WARNING: Tabata Workouts WILL Cause Fat Loss


I have a love/hate relationships with Tabata training…..I love what it does for me, but I hate how I feel around minute #3.

Seriously…Tabata training is one of the best ways to quickly improve fitness & melt body-fat. If that piques your interest, read on….

Pre-Workout Checklist

  1. Pick an exercise that uses a lot of muscle – squats, power cleans, pull-ups, etc… To make that selection, you can choose from the list of exercises that I have provided or pick your own if you think my choices stink.
  2. Pick a weight that you can handle for at least 7 reps.


  1. Perform as many reps as possible within 20 seconds – maintain good form
  2. Rest for 10 seconds
  3. Perform 7 more sets
  4. Move on to the next exercise

Note:  Use a clock, stopwatch, workout buddy or a dedicated HIIT timer to keep track of your work sets and rest periods. I know of two HIIT timers on the market.

The Workouts

Instead of giving you a static workout with pre-selected exercises, I have decided to organize the workout by movement patterns (e.g. Vertical Push) or dominant muscle groups (Quadriceps).

Within those groups, I have given you a list of related exercises.

For example, within the Vertical Push Movement Group, you can choose from 1 Arm Overhead PressPush Presses, 1 Arm Grappler Presses, Side Presses, etc…

Remember, the goal is to go as hard as you can for 8 sets of 20 seconds.

  • Don’t use this workout to try out new exercises – You won’t be able to develop maximum intensity if you need to concentrate on technique. Choose exercises that you know you can perform effectively and safely.
  • If you can’t make it through all 8 sets because of the lactic burn to a muscle, eliminate that exercise and replace it with one that uses more muscles. e.g. a push press uses more muscles than an overhead barbell press.
  • Single limb exercises allow you overcome this problem as well – e.g. 1 Arm Overhead Press v.s. Barbell Overhead Press

Workout # 1

  1. Vertical Push Movement
  2. Horizontal Pull Movement
  3. Quadriceps Dominant Movement
  4. Core Stabilization – focus on Spinal Flexion & Extension
  5. Vertical Push Movement – optional
  6. Horizontal Pull Movement – optional
  7. Quadriceps Dominant Movement – optional
  • Feel free to re-arrange the order of Exercises 1, 2 and 3. It doesn’t really make a difference.
  • Sets 5 to 7 are for advanced athletes only. Remember, intensity is the key to Tabata success. Don’t try and pace yourself in order to add another set. Go full out on each set. Believe me, 4 sets of full intensity Tabatas should be enough to have you soaking wet with sweat and bordering on nausea.

Workout # 2

  1. Vertical Pull Movement
  2. Horizontal Push Movement
  3. Hamstrings/Glute Dominant Movement
  4. Core Stabilization – focus on Rotation and Lateral Flexion
  5. Vertical Pull Movement – optional
  6. Horizontal Push Movement – optional
  7. Hamstring/Glute Dominant Movement – optional
  • Feel free to re-arrange the order of Exercises 1, 2 and 3. It doesn’t really make a difference.
  • Sets 5 to 7 are for advanced athletes only. Remember, intensity is the key to Tabata success. Don’t try and pace yourself in order to add another set. Go full out on each set. Believe me, 4 sets of full intensity Tabatas should be enough to have you soaking wet with sweat and bordering on nausea.

Vertical Push Movement

Horizontal Pull Movement

  • 1 Arm Standing Cable Row or Band Row
  • Body-weight Rowuse an adjustable power rack or Smith machine. This allows you to modify the angle of pull and the percentage of body-weight. Also, change your grips from set to set – width, underhand, overhand
  • 1 Arm or 2 Arm Seated Rows – I prefer the standing rows because of their high demand for stabilization, but the seated version is pretty good as well
  • Avoid any bent-over movements – Your lower back will fail long before the rest of you

Quadriceps Dominant Movement

  • Front Squats – Dumbbells or Barbell
  • Body-weight or Weighted Vest Squats – 1 Leg or 2
  • Overhead Squats1 Arm or 2, 1 Leg or 2
  • Quad Dominant Lunges – Lunge forward onto the ball of your foot AND keep your step short and allow the knee to travel past your toes…I know, I know, everyone says not to lunge this way, but it really hits the quads. BTW, take a look at how far your knee travels past your toes as you climb a flight of stairs…ooooh scary stuff.
  • Bench Step-Ups
  • Bulgarian Lunge/Squat

Core Stabilization – focus on Spinal Flexion & Extension

  • Standing Cable or Band Crunch
  • The Ab Wheel
  • Leg raises/Knee-Ups / Crunches (various) – I would skip these exercises – you will fatigue quickly and you will probably have to cheat to complete all 8 sets

Vertical Pull Movement

Horizontal Push Movement

  • Push-Ups – like the Body-weight Row, use a Smith machine to adjust angles and body-weight resistance. Also, adjust hand placement (width, overhand, underhand) from set to set. Trust me, switching grips will increase the number of reps you will be able to perform
  • 1 Arm Standing Cable Press or Band Presses
  • Stay away from any standard bench press type exercise. The lactic acid will hit way too soon. You will never get a good Tabata workout…trust me. The cable/band exercise is the best choice. Even the push-ups allow you to use your legs and core to help perform the lift. You need these extra muscles to take some of the load

Hamstring/Glute Dominant Movement

Core Stabilization – focus on Rotation and Lateral Flexion

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  1. Tabata workouts are so freakin good. Love the post.
    If you’re looking for an online/offline timer for tabatas, there’s one available, here at thefitblog.net.

  2. Very nice timer Jamie.

    I don’t have any idea how to do it, but it would be awesome if it could be downloaded to an iPhone.

    On a related note, I just received a portable interval timer and I will be trying it out next week – post will follow.

  3. Hey DR,

    interesting read about HIIT (also great site). I was wondering how to incorporate that protocol in my regime: 6 out of 7 days I am doing some activity like swimming, climbing, running. The running is combined with push ups and chin ups as well as rope skipping; just cardio like stuff. So, I thought of applying that to running and to the bodyweight exercises, but was not sure as to how often per week. Maybe you can suggest something, that would be most helpful.

  4. Hi Felix

    To avoid messing with your current routine, I would try adding some aerobic HIIT training into your current swimming/running routine. Start easy with the beginner routine included in this post. If that’s too easy for you, I can give you a hand ramping it up a bit.

    Bodyweight exercises are also a good tool – This post might help you put together an anaerobic HIIT training program

    Let me know if this helps

  5. I just started a interval training program. It’s been about 2 weeks and now my left shoulder is starting to bother me a bit. It feels like i’m overworking my rotator cuff. Could the resistance bands be aggrevating my shoulder? what are your thoughts?


  6. Grafsata,

    The bands are no worse than any other method of resistance training for injuries – Have a sports medicine doc have a look at it – Good luck with the injury and the website.

  7. Douglas

    I’m a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist from British Columbia and have just finished an article on my blog about this subject. I had a tough routine in mind to put to paper, but then came across this article and was sincerely impressed with your understanding on the subject.

    So, to make a long story short, I used your routine, with a live link back to you, and have put you in my blogroll, as I think my readers will benefit from what you say. However, I thought it best to see if you’re fine with your information being used. I’m located at http://healthinmotion.wordpress.com/.

  8. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  9. So, I did my first Tabata workout today. Killer!

    Are those pictures up top really the same person? If so that is an amazing transformation. That’s what I want for myself.

  10. Not exactly…I took a little artistic license.

    The guy on the right is an Olympic weightlifter. Pretty good motivational picture though…He is stuck to my fridge – keeps me eating healthy

  11. You can find a Tabata Timer for your iPhone or iPod Touch at http://www.katr.com/iphone.php#tabata. It has visual as well as auditory cues so that you can watch or listen for your activity and rest periods. If you are listening to music on your device, the sound cues will overlay your music. It really helps keep you focused on your workout without worrying about your timing.

  12. Drobb, I am really interested in the Deadpool workout program for Ryan Reynolds you spoke about on Squidoo. Im a skinny guy (165lbs, 6″tall) and want to put on some muscle as Im a police officer and deal with people twice the size of me on a regular basis and a little more muscle will be a big help. If possible could you email me with this information to the address provided. Thanks in advance for any advice.

  13. Andrew,

    If adding size & strength is your goal, we can do better than the Deadpool workout.

    I love working with cops/firefighters & military. I will put together a program designed to slap some muscle on a hardgainer while increasing strength and improving anaerobic endurance.

    The “Super-Cop” Workout

    Give me a few days to put the article together

  14. I have been following any information on Ryan Reynolds various workouts since he played in Blade Trinity but have been unable to find much on his deadpool workout. I would love to know what you have. I am a crazy ectomorph and have to try hard to gain mass, my determination goes up and down, but I am looking to really push myself again, could you please share any information on his Deadpool workout that you have I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  15. yah, those workouts will definitely kick anyone’s (you know what)… been looking for a challenge so will try these with my next round of workouts… thanks, can’t wait to test myself!

  16. Hi Drobb
    i was greatly impressed at the transformation of ryan reynolds in blade trinity and would be very grateful if you could email me his Deadpool workout please and even the blade trinity one if you have it. I saw the lens on squidoo and couldnt figure out how to contact you
    Thanking you in advance

  17. I am using a combination of HIIT/HIRT/Tabata training for my bi-weekly conditioning workouts. I am going to have to give up my nightly M/W/F muay thai kickboxing classes for now, so I’ll be replacing those with T/Th conditioning workouts at noon. Good times.

  18. Jim,

    Tomorrow’s post will have a new and improved version of the Ryan’s Deadpool workout.

    I have been beta testing it on a few (formerly scrawny) clients and it has worked better that I even imagined.

    Muscle mass increased really well
    Strength went up
    Power went up
    and all of the clients went from having skinny-fat abs to having hard, muscular abs

    Personally, I had just finished a strong man phase so I just used the getting ripped portion of the workout. It worked better than any other program I have used in my 23 years of working out.

    No B.S.

  19. So i think I am going to start this, on a beginner level. Doing three different exercises twice a week, with some recovery days that include walking and one day dedicated to core as that is the only thing that keeps my back from going out. Any advice or comments on this plan? I am an athletic 310 pounds (down 16 lbs) by modifying my diet but need to step it up. I am now working with a dietitian and have stopped sabotaging my weight loss efforts with fast food, I was a fast food junkie. I would consider myself out of shape would that stop me from doing this workout? I am healthy as a horse except for the weight of course and my doctor has been begging me to get the weight off, so I am finally listening. Any comments would be great.

  20. Michael,

    Tabatas are a very intense form of HIIT training. As such, I don’t usually start beginners out with them.

    My suggestions:

    Keep the sprints at 10 seconds and increase the length of rest periods. Judging rest periods is a bit of a balancing act. I don’t want my clients to be fully rested but I also don’t want them gasping for air as they start their next sprint.

    Do a tag search for HIIT on the blog and you should find a ton of my training articles, OR
    Check out this other site I am playing around with. I am using this to email workouts to my online training customers. There are a bunch of HIIT specific workouts there. I will be adding more – right now there is one workout geared to beginners.

    Alternately, if you need more help, contact me and we can set up some online training. It’s $20 – $50 per month for 3 months with a 1 month money back guarantee

    You should also let your doc know you are starting a new training program. I would love to hear how your numbers (weight, BF %, BP, cholesterol, etc) change over the course of your transformation

    Best of luck,


  21. This site is a bunch of bull. There is no way that is the same person. NO WAY!!! There is no way that the Tabata program can make someone go from the one picture to the next. The first point is you do so much HIT cardio even in the 4 minutes that he would never get the size he has gotten. The second point is with HIT you look like a long distance runner when doing cardio not a bodybuilder. I am calling him out show more pictures to prove you are who you say you are, other wise STOP ALL THE LIES!!!!

  22. Dave,

    It seems like we have radically dissimilar senses of humor.

    As I mentioned to a previous reader (Darryl – comment #17), those are two different people in the picture.

    Personally, I thought it was pretty obvious that they were two different people.

    And BTW, HIIT (not HIT – HIT stands for High Intensity Training – see Arthur Jones, Casey Viator or Mike Mentzer) is one of my favorite fat burning tools precisely because it spares muscle while burning fat unlike standard cardio training.

  23. Great routine guys and I’d really like to link to it if I may. My husband is taking this to gym and I hope he has a total transformation! And Dave, shame on you; your mother will be very unhappy about your post.


    The FAT Blogger
    The Fat Loss Blog 4 Over 30s

  24. I made a comment back in January about the online version of WOD Timer and I’m posting again to (finally) let you know of the iPod Touch and iPhone version. More info here: http://www.thefitblog.net/wodtimer

    But what I can hardly believe is how the comments have kept on rolling in on this post through the entire year! Awesome.

  25. I tried this out for the first time yesterday – it was pretty intense! I look forward to seeing the results in the coming weeks… I have a couple of questions though: 1 – for the exercises using 1 arm (or leg), do you alternate sets, or do you do 8 sets with one arm, then 8 sets with the other arm (taking the 1 arm overhead press as an example)? 2. How should I judge what weight to use?

    Great site by the way! I’m eagerly awaiting part 5 of the deadpool workout…

  26. I have tried this training style, and i can say that it definitely works! If you have tried it yet, i suggest to do it right now!

  27. I don’t know if this was mentioned but the iPhone has a FREE HITT timer called Tabata Lite. It’s very basic, but it WORKS! and it’s FREE!!! Enjoy.

  28. Amazing post. This is the BEST Tabata post I have seen to date. Thanks for all the awesome explanation behind the structure you’ve put together.

  29. Sorry, don’t mean to be stuoid, but I looked at the 101 entry as well but I still am not sure what you mean by “3). Perform 7 more sets
    4). Move on to the next exercise.” Does that mean I do 4.5 minutes (alternating between 20 sec work and 10 sec rest) of the one exercise and then move on? So the work out in total ends up being 4.5 minutes x 8=36 minutes?

  30. 8 sets of (20 sec work + 10 sec rest) = 4 minutes total – with the last 10 seconds being a rest period – if you don’t NEED that rest period, you’re not pushing hard enough (Tabata success is based entirely on intensity level)

    After the mandatory/necessary 10 sec rest, you can a) move immediately to the next exercise or b) rest for up to 5 minutes

    I try and keep my rest periods as short as possible while still allowing my body to recuperate enough to be able to attack the next Tabata with full intensity. If I feel that my intensity level is dropping too quickly, I will extend the rest period between exercises a little more (up to 5 min). If that doesn’t solve the problem, I terminate the workout. My concern is overtaxing the nervous system.

    And there are no stupid questions…just stupid bloggers who can’t explain their ideas clear enough. Thanks for allowing me to clarify.

    7 Tabata sets = 28 minutes total

  31. Is it possible to put a Tabata training together that doesn’t require the use of an actual gym? I have a large variety of hand weights and I already pay for a membership at an MMA gym for 3 days a week. I’ve done the Tabata training before so I know it works but access to that type of a gym right now is not an option but I’d like to put it back into my routine on the days I’m not doing kickboxing/Muay Thai.

  32. Hi Corrine

    A lot of my workouts during the summer are performed outdoors with no equipment or just some bands or a kettlebell.

    Give me a few days to put together a post on this topic

  33. Thanks. Any ideas would help. I’m down to that last ten lbs that I want to loose and it’s extremely stubborn. I thought this might be a good idea to shake up my routine and get over that hump.

  34. What if you have no access to a gym? Can this workout work for someone who is a beginner and only has a few free weights?

    BTW…love your articles and posts. I am currently on Day 2 of the Paleo Diet for the 21st century.

  35. Hi Stacey

    Tabata (or any interval training) Training can be applied to almost any workout

    The thing to remember is the time & the intensity levels – 4 minutes total – 8 x 20 sec at full intensity interspersed with 8 x 10 sec rest periods

    Great BW exercises for Tabata workouts include – hill sprints, BW squats, BW Thrusters, Hip Thrusts, burpees, jumping jacks (or any calisthenic), shuffle lunges, toes to the sky, hindu or divebomb pushups, broad jumps, side to side hops, etc….

    BTW, thanks for reading & commenting

  36. Great post – i love Tabata training, although I favour mix and matching exercises. One thing

    Lunge forward onto the ball of your foot AND keep your step short and allow the knee to travel past your toes…I know, I know, everyone says not to lunge this way, but it really hits the quads. BTW, take a look at how far your knee travels past your toes as you climb a flight of stairs…ooooh scary stuff.

    I wouldn’t recommend this lunge, my knees are complaining just thinking about it. Sure if your quads are strong enough to protect the knee it might be ok. The comparison with the stair climbing is not valid as your weight is backward and not being supported by the knee. In the lunge the knee is weight bearing and so these lunges shouldn’t be used, imo.

    Instead you could try lunges with a jump and switch of the legs, that’ll up the intensity!

  37. @Jon

    I agree with you that if lunges hurt your knees, you should stop doing them.

    However, I have to disagree with your statement that the knee is not being loaded by BW during stair ascension.

    An analysis of human biomechanics shows that (depending on stair riser height and joint angles – knee, hip & ankle) the knee is exposed to loads of 2.5x BW during stair ascension (3.5x during descension) more info

    In my experience, a fair amount of knee pain associated to lunging can be improved by getting rid of joint mobility & muscle imbalance issues.

  38. @healthhabits

    You are right of course in stair climbing there is weight bearing but it is much less than in lunging. Relatively less weight bearing occurs than with lunges in the article it says squats produce a 7xBW load. Lunges would be substantially more as one leg is taking the strain.

    I agree with the mobility and imbalance issues which begin with the feet. IMO we fail to use our feet effectively and if we did we’d have less problems with our knees, in general life and lunges!

    I just don’t like the idea of the lunge extending the knee deeply so it is protuding beyond the toes.

    Love the site by the wya, I’ve only just found it.

  39. This article would be worth a read if you’re considering a Tabata style workout.

    Here’s a snippet from the article:

    “The first study used 14 young male students and was done on a cycle ergometer (note: not with resistance training exercises) – a favourite due to the low reliance on technique making it suited to supra-maximal efforts such as needed in this study. The study choose to measure Vo2 max for improvements along with anaerobic capacity (note: no body composition data was taken at all).

    While one group carried out fairly normal aerobic training for an hour a day, the Tabata group were exercised for bouts of 20 seconds at a percentage of 170% of VO2 max, with only 10 seconds rest. They continued this to exhaustion (as defined by being unable to maintain a set pedal cadence). Now, if you haven’t tried exercising at this level, let me tell you it is seriously difficult to both attain and sustain, as evidenced by his 1997 study where 3 out of the 9 subjects were unable to even complete the eight bouts of 20 seconds. In fact this level of VO2 would be realistically impossible to attain doing a free weight movement, due to technique requirements, local muscle fatigue, and practical safety considerations.

    So, what happened? Well the aerobic group got fitter, but didn’t improve their anaerobic capacity. The Tabata group? Well they got a bit fitter too, and also managed to improve anaerobic capacity by 28% (note: the Tabata group did not improve their VO2 max beyond the aerobic training group). What all our Tabata fans fail to mention is that the Tabata group stopped seeing much in the way of improvements after the fourth week, suggesting that the adaptation to this kind of routine is quick.”

  40. […] those who are seeking to lose weight, this suggests that dietary interventions alone may not be the best option.  Choosing the optimal […]

  41. These remind me a little of the P90x workout that nearly killed me. I wasn’t expecting it to be so hard! I started it after the birth of my baby boy and am still trying really hard to keep doing it. It’s REALLY HARD! but it works..

    Antique Jewelry

  42. The kid in the before picture has a serious case of gynecomastia that would require surgery to correct since glandular tissue can’t be exercised away. He could spend 5 years in a nazi prison camp and still not get rid of it. Unless “Tabata” is a type of scalpel this claim is BS.

  43. Normally a physical examination is required to differentiate between gynecomastia and pseudo-gynecomastia…so congrats on your superior diagnosis skills

  44. Gynecomastia, LOL. The kid is plain fat. If he ever loses weight, he will be dismayed to find out that he will need to have surgery to remove the excess skin that he has given himself.

  45. hello there i have been stuck at the sam weight for months so i am going to try this to see if i can lose 15 ponds in thenext couple months . if you can give me any advice pleaseemailme at pandabearpaige@yahoo.com i need alot of help im tired of being 15 pounds over weight.

  46. […] 1996, Dr. Izumi Tabata introduced a select group of septuagenarians to one of the most diabolically effective training […]

  47. Tabata is a great method, tires you out in no time, but with great result. For the origin of the Tabata method you can go here: http://bit.ly/rp9bE7. I recently downloaded a free app Tabata Timer, which is a simple but great help when you do your exercises. hollandhammer @HollandHammer

  48. Most overweight individuals desire to lose some weight and
    many have been on a diet and have been able to lose some weight.
    But in most cases the weight comes back quite quickly.
    Below we provide a few suggestions which should be helpful
    to anybody considering starting another diet:
    1. Keep away from processed foods
    2. Avoid sugar
    3. Eat healthy foods
    4. Get more exercise
    5. Consider why you eat
    6. Restrict alcohol consumption

  49. Most overweight individuals desire to lose some weight and many have been on a diet and have been able to lose some weight. But in most cases the weight comes back quite quickly. Below we provide a few suggestions which should be helpful to anybody considering starting another diet:1. Keep away from processed foods 2. Avoid sugar 3. Eat healthy foods 4. Get more exercise 5. Consider why you eat 6. Restrict alcohol consumption

  50. To lose weight is a good thing, however one must undrestand that it’s not just the body that needs to change but aldo the mind. And as we lift weights we ca ndo yhe body some good.epic

  51. Tabata workouts rock ! By far the best for weightless. Would be great if you had a audio / voice over programme with stop & start instructions.

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