Tabata Training & the Total Gym



Temperatures may be dropping, but your workout routine is about to heat up—Total Gym Tabata style!


One of the hottest workout trends today is a variety of HIIT workouts. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a sure way to blast calories, challenge your body to its limits, and do it all in short bursts of time. This style of workout is an excellent way to accomplish your fitness goals while keeping you focused on challenging your body.


There are countless workout methods that can help you reach your fitness goals.  Whether you want to lose weight, increase strength, tone and define, or build massive muscles, performing the correct style of workout and appropriate exercises are key. So if you want to spice up your current routine, just add a few Tabata sets and see how hard your body can work.



Dr. Izumi Tabata developed the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) regimen known as the Tabata Protocol method. He published research to examine how and when the aerobic and anaerobic systems utilized energy differently in the body. He aimed to devise a training program that would improve ATP (energy production) in the most efficient way.


Dr. Tabata collaborated with the Japanese speed skating team coach, Irisawa Koichi, who developed a protocol of short maximum bursts of sprints followed by short rest periods. Koichi’s protocol proved to maintain and improve peak performance in elite speed skaters; therefore, Tabata was determined to test the protocol out with other athletes at different performance abilities.


The study examined two control groups of 20-year-old amateur athletic males.  One group pedaled on an ergometer for 60 minutes at a moderate intensity (70% VO2Max).  The second group pedaled for 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second rest for 4 minutes at maximal effort to complete 8 sets total.  Maximal effort was the key element since each interval was expected to be a sprint.


The study lasted for 6 weeks. Both groups worked out for 5 days a week performing either 1 hour or 20-minute sessions. The overall shocking outcome concluded that a 4-minute maximal intensity Tabata workout produced the same aerobic benefits as doing a 60-minute moderate intensity workout. Therefore, why not maximize your time and effort by performing a 4-minute workout and incorporate other exercises at the maximal effort level each until failure?!


Many studies have been conducted to test such effects, but thanks to Dr. Tabata and his research, today we have a solid “Tabata” method that is proven to produce results.



Tabata training is one of the most popular forms of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It consists of eight rounds of high-intensity exercises in a specific 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off interval set that lasts for a total of 4 minutes.


Maximal-effort sprint-like activities are a key component for Tabata workouts.  Intensity is the key ingredient, not duration! One should not be able to work for more than four minutes at maximal effort. If it isn’t a struggle to complete, then you aren’t pushing yourself enough. By the end of the 4 minutes you should feel like you’re going to die!


Tabata is great to get a quick workout in if you’re short on time, you need to switch up your routine, or you want improve endurance, speed, and stamina.  You can also choose any exercise you wish to perform based on your training goals.


You may want to focus on increasing strength, losing weight, improving flexibility or building muscle. Whatever your goals are, most exercise programs can help you reach them, as long as you stick to the plan. The Tabata method helps burn fat faster than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. Your efforts are maximized and you’re challenged to the limits.



Any exercise pairs well with this type of workout as long as you have a goal in mind for what you want to accomplish. When choosing exercises for your Tabata workout, be sure to focus on these specific training goals. For instance, you may want to improve your speed and agility. Therefore, the best exercises would consist of different cardio speed drills in all directions of motion to improve this goal. Perhaps your focus is on lower body strength and toning. Then you would choose exercises that challenge the legs and hips accordingly.


My goal for this Tabata workout is to provide you with exercises that train the entire body. The workout consists of 4 exercises that target different muscles of the body simultaneously for a total body circuit.


There are different ways you can conduct your Tabata session by how you ‘lay out’ the timed exercises. I’d like to share two different options of how you can arrange the Tabata circuits to have a certain feel to the workout.



  • Perform the first exercise for 20 seconds ON, 10 seconds OFF
  • Complete 8 total sets of the same exercise. 4 minutes total to complete one Tabata circuit.
  • Then move on to the next exercise and perform it the same way.



  • Perform the exercises in a series for one minute each (2 sets / exercise = 1 minute) using the Tabata timer of 20 seconds ON, 10 seconds OFF.
  • Complete 2 total sets of each exercise.
  • 4 minutes total to complete the Tabata circuit.
  • Take a minute break, reset the Tabata timer and repeat the same circuit OR choose 4 more exercises and perform it in the same manner.


Note: I’ve only chosen 4 exercises, which is either a 16-minute or a 4-minute workout depending on how you wish to perform Tabata! Adding more exercises increases the workout time and also offers more work to your muscles.


Be sure to watch the accompanying video to view a demonstration of how the exercises are performed utilizing a Tabata circuit. I demonstrate these two layout options you can apply the Tabata format to.



Whether you have an hour or just a few minutes, a Tabata workout could be what you need to feel strong, toned, and challenged every day. So get ready to sweat it out, de-stress, and start challenging your body to new limits no matter what fitness level you may be. Incorporate this type of workout into your fitness routine to produce real results!



Best Always,


Maria Sollon

Maria Sollon Scally MS, CSCS holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Enhancement/Injury Prevention and Kinesiology. She has obtained numerous certifications in various areas of fitness and is a national conference presenter. Maria specializes in Pilates, Performance Coaching, and Corrective Exercise Techniques and Kettlebells. She is the creator of the Plyo Pilates Method and has developed a series of amazing workout DVDs. She is a Master Trainer for Total Gym, Resist-a-Ball, Body Blade, Peak Pilates, Kettle Bell Concepts and is a freelance writer for Fitness accredited magazines, newsletters, and fitness blog sites. Maria demonstrates her knowledge each day and uses her dynamic creativity throughout her specialized line of work. (purchasable workout videos) (workout clips)

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