12 Moves for Your Tabata Workout

By now, you’re hip to high-intensity interval training routines, the cream of the fitness crop for fat loss and cardio conditioning. If you’re doing HIITs on a regular, try adding a Tabata workout to your arsenal.

Crafted by Japanese professor Dr. Izumi Tabata for professional speed skaters, Tabata is now a go-to training style for everyday exercisers like us. So, how’s it done? Grab a timer on your phone, or try an interval timer app like GymBoss. You will perform an exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Before you have a chance to fully recover during that 10 seconds (read: catch your breath), you are moving again.

A classic Tabata workout is only 4 minutes long, so it’s perfect for after a strength training routine or when you’re short on time. That means you must give 110 percent on each move. Go all out for 20 seconds! If you need help with cardio endurance, here’s how to get it. The more HIIT or Tabata workouts you do consistently, the stronger your heart will become. Off you go. Try any of these moves for the perfect Tabata sweat!

Note: Tabata is not recommended for beginners. If you haven’t exercised in months, don’t start here. Master some of these moves and increase your rest time. Then, come back and try Tabata.

Directions: Choose two exercises and perform them back to back for 8 rounds. Feel free to pick two cardio moves, or one cardio and one strength or body weight move. Try one challenging core move and one cardio exercise together. You can also pick 4 exercises and perform them for 2 rounds. The choice is yours!


Since Tabata started with speed skaters, let’s begin here. Start with feet together. Now, take a leap to the left, leaving your right leg hovering behind you. Immediately, jump to your right, leading with your right leg, and this time balancing on the left foot. Let your arms swing like a speed skater to give you that cardio boost. Make this easier by tapping that trailing foot to the floor instead of balancing.

2. Burpees

BurpeeLove or hate them, Burpees are the perfect total-body exercise. There are umpteen variations to make them harder, and even wonderful modifications to make them easier. Stand up tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down with a straight back, bring your hands flat to the floor, then pop your feet back to a plank position. (Add a push up here if you like) Jump feet back in, and get back to standing position so you can perform a nice jump up. And repeat.

3. High Knees

Start jogging in place. Now bring your knees up to hip level as you jump on each leg in place. Or, move around if you like!

4. Mountain Climbers

mountain climber

Start in a plank position. Then, with a quick pace, alternate driving each knee toward your chest. The faster, the tougher, the better.

5. Squat Thrust

tabata squat thrust

Some refer to this as a half-Burpee. Crouch down with your hands planted flat to the floor. Then, jump your feet back into a plank position. Jump back in and repeat. Make it harder with a push up. Make it easier by stepping each foot back instead of jumping.

6. Dumbbell Thruster

Grab a set of dumbbells and hold them up to your shoulders. Now, bend down into squat and immediately stand up to perform a shoulder press. Right after you press your arms up, go back into that squat. This should be one fluid movement, with no stops in between.

7. Plie Squat Jump

plie squat jump

Time to channel your inner Misty Copeland. Open your legs wider than your shoulders with toes pointed outward. Descend into a plie squat, then leap up with hands out to your sides. Repeat and repeat.

8. Butt Kickers

Start with a jog in place to get going. Then, focus on bringing the heels of your feet as close to your bum-bum as possible. Perform as fast as you can.

9. Push Ups

Modified Push Up

We know push ups are tough to master, so we’re showing you one modified version. But if you are able to start in a full plank position and lower your chest to the floor, go for it! Otherwise, begin on your knees, making sure your body is slanted and aligned perfectly.

10. Air Jumping Jacks

Think jumping jacks on steroids. You’ll start off with feet together, legs slightly bent and hands down at your sides. Leap up with legs open and raise your arms above your head. Land softly on the balls of your feet. Repeat. Too hard? Go with the classic jumping jack.

11. Spiderman Plank

spiderman plank


From a plank position, bring your right knee to right elbow. Return to start, then go with the left knee to the left elbow. Make this easier by keeping your foot on the floor and keeping arms straight. Keep your core engaged, and remember to breathe.

12. Side Plank

Hit your obliques with this one. Lay on your side to start. Then, hold your weight up on one arm, with legs straight and body in alignment. Reach the other arm to the sky. Make this easier by putting one foot in front of the other. Make it even easier by leaning down on the bottom knee.

This is just 12. There are hundreds of exercises you can pull into a Tabata workout. If you’re outside, run sprints for 20 seconds, or hit a set of bleachers. At the gym? Do pull ups or the rowing machine. Get as creative as you like, but remember to work hard to get the most out of it.

Stacy Julien is editor in-chief of Crush Magazine, and does Tabata workouts weekly.



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