 4: Speed Skater - 1 Round

Stand with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Take a wide step out to the side with your left foot, lowering into a squat position, bending your right knee behind body, tapping right foot lightly on the floor and swinging arms to the left. Quickly push off your left leg, swinging your arms out to sides of your shoulders, jumping out and over to the right, landing on right leg with left leg crossed back, arms swinging to right side. Repeat as quickly as possible for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and then move right into the next interval.

EXERCISE 5: Lunge Jumps - 2 Rounds, One per Side

Step with your right leg back into a lunge, bending your elbows with your arms by your sides. Jump straight up, reaching your arms overhead and extending your legs in the air. Land softly in starting lunge position. Repeat as quickly as possible for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

What Do YOU Think?

Had you heard about Tabata? Do you use Tabata in your current workouts? If not, will you try it? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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About the Author

As a certified wellcoach, author, fitness lifestyle expert and the star of numerous exercise DVDs, Jessica Smith is constantly writing and producing video content about the latest news and expert information on health, fitness and wellness. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.