Burn Fat and Build Strength With Tabata Interval Training

As you may know, interval training is a form of high intensity training where you perform an exercise at near maximum effort followed by a period of rest at little to no effort. Because you are working at close to maximum effort, the work part of the interval is usually less than two minutes. The rest interval normally ranges from 30 seconds to two minutes. Interval sets can be performed on a stationary bike, with dumbells, weight machines, and sprinting; just about any exercise can be used for interval training.

Interval Training Benefits

There are three main benefits:

  1. Fat Burning – Interval training is an extreme form of exercise and causes your body to turn to stored fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. This means that long after your workout is complete – up to 72 hours depending on intensity – your body is burning fat for fuel.
  2. Effectiveness – An very intense interval training session can be completed in less than 15 minutes.
  3. Never boring – Just about any type of movement can be converted into an interval workout; not just traditional exercises. Something as mundane as getting up out of a chair and sitting back in the chair could become an interval workout. Simply get up and sit back down as fast as you can for 30 seconds to a minute, rest 30 seconds to a minute, and repeat ten times.

Tabata Intervals Take It Up a Notch

In normal interval training the rest interval is longer than the work interval; often the rest interval is significantly longer. Tabata Intervals reverse this. To perform a Tabata interval, you would perform at maximum effort for twenty seconds followed by only ten seconds of rest. This sequence is repeated eight times. This training method was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata (and collections) at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan.

Short, Sweet and Effective

If you have not done the math, a set of Tabata Intervals takes four minutes to complete. (Each work and rest interval last for 30 seconds x 8 intervals = 4 minutes.) At first thought, it seems almost ridiculous to think that four minutes of exercise could be very effective; much less cause your body to burn fat. However, consider that you are working at near all-out maximum effort for two minutes and forty seconds with only one minute and twenty seconds of rest. This means you are going all-out for nearly three minutes with only a little over a minute of rest. The short rest interval in the key. It is enough that you get a rest, but not enough to really recover.

A Simple Tabata Sprint Workout

You can easily use Tabata interviews with just about any exercise to get into an intense fat-burn mode. The easiest, and one of the best, is running sprints. Find a reasonably flat training area, sprint as hard as you can for twenty seconds, stop and rest for ten seconds, and repeat eight times; super simple and super effective. You can use this same idea for cycling, squats, elliptical trainings, and even getting up and sitting down in a chair. The act of doing just about anything at an all out effort for 3 minutes with around one minute of rest will give you a great workout.

Adjusting Tabata's

It is pretty easy to use Tabata's in a sprint workout; just run as hard as you can for twenty seconds and rest for ten. However, if you want to use Tabata's with weights, things get a little more difficult. The problem is selecting the correct weight. If you try to use the same weight for the entire set, you start with a weight that looks much too light, or start with a heavier weight and you can not finish the set.

One solution is to use a cam type weight machine such as a Nautilus or Strive machine with a selectorized weight stack. The key in using one of these types of machines is that you can select a weight that is difficult at the start of the set and easily reduce the weight as you progress, while using a weight that makes you work hard each time. Starting with a heavy weight and reducing it as you go along allows you to work as hard as possible through the entire set, and of course takes your fat burning to a higher level.

Tweeking Even More

The volume of work in a Tabata set requires that you use less weight than you are probably used to, which goes against high intensity weight training principals of using as much weight as possible on each set while going to failure on each set.

To solve this I added a set onto the end of my Tabata intervals. At the end of the Tabata set, I rest for 4 minutes and do one more set of 20 reps. I pick a weight that I can use for around 10 reps, and rep-out for 10, rest 10 seconds and do as many reps as possible; repeat this sequence until you reach 20 reps. I find that with 10 seconds of rest I can normally do 3 and sometimes 4 reps. This is also a form of rest-pause training made popular by the late high intensity guru Mike Mentzer where you do a set to failure, rest a few seconds, and perform as many more reps as possible.

Sample Tabata Workout for Legs, Back and Biceps with a Twist

To get your metabolism cooking give this workout a try.


Select a weight with which you can perform 15 to 20 reps on the leg pressand work for 20 seconds. Rest 10 seconds and work for 20 seconds with the same weight. Rest 10 seconds. Now here is the tricky part. If you feel you can perform another 20 second set with this weight, do it. If you feel that you need to drop a plate or two to complete 20 seconds of work, then do it. Either way, work for 20 seconds. Rest 10 seconds and perform another work set of 20 seconds. Keep adjusting the weight to perform 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest using the heaviest weight possible. Ideally, this exercise is performed on a Nautilus or Strive leg press machine. If you do not have access to one of these machines, any leg press will suffice, and if you do not have access to a leg press machine, you can substitute body weight squats.

Rest for three to four minutes and perform one more set of 20 reps on the leg press. As described above, select a weight with which you can perform approximately 10 reps. Rest for 10 seconds and do as many reps as possible; probably three or four. Rest 10 more seconds and perform as many reps as possible. Keep repeating until you reach 20 reps. (Note that the weight selected will be considerably less than you would normally use for 10 reps.) I find that I need to use around 60% of normal weight.)


Select a back exercise such as lat pull down, bentover row, labeled cable rows or any similar back exercise and perform sequence as described for legs paying attention to weight selection that makes you work hard for all 20 seconds of the work portion of the interval.


Select a bicep curl exercise such as barbell curls, dumbbell curls, or curls on a machine and perform sequence as described for legs paying attention to weight selection that makes you work hard for all 20 seconds of the work portion of the interval.

Turn Up the fat Burn

If you are looking to lose fat, gain muscle, and increase your cardio fitness, this Tabata workout with a twist will definitely do it. Give the leg, back and bicep workout a try. Rest a day and try a similar workout for chest, shoulders and triceps. Try this for about two weeks and I know you will see fantastic results.

Source by Roger Ergle