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The 4-Minute Miracle Workout (That Really Works)

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/24/2013 6:00 AM   :  116 comments   :  146,097 Views

See More: fitness, cardio, trends,
Tight on time?

Don't give up on your workout today. If you have a mere four minutes—that's just 240 total seconds—to spare (and who doesn't), then you do have time to squeeze in a super effective workout that provides major health, fitness and weight-loss benefits.

What is this 4-minute miracle workout?

Tabata.

Tabata is a specific style of interval training that has you alternating between:
  • 20 seconds of the highest intensity you can handle (all-out effort)
  • 10 seconds of total rest (no movement)
You repeat the 20-second "hard" intervals and 10-second "recovery" intervals for a total of eight rounds, which equals just four minutes.
 
Research shows that athletes who performed these specific time and intensity intervals saw significant increases in fat burning, increases in metabolic rates, and improvements in cardiovascular fitness that were comparable or better to exercisers who go for longer, more sustained workouts.
 
While no one would recommend that you swap out that hour on the treadmill for a four minute workout all the time, Tabata intervals are easy to incorporate into your existing cardio plan or a way to squeeze in a workout that still makes a big difference if you're really short on time. Personally, I'd recommend no more than there Tabata-style interval sessions per week (along with the inclusion of more traditional and longer-lasting cardio workouts).
 
Here are some ideas to help you incorporate Tabata intervals into your workouts.
  • ON THE BIKE: Sprint with high resistance for 20 seconds, then recover with leg speed as slow as possible for 10 seconds. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • ON THE TREADMILL: Sprint as fast as possible for 20 seconds, then recover by walking or standing still for 20 seconds. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • WITHOUT EQUIPMENT: You can do "all-out" efforts of jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, box jumps, jumping rope, high-knee jogging in place—any activity that gets your heart rate up will work for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of total rest. You can stick to four full minutes of one move OR alternative between a few. It doesn't matter what you're doing—as long as you are pushing yourself to your highest possible intensity. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • OUTDOORS: Run or sprint (on a flat or up a hill) for 20 seconds, then recover by coming to a complete stop. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • ON DVD: Check out these titles by one of my favorite fitness trainers, Amy Dixon: "Breathless Body"  has countless rounds of no-equipment-needed Tabata drills that will Kick. Your. Butt. Her newest title "Breathless Body Volume 2: The Edge" is now available and follows a similar format. I cannot wait to try this one myself!
The great thing about Tabata is that YOU control the intensity of your intervals. You go as hard as you can feasibly go—that's what it takes to get the benefit. So even if that is 20 seconds of power walking, you're doing it right. Cater it to your own level.
 
As a standalone workout, Tabata is great way to fit in a nice fitness challenge (and calorie burn) when you're too busy to do anything that takes longer than 5-10 minutes. It gives you a big bang for your fitness buck.
 
And as a way to up the ante of your regular workouts, try incorporate a 4-minute round of Tabata 1-3 times a week into your runs, walks, or other cardio workouts to take your fitness to the next level. It could be just the thing you need to bust that plateau and start seeing the pounds drop off again.
 
Have you tried Tabata-style intervals before? Will you try them now? What is your favorite way to push yourself during interval training?





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Comments

  • NANNA4EVER
    66
    I like it. I am getting off the couch now!!! - 7/15/2012   7:40:09 PM
  • KAMILLAVIRAG1
    65
    I tried it out two days ago. I had 20 minutes in the morning but did not fancy saddling up and going out for a run or hopping on the elliptical (everyone was in that room!!!).
    On youtube I found a woman called Bex who did 11 or so tabata videos. She picked four types of exercises for each video and made a circuit training session out of them. Well, I admit the first video was not really a challenge so I did 3 in a row. Now that was, although overall my heartrate was only 124 with a couple of max 153s. On the other hand I've been seriously feeling my thigh and bum muscles.

    Verdict: useful but like with everything mix it with other types of activities. You won't get slim if you do 4mins of tabata 3 times a week.

    Tips:
    for beginners, I really recommend Bex's videos.
    for false beginners like me, videos are good, make more of them or try to push yourself HARD during the one you do.
    for more fitness savvy people who know what sweats them - just pick your own and push yourself hard during those intervals.

    gear:
    I'd recommend a heartrate monitor, tabata is about pushing your limits - I certainly wasn't pushing mines though I was sweating and I could feel working out. But still, it wasn't 85%.
    apps: loads of free tabata music videos and android apps are around, so you don't have to watch the clock! - 7/15/2012   10:44:11 AM
  • 64
    That's really interesting! I have never heard of tabata before, but now I can't wait to try it out. - 7/15/2012   3:30:34 AM
  • 63
    Sounds great, and we can all find 4 minutes in a day, but I've never heard of coming to a complete stop between intervals. I thought it was advised to at least keep the feet moving a little--No? - 7/14/2012   9:35:43 AM
  • RODINSOCAL
    62
    I recently saw an exercise video for quadriplegics that was very effective and presented four people in chairs to follow. Do you have/know about any such taped program for paraplegics or quads. We are all confined to wheelchairs and found this type of program effective and fun too. There are over 50 in my group who would benefit. Perhaps a Tabata type program using upper body exercises only. Thanx for any info. - 7/13/2012   5:52:08 PM
  • 61
    I start my work week at 6am with a class. I love it !!!! - 7/13/2012   4:56:42 PM
  • 60
    Will have to try this. I may try to work in a minute or two of Tabata on the exercise bike between the sets of my workouts. - 7/13/2012   2:02:39 PM
  • SOSOBOHO12
    59
    Standing still after full-blown sprints? If you say so...

    It's also not advised for true beginners - work up to it! :) - 7/13/2012   1:06:43 PM
  • WHERERMY62KEYS
    58
    It sounds quite intense but a good method of finding time to exercise. Maybe i will start with two mins first, - 7/13/2012   5:05:20 AM
  • DRACUS
    57
    There is a program called "20 second fitness" I found it on the Web. He takes you trough daily workouts in this style. He has models that demonstrate different fitness levels. - 7/13/2012   3:26:54 AM
  • ELYSE2012
    56
    My spinning instructor started incorporating a Tabata cycle, 4 minutes in a 1 hour class about 2 years ago and I really felt the difference after 2-3 months. They became easier. Then I started doing this with running, after the first 10 minutes of regular run.
    I noticed that after that interval I felt much better and was less out of breath for the rest of my run. So for the whole summer I went more often for a 30 minute run including a Tabata cycle than the previous 3 times a week 1 hour run. Come fall, when I rejoined my running group, I was in even better shape than in the spring.
    It is very powerful. And the 20 second full out is not always as intense, some days, I'm more tired but the 20 sec of pushing harder makes a difference anyways.
    In the class and runs, I never stop completely for the 10 sec rest, just a slow pace.
    I've seen videos with weight training and Tabata. To me that can be dangerous for injury because with using weights and over stretching a joint is a possibility and I think then the moves are more efficient if done well slowly than more times quickly.
    So it's a great add-on to a routine - 7/13/2012   12:05:09 AM
  • CLAYLADY001
    55
    Tabata,never heard of it so am wondering what exercise I should do for the four min.??I have not worked out in years but need some exercise and this sounds interesting.I am 70yrs. old and in pretty good health! - 7/12/2012   5:50:17 PM
  • MELLYBEANS0919
    54
    I have done it in the past...and it certainly kicked my butt, I was dripping sweat and saw results. I want to get back to it...and this article is the motivation. Thank you. - 7/12/2012   3:47:10 PM
  • MARTY32M
    53
    I'm 80 years old with heart disease and I hate exercise. I do Tabata training because it's like an exercise pill: unpleasant but quick. I take two 5 lb. dumbbells and raise and lower them from as low as I can reach to as high as I can reach as fast as I can, about ten times in 20 seconds. That engages the whole body so I can do maximum effort. I time it with a big clock app on my computer screen. My heart rate can go higher than my maximum heart rate is supposed to be. The 10 second rest period is supposed to be no movement? I'm breathing hard. I have something like a four day cycle: Tabata, rest, weight lifting, rest, then back to Tabata. Unless I do some hard physical yard work, and that delays the cycle. I got into Tabata slowly. At first I got too tired to continue after just two rounds (one minute), then three rounds, then four, and then after some time off I decided I could do the full four minutes. - 7/12/2012   2:57:01 PM
  • 52
    This workout literally kicks your behind!!!
    I currently do it twice a week and absolutely love the sense of accomplishment after each session.
    I would also suggest that you do a 5-6 warm-up before the actual Tabata Training session and a 5-6 cool-down session afterwards.
    - 7/12/2012   1:31:37 PM
  • 51
    Everyone should have 4 minutes to do one of these! I think I can fit that in each day - perhaps as a morning pick me up to get me going - thanks for the reminder of Tabata! - 7/12/2012   1:23:39 PM
  • 50
    nice, little four minute work outs randomly through out the day will do something a little extra and it'll be fun to have that burst of positive thinking if anything. - 7/12/2012   1:16:12 PM
  • 49
    I like this and I wish it was on the Fitness Tracker. Can you add it please??? - 7/12/2012   11:17:12 AM
  • 48
    Never heard of it, but since I have not managed to maintain ANY exercise program, perhaps I can convince myself to do 4 minutes at a pop. It's a start!! - Maryjean - 7/12/2012   9:23:48 AM
  • SLOWWIND302
    47
    Go to youtube and check out charliejames1975 they do BodyRock.TV and show you workouts like this. They're awesome! - 7/12/2012   8:31:45 AM
  • ROSAREVEN
    46
    Many "best workout" articles that I came across ranked sprinting as the number 1 workout that burn the most energy. Relating that to the concept of tabata, it makes sense to me that tabata can turn out to be better than long duration workouts.

    I just tried it and it is really intense. My heart was pumping like crazy in particular. While it really works for my busy schedule, those with heart risks should be careful or avoid tabata altogether and just stick with take-it-easy workouts. - 7/12/2012   7:53:24 AM
  • 45
    Dr. Mercola uses a 12 minute routine, much like 3 cycles of the tabata. He has great clips on YouTube. - 7/12/2012   7:49:59 AM
  • 44
    My spinning instructor has incorporated Tabata training into our classes...it works! - 7/12/2012   4:51:05 AM
  • 43
    I am in the US Army, we do this often for our morning cardio. Except in intervals of 30/60 or 60/120. The heart rate fluctuation definitely decreases your mile times. - 7/12/2012   4:35:46 AM
  • 42
    In my very busy schedule - this seems like something i can definitely incorporate. i will see if i can find these videos online cause this is getting me excited about already just by reading the article and its comments. - 7/12/2012   2:39:57 AM
  • 41
    I've heard of it, and sort of incorporated it into a couple of runs. But haven't seriously gotten into it yet. - 7/12/2012   1:50:10 AM
  • 40
    There four progressively more difficult bodyweight Tabata type workouts on my Spark Teams Resistance Band and Bodyweight Training. Look for Kick Ass workouts I-IV. They are also on the F.I.T. Females in Training team site. - 7/12/2012   12:20:20 AM
  • 39
    This helped me when I was trying to do a 15 minute 1.5 mi - 7/11/2012   10:20:43 PM
  • JULIA1154
    38
    Jumping rope (virtually or otherwise) works well as a tabata style exercise. It's easy to do if you have a clock with a large second hand that you can watch. - 7/11/2012   8:47:48 PM
  • 37
    Gee this sounds suspiciously like the ROM machine (which everyone MOCKS) at least in principle. - 7/11/2012   8:44:20 PM
  • 36
    This sounds exactly like Chalene Johnson's Turbofire HIIT philosophy. She recommends that it not be done on back-to-back days because your body needs time to recover, since you are supposedly working "as hard as your body can." - 7/11/2012   7:09:52 PM
  • 35
    I tried this today on the treadmill and it was fun! It turned out to be my warmup for my regular run. You know that first mile or so on the treadmill can be daunting. Well after sprints in this style, my body was ready to run and even more energized! - 7/11/2012   3:37:17 PM
  • 34
    I saw this on CNN awhile ago. Going to try it right now. - 7/11/2012   1:54:34 PM
  • 33
    Awesome! I am so going to be trying this! I'm working out in the AC of my basement with no equipment or videos, so I've been making it up and trusting myself to work hard enough to make progress. I can totally boost my made up workouts with this! - 7/11/2012   1:23:49 PM
  • 32
    I've been doing the Tabata workout for a couple of months now off and on. My most successful weeks have been when I've done it 3 or 4 times in the week. I do jumping jacks, burpees, mtn climbers and squat upper cuts. I change it around some depending on my energy level but I have never regretted spending just 4 minutes for an all day metabolism booster! - 7/11/2012   12:46:18 PM
  • 31
    Sounds like a great idea! Got to keep that body revved up and guessing what comes next! LOL - 7/11/2012   12:36:40 PM
  • HANSBRINK
    30
    I use tabata drills when I paddle on an oc1 (outrigger canoe/one man) and when I peddle on the stationary bicycle. The drills have really helped improve my endurance and strength. I also do a warm-up and cool-down sessions in conjunction with the tabata. - 7/11/2012   12:22:44 PM
  • 29
    never heard of them, but will try. - 7/11/2012   11:54:38 AM
  • KMF2012
    28
    Gonna try this out on my exercise bike! Tried something similar but the bursts were a little too long for me - at least at this point. 20 seconds at a clip sounds much more do-able! - 7/11/2012   11:42:49 AM
  • 27
    My trainer and i have been doing this for months. It has awesome results! - 7/11/2012   11:33:59 AM
  • 26
    Don't you still need to do a warm up and cool down, making the time about 20 minutes total? - 7/11/2012   11:09:08 AM
  • 25
    Exercising is my biggest weight-loss hurdle. I hate exercising and just can't get motivated. However, after reading this article, I am motivated to give it a try--I'm sure I can do "20 seconds on, 10 second off" on the treadmill! I know it says not to do it as your regular exercise routine, but maybe it will be the kickstart that I need to get interested in exercise. - 7/11/2012   10:57:07 AM
  • 24
    Just downloaded a Tabata timer app that does 20/10 intervals. I'll load it on my iPod, and I'm giving it a try tonight! This may be just what I need to kickstart my workouts again! (Stupid vacation and summer.) - 7/11/2012   10:56:57 AM
  • 23
    Since my regular workouts don't get that intense, perhaps these quick exercises will give my metabolism the boost it needs. - 7/11/2012   10:48:04 AM
  • 22
    I'm defiantly going to try this workout. I always run out of time and miss my workout. I also hit a plateau and I'm hoping this breaks me through. This is doable and I am excited to get started. I noticed several asked about a timer. I found a tabata timer on youtube.com. I also bet there is an app for that, haven't checked yet but, will let you know. - 7/11/2012   10:32:33 AM
  • 21
    @EGALITAIRE- Good question. They are short-term studies, but we have enough research to show that a wide variety of intensities of exercise (and durations) are more beneficial than doing only intervals or only short/high intensity. Your body needs a mix. We need high intensity and short duration for the unique benefits it provides, but when it comes to calorie burning and weight reduction (and management) nothing beats total calories burned that comes from simply doing longer workouts. Hope that helps answer. - 7/11/2012   10:32:15 AM
  • 20
    There is a free app called Seconds that is great for timing Tabatas or HIIT. - 7/11/2012   10:20:39 AM
  • 19
    Wow! This looks like an awesome idea! I've just gotten back into regular exercising and I liked doing intervals on the treadmill when I used to exercise before so I'm going to try this after work today. Seems like doing this on the treadmill would be a bit difficult though, seeing as you have to set the speed and give it a second to get to that speed, and also harder to know if you're giving your all since the treadmill is dictating the speed but I could still try it. I was thinking of doing it on the eliptical though. That way I could just change the resistance and chug away as fast as I can, haha. - 7/11/2012   10:19:01 AM
  • EURODREAMER
    18
    So.... really no excuse for not having enough time. Will start today. - 7/11/2012   10:01:23 AM
  • GREENMOUSE
    17
    How do you time yourself? I don't think I could focus on the moves and count off seconds at the same time. - 7/11/2012   9:47:51 AM

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