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Your Tabata Sprints Guide -The Tabata Workout Plan You Need

8 Mins read

If you do any form of exercise, you’ve probably heard about  Tabata sprints training one too many times.

But have you ever wondered where the heck Tabata came from ? and how it became such a big buzzword in the fitness world?

Well, if your answer is yes, then today you’re in luck as I’ve spent long hours researching the subject so you don’t have to, and the answers are quite amazing. You’ll definitely learn how to do tabata sprints without much second guessing.

I’ll also share with you a simple Tabata workout routine to get you started on the right foot without needing any special equipment and paying any gym fees.

Let’s delve in.

What Is Tabata Workout Training?

The Tabata training method involves exercising at full effort for 20 seconds, recovering for 10 seconds, then repeating the cycle for eight times for four minutes. The high-intensity burst is performed at or near maximal effort while the recovery period is usually at 50 percent of maximum capacity.

Genesis – Study Behind the Tabata Protocol

Quick history lesson: The Tabata method was developed by Izumi Tabata Ph.D., a former scientist, and researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya,

Dr. Tabata took a group of young athletes from different background and skills, then split them into two groups: one performing moderate intensity training (the control group), the other high-intensity training.

His goal was simple: to see if the subjects would benefit from a 20/10 session repeated eight times. He wanted to assess how intense and intense, and how short, the interval session could be to result in measurable gains and growth.

And he got a sobering answer: Four Minutes.

The results were published in 1996 in the journal “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.” Under the title “Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on Anaerobic Capacity and VO2max.”

Let’s delve a little deeper into the research.

The Initial Study

The initial study goes back to 1996 when Dr. Tabata and his team of researchers examined two groups of amateur athletes in their mid-twenties for six weeks.

The athletes studied where divided into two groups, following two different workout protocols.

Group, I followed protocol One where they exercised for an hour of stationary cycling at 70 percent of VO2 max, five days a week. This is similar to a long-running session at a steady moderate pace.

Group I exercised for five days a week for a total of six weeks. Each session lasted one hour. That’s roughly 1,800 minutes of moderate intensity training for the control group over the six weeks.

Group II followed protocol Two in which they exercised four times per week, opting for a workout that consists of eight 20-second bursts of highly intense biking—at 170 percent effort—and 10-second of rest, totaling 4 minutes a workout. Think tabata sprints.

Group II exercised for four days a week for six weeks. Each session lasted four minutes and 20 seconds—with ten seconds of recovery between each set. That’s about 120 minutes of high-intensity training over the six weeks.

The Conclusion

The first group improved their maximum aerobic capacity (cardiovascular) by 9.5 percent but showed little or no improvements in their anaerobic system (muscle).

 Nonetheless, the Interval training group crushed it. Not only did they increase their aerobic capacity by 14 percent but they also improved their anaerobic power (how long you can exercise at maximum effort) by 28 percent. That’s huge.

To conclude, high-intensity interval training has a huge effect on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. The group that worked out less, and thanks to high-intensity intervals, ended up fitter at the end of the six weeks.


Additional resource – Bolt top running speed

Benefits of Tabata Sprints Training

Here is a list of the benefits to expect if you do Tabata training on a regular basis:

Improved anaerobic capacity. Anaerobic power can be defined as the amount of extra work a runner can eke out beyond their aerobic capacity. According to research, an improved anaerobic capacity can help you run faster and longer by improving fatigue resistance and muscle’s ability to flush out lactic acid.

Burns mad calories. The typical Tabata workout routine can burn up to 12 to 15 calories per minute, according to a study. Therefore, the Tabata workout method is a 4-minute fat-burning miracle workout.

Endless combinations. What I like about Tabata workouts is the endless number of training combinations you can do. You can perform any exercise you like. You can do push-ups, squats, tabata sprints, burpees or any other exercise that hits large muscle groups.  

Saves times. Tabata can help you squeeze a workout in and stay consistent with your fitness routine—especially when pressed for time. All you need is some space, a mat, and there you go.

Here’s a list of further research about the effects of tabata style training.

Study 1

Study 2

Study 3

Study 4

Be A Well Rounded Athlete

Hopefully, by now, you’re  excited about incorporating Tabata sprints workouts into your routine, nonetheless, keep in mind that these shouldn’t be an alternative to your current running sessions.

Instead, to reach your best performance, make sure to follow a well-rounded running program that includes recovery runs, tempo runs, interval sessions, Fartlek intervals, and long runs.

Tabata Logistics – Time it Right!

To keep track of your training time and your cycles, you can simply use a stopwatch or a tabata app.

A timer is key for doing Tabata right and efficiently, especially if you’re running and are unable to look at a screen to check the time remaining for each round or bout.

If you’re pushing yourself to the max (which what you should be doing when Tabata training), then it’s going to be virtually impossible to keep it together while checking a watch,  your smartphone, or a wall clock.

I prefer using apps because they take the guesswork out of the equation, helping me stay focused on the task at hand. One of my favorites is the Tabata pro (Get it for $3). Or google search Tabata and you will find plenty of free versions that deliver.

Just set it once, press start, and get to work.

The 30-Minute Tabata Workout For Beginners

The below routine involves doing five rounds of intense work Tabata style. Each round lasts for four minutes

Here’s the truth. If you go maximum effort during the high-intensity intervals, the four-minute cycle will feel like the hardest and most challenging four minutes of your life.  It might be too much for some people.

Again, here’s how to proceed :

  • Work out at your maximum effort 20 seconds

  • Recover for 10 seconds

  • Complete eight rounds.

Push as hard as you for 20 seconds, either eking out as many reps as you can of an exercise or moving as fast as possible when doing sprints or any other form of cardio exercise.

Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat the process for a total of eight times.

Without further ado, here is my favorite Tabata workout protocol.

tabata sprints

The Warm-up

Before you perform any Tabata sprints, warm up by jogging for 5 minutes and doing dynamic exercises to increase your core temperature and loosen up your muscles and joints.

Regardless of the exercise you pick, please always start with a 10-minute warm-up. You want your core more temperate to raise and heart rate up, so you can perform at your best without hurting yourself.

Once you’re done tabata training, start the cooldown. Your heart will be racing like crazy and muscle twitching. Go for a slow jog, walk, or do some stretches to bring them back to normal levels.

Round One: Tabata Sprints

Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then sprint for another 20 seconds, shooting for eight sprints at an all-out effort.

You can also perform the sprints on a steep hill, but make sure to pick a hill that’s not too technical since you will be running at your maximum speed for at least the first set of reps.

Round Two: Tabata High Knees

Stand feet hip-width apart. Keep your back flat, and core engaged the entire time.

Perform high knees by jumping from one foot to the other, lifting your knees as high as you can. Focus on lifting your knees up and down as fast as you can, landing on the balls of your feet as you run in place.

Do this for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then repast the cycle for eight times to complete the round.

Round Three: Tabata Jumping Lunges


Take a lunge position with your right foot forward, knees bent, and left knee nearly touching the floor.

Next, while extending through both legs, explode up and jump as high as you can, swinging your arms to gain momentum. Then switch the position of your legs mid-air, moving your left leg to the front and right leg to the back, and immediately lower yourself into a lunge on the opposite side.

Keep jumping back and forth for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, repeating the cycle for eight times.

If you can’t keep doing jump lunges with good form, then perform walking lunges instead. Be aware of your limits.

Round Four: Tabata Squats

Assume an athletic position with feet hip-width apart. For more challenge, hold a set of dumbbells or plates at shoulder-height.

Next, to perform the squat, bend your knees and sit back, lowering yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back flat, head facing forward and toes tracking over the knees the entire time.

Last up, return to standing by pushing through your heels.

Continue squatting for the full 20-second interval, moving as fast as you can, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat the cycle eight times.

Round Five: Burpees

Stand feet hip-width apart, back straight and core engaged.

Next, squat down and place your palms on the floor, then jump both of your feet into a full plank position, then quickly hop your feet back into a squat and, explosively leap into the air, reaching your arms straight overhead. Add a clap for some sound effect!

In case you’re looking for more challenge, then you can either add a standard push up from your plank or drop your chest to the floor before jumping back up.


Here is the routine in a nutshell

Round 1 (4 minutes) Sprints

  • Sprint at your highest speed for 20 seconds.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete eight rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 2 (4 minutes) High Knees

  • High knees for 20 seconds, as many reps as possible with good form.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete eight rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 3 (4 minutes) Jumping Lunges

  • Jumping lunges for 20 seconds, as many reps as possible with good form.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete eight rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 4 (4 minutes) Squats

  • Squats for 20 seconds, doing as many reps as possible with good form.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete eight rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 5 (4 minutes) Burpees

  • Do as many burpees as you can for 20 seconds.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete eight rounds for a total of 4 minutes.


Tabata Sprints Workout –  The Conclusion

There you have it.

Whatever exercises you pick, your choices should target large of muscles to get the most out of Tabata sprints training.

It’s perfectly okay to feel some soreness or muscle pain during and following your first few Tabata sessions. That’s actually how you know that you’re doing it right.

As you get fit, you’ll body will adjust, and you’ll only experience a mild to moderate soreness after the beginning.

For more, here are some of my favorite cardio workout alternatives to running.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Keep Running Strong

David D.

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