The 4-Minute Miracle Workout (That Really Works)

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/24/2013 6:00 AM   :  117 comments   :  152,572 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

  • 117
    Easy as that! Surely this is what we call the egg of Columbus, but I'll definitely try it to burst my calorie burning! - 8/17/2014   6:54:04 AM
  • 116
    Caught a typo! "...no more than there" should be "no more than three"

    Interesting stuff. It reminds me of when I was first getting fit when I was a chubby kid in middle school: one burst at a time! - 4/2/2014   9:57:16 AM
  • HOOKEDHANGMAN
    115
    I'm an ex-powerlifter who spent about 2 years after I stopped finding some way to keep fit at home. When I stopped I was about 240lb. I started doing bodyweight training 3 times a week on alternate days about a year ago. Around 6 months ago I added Tabatas to my inbetween days. I've dropped about 40lb and preserved most of my lean muscle tissue. I've managed to recompose my body so now my weight stays constant but I'm still losing bodyfat while improving muscle.

    I initially added Tabata because I wanted to accelerate condition and overall fitness. I'm now in the best shape of my life and getting better.

    It seems very counter intuitive considering the way we've been conditioned to believe that you need to run for extended periods to get your cardio. I for one can't run because of bum knees because of lifting injuries. +-17 years of lifting will do that to you.
    The reality is that, if you do it right, you really shouldn't be able to make it beyond 4 minutes. Regardless of how fit you are. It really is pure hell for those 4 minutes but so worth it.

    Tabata has the great benefit of continued calorie burn after you stop. It basically doubles your metabolic rate for up to 30 minutes after. Pay attention when you're done, and you'll notice that you feel much hotter for a while after. And you don't sacrifice that hard-earned lean muscle tissue.

    As far as I'm concerned, if you choose to do only 1 form of exercise then this is the one.

    As a matter of interest. I've tried many Tabat timers but I found Hard Fox Tabat timer for Android to be the best. Give it a try. It's free so nothing to lose. - 2/22/2014   5:00:16 AM
  • 114
    I guess I'm going to try it now also - 1/30/2014   9:31:54 AM
  • DRIESCLAERBOUT
    113
    Iíve made an Android Tabata timer called ďSports TimerĒ. Itís FREE and easy to use. Check it out:
    https://play.google.com/store/ap
    ps/details?id=com.timer.tmr
    Have fun with it!
    - 1/19/2014   1:21:56 PM
  • 112
    Thinking this might help me through those mid-afternoon slumps.....instead of mindlessly munching I can MOVE! Thanks! - 1/1/2014   9:27:22 PM
  • 111
    Will try this work out today! - 9/28/2013   5:38:07 PM
  • 110
    I'm doing Insanity and it's a lot like Tabata. You do a 10 min warmup, 5 min stretch, and then a bunch of different exercises, 30 seconds each as many as you can in that 30 seconds. And the exercises are all bodyweight exercises like burpees, jumping jacks, pushups and etc. I hate Insanity, but I love Insanity, especially when I'm done :) - 9/4/2013   11:19:34 PM
  • 109
    I'll need to try this . . . downloaded an app on my phone to time my intervals & tell me what's up next. Pretty cool! - 9/3/2013   9:50:10 PM
  • 108
    Love it! I just tried this and really felt as if I had worked out for 30 minutes. I worked up a good sweat, felt the heart pumps and begin to feel energized. I customized a workout that worked for me. I threw in a few seconds of stretches for the finish. I can't wait to see how long this surge will last. I will try this often, as a morning energizer. Thanks for the share, Nicole. - 9/3/2013   7:31:58 PM
  • KITSPARROW
    107
    hmmm, might try to fit this into my afternoon walk today... - 9/3/2013   1:13:43 PM
  • LUPE_SEIN
    106
    Typo: When it says "no more than there Tabata-style interval sessions," I think it is supposed to read "three" rather than "there." - 9/3/2013   1:07:48 PM
  • 105
    My spin instructor does this during each class. She always referred to Tabata, but I really had no clue what it was. It all makes sense now! :-) - 9/3/2013   11:02:43 AM
  • LISASGONNADOIT
    104
    Excited to try when I ride my stationary bike! Makes sense. - 9/3/2013   10:43:11 AM
  • SOXFANNH
    103
    There are great apps for tabata (and other) circuits, including Seconds. I do three sets of Tabatas on the treadmill during my 30 minute workout and the time passes so quickly. - 9/3/2013   7:10:45 AM
  • 102
    Wow! This is similar to what I have been doing...on my inline skates! There is a slope near me with no traffic, that I have been skating up and down for a total of 10 or 15 minutes, I start out slow, then really push to get up the hill with all my strength. Then back down, a total of 7 or 8 laps. I know I am burning calories like crazy, it is nice to feel that full body burn in such a short time. The skating is easy on my joints, I listen to music and it is fun. I do pilates and dance too but the skate routine I added is really changing my body! - 7/17/2013   7:26:09 PM
  • SARRARAZ
    101
    ya - 6/25/2013   10:33:54 PM
  • 100
    This sounds like a great little boost to add to my short work-out days. - 6/19/2013   7:40:16 PM
  • 99
    You download music that has the 20/10 timing built in. It really helps me. - 6/18/2013   3:14:07 PM
  • 98
    Who doesn't have 4 minutes? I've got to try this :) - 6/11/2013   2:10:03 PM
  • 97
    I am going to try this. Sounds amazing and have never heard about it before here. Thanks for the info - 6/9/2013   10:49:23 AM
  • 96


    Also know as 'Surge training' - 6/4/2013   8:31:53 PM
  • PRAIRIEMIMI
    95
    Reading this is perfect timing. In June I will be on a 6000 mile trip while helping son relocate with his family. I plan on fitting this exercise into stops at rest areas. - 5/30/2013   1:45:32 PM
  • 94
    Great to know! - 5/29/2013   3:31:47 PM
  • 93
    Great information. - 5/26/2013   8:52:14 PM
  • 92
    I'm a big fan of interval work, including HIIT. I love getting into my anaerobic 'zone'. My HIIT intervals are usually 8 or 9 @ 30 sec sprint + 60 sec recovery. Although I have been practicing high intensity interval training for some years, I have yet to do more than 4 @ 20 sec sprint + 10 sec recovery which is Tabata. I'm aiming to do 8 sets. That 10 seconds is no time to recovery at all! When I start my next sprint, still winded from the last sprint, going full steam, I feel like my heart is going to explode. I do a 12 min warm-up and a 12 min cool-down with Tabata training. I use those 12 minutes of warm-up entirely to psych myself up for what is about to happen. Holy Moly! - 5/26/2013   5:19:48 PM
  • JLRIV781
    91
    I've been doing this at work during my bathroom breaks. It helps to refocus before sitting back down at the desk. - 5/26/2013   2:44:43 PM
  • JMB369
    90
    Great idea. My DH just came home from the hospital after major surgery, and my exercise time is almost nonexistent. I will definitely give this a try as a temporary plan, and who knows, might incorporate it into my exercise schedule after life is back to normal. - 5/26/2013   8:47:20 AM
  • 89
    This is new to me! This old gal is going to try it!!! - 5/25/2013   9:51:02 PM
  • 88
    Interesting! Never heard of this before. I think I will try it.

    cj - 5/25/2013   11:23:31 AM
  • 87
    I will definitely try this! I'm not going to ditch my other exercises, but three times a week to shake things up when I'm at work and need something to do with the remaining 5 minutes of my break. This is just what the doctor ordered! - 5/25/2013   9:56:21 AM
  • 86
    I started doing Tabata twice a week this year with my co-workers from school. Since school is now out we are on our own for summer. Our PE teacher gave us several tabata workouts to do over the summer break. It is a great workout. - 5/25/2013   7:01:36 AM
  • 85
    Hmmm. Okay - I will give this a try. I don't want to do to much jouncing - creaky bones & joints, but I could do it on the stationary bike. - 5/25/2013   7:00:07 AM
  • 84
    I love Tabata! Nothing whips the body in shape like Tabata! - 5/24/2013   6:15:10 PM
  • 83
    This almost seems too good to be true. But, I will try it and see. - 5/24/2013   12:02:06 PM
  • FEYAH12
    82
    I do tabata at my gym and we go through the four minute circuit at least 4 times, normally 5. I highly recommend it when you need a change in your routine. Most people do continue to do other exercises afterwards but like HOJO24 mentioned, its a great way to get your entire body energized and ready to go. - 5/24/2013   11:44:47 AM
  • 81
    Love Tabata!!! Thanks for posting! - 5/24/2013   11:41:12 AM
  • 80
    I like the Tabata drills because who doesn't like getting a workout over and done with in 4 minutes. I actually downloaded some Tabata tracks on I-Tunes that does the count down for you. - 5/24/2013   11:16:17 AM
  • JONICA18
    79
    I was recommended this workout by my fitness trainer instead of my 6-7 mile daily runs. I will tell you that it is intense I have done 10.0 speed on treadmill and done this without weights. I also will say that this is not the only workout I do and after Im done the 4 minutes I definitely feel like I need to do more. At least try it! - 5/24/2013   11:08:21 AM
  • 78
    Please don't forget to include a warm-up and cool down if this is all your are doing. And, yes, this will make the routine last almost 15 minutes. However, you can't go from sitting on the couch to full-out sprints or burpees. It is an invitation for injury to work muscles that hard without a proper warm-up. - 5/24/2013   10:59:33 AM
  • 63NGOING
    77
    Since you cannot record seconds on the fitness chart, I did the 20/10s on my bicycle and recorded 4 minutes of fast and 1 minute of slow riding. That's as close as I could come to tracking this exercise. Not a great calorie burn. ;=) - 5/24/2013   10:16:39 AM
  • DELLMEL
    76
    Have to give this a try. - 5/24/2013   9:44:17 AM
  • 75
    I've never heard of it, but I'm willing to do it! Thank you for the info. :) - 5/24/2013   9:23:12 AM
  • 74
    WHAT AN EXCELLENT IDEA!!!
    BUT ------how do you log this on the fitness tracker? It's not listed. - 5/24/2013   8:57:36 AM
  • 63NGOING
    73
    How do you log this on fitness track? - 5/24/2013   8:54:17 AM
  • SKINMINA
    72
    I am going to try this now on my "rest" days. - 5/24/2013   7:57:28 AM
  • 71
    Tabata works but is not for the casual workout enthusiast. If you've never done this type of exercise, you should build up to it. To reap the true benefits, you need to give an all-out effort for the 20-second work period. Please use caution and do a little research before diving in. Be well! - 5/24/2013   7:31:20 AM
  • 70
    Great info. Going on vacation for 10 days in a month and have been concerned about diet and exercise. Already planned to take a resistance band with me for resistance training, but was concerned about cardio. This might be perfect! - 5/24/2013   7:17:10 AM
  • 69
    Just did my first tabata workout. It was intense but did not require a lot of time to get a great sweat! Will try it again and love the ideas of how to incorporate into my everday routines.. - 5/8/2013   1:42:54 PM
  • MADSEN56
    68
    I do twist to the sides while swinging my arms down and then up to the sky, last 5 seconds I start to step in place, then rest 10 seconds, then start side stretches. Have helped from keeping me bored. I change it up and add different sets. - 3/7/2013   7:58:53 PM

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