22-Minute Tabata Workout for Beginners

Fara Rosenzweig
by Fara Rosenzweig
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22-Minute Tabata Workout for Beginners

Trying new workouts can be intimidating. You have no clue if you’re doing the moves right and following the workout rules, and you wonder whether the plan will actually help you reach your fitness goal.

If there’s one type of workout that can help you get fit, it’s Tabata training. Don’t let the word scare you. It’s actually fun to say—and the workouts are fun, too.

What Is Tabata Training?

Here’s the cliff-note version: Tabata is high intensity interval training (HIIT) that lasts four minutes.

A Japanese scientist, Dr. Izumi Tabata, and his team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports discovered the form of exercise in Tokyo.

They had two groups of athletes train at different intensities: Group 1 worked out at a moderate level while Group 2 trained at high intensity. Group 1 worked out for one hour five days a week for six weeks. Group 2 trained for four minutes four days a week for six weeks. The result: Group 1 increased their cardiovascular endurance, but showed no muscle gain. Group 2 showed an increase in muscular and cardio strength by 28 percent.

The research concluded that shorter workouts with more intensity impact both cardio and muscular strength more than steady-state workouts.

So, how do you get started with Tabata? Simple. Make sure you have about 25 minutes to work out, and try the following circuit. You can do this workout at home, at the gym or outside. You can use equipment or your own bodyweight.


  1. Each workout consists of eight rounds.
  2. You’ll do the move for 20 seconds—but make sure you give it your absolute all for those 20 seconds. Even though you’ll work hard, it’s really important to complete each move with good form (see instructions below) to avoid injury and get the most benefits.
  3. After each 20-second bout of high-intensity exercise, rest for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat the entire circuit eight times. Take a minute break between circuits, and then start the circuit again (eight rounds of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest between exercises).

To get you started, here’s a 22-minute workout with four bodyweight moves.

Air Squat


  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lower down as if you’re going to sit on a chair.
  • Once your knees are at a 90-degree angle, stand up.
  • Repeat this movement as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds before the next exercise.

Take it up a notch: If you need something a little more, do jump squats. The only difference: Instead of standing back up to the start, you’ll jump up. Land softly on your two feet, and then repeat the pattern.

Jumping Jacks

jumping jacks

  • Stand tall with your feet together.
  • Jump your feet out and bring your arms up over your head.
  • Continue this jumping motion for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds before the next exercise.

BOSU Ball Sit-ups

bosu situp1

bosu situp2

  • Grab a BOSU ball. If you don’t have a BOSU, you can use a foam roller.
  • Lie down on the ball or foam roller with your butt just below the center.
  • Bring your arms past your head so your palms touch the floor.
  • Engage your core, tuck your chin in, and sit up. Bring your arms up over your head and have them touch the floor as you sit up.
  • Lie back down and repeat the movement for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds before the next exercise.


modified push-ups

  • Begin in a plank position: hands a little wider than your shoulders, core engaged, and feet extended back.
  • Lower down, but keep your body straight. Once your arms bend to 90 degrees, push back up.
  • Repeat for 20 seconds.

Push-up Modification: If traditional push-ups cause any pain or your arms begin to tire out, get on your knees and continue the same movement.

Rest for 60 seconds before starting the circuit again. Repeat circuit for a total of eight times (or as many circuits you can perform without sacrificing good form).

Always speak with your doctor before you engage in any new fitness program.

About the Author

Fara Rosenzweig
Fara Rosenzweig

Fara Rosenzweig is a certified fitness instructor who loves yoga and running. When she’s not at the gym or outside logging miles, she’s planning fitness adventures to do with friends, and playing with her pup.

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31 responses to “22-Minute Tabata Workout for Beginners”

  1. Avatar Christin Seegers says:

    These do work.
    I’ve been doing the squats and jump squats along with planks and other ab workouts, plus 15 minutes of zumba (Trying to work it up to 30 minutes). Taking those minute breaks. And I’ve lost inches in my waist and lost more weight, not to mention gaining more tone, working out only 3 days out of the week compared to walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and more, for 5 days for a whole month.
    Treadmill time now is how I cool down after my HIIT. Walking for 30 minutes at 3.5 with my headphones on just chilling and burning off an extra 100 calories. Then top off my workout with one scoop of whey protein.
    But I’ll tweak my exercise regimen though and work these time lines in.

    • Avatar Nevin Perry says:

      How long have you been doing this and how much weight have you lost? I am thinking about starting this and would really like to hear from someone who has put this to use. Thanks!

      • Avatar Christin Seegers says:

        2 pounds so far. But I have toned up a lot. It’s really different to see only losing two pounds, but having clothes that are so loose now. I even wore a pair of jeans the other night that I really couldn’t fit into before.
        Also to, I’m on a higher calorie intake for my muscles. I am looking to lose 20 pounds, but I don’t want to lose body mass. Trying to keep up with my eating and not slack off, which is why I only lost two pounds.

  2. Avatar Jericho2228 says:

    I am a true beginner and I could only make it through 4 cycles of the “beginner” Tabata, I will work up to 8. I was just wondering though…the research said they only did 4 minutes a day and saw results. Why is this work out 20 minutes?

  3. Avatar Annette says:

    I have a question. I would like to start exercising, I have to loose lbs and exercise, but getting on the floor is not the problem, getting off the floor is another obstacle!

    • I use to go to the gym three times weekly. But agent orange caught up with me and is taking a toll on my joints. In addition to my heart and hearing problems diagnosed about 15 years ago. The gift that keeps on giving.

      • Avatar Annette says:

        Thank you for your service. My cousin is still MIA 2nd tour. His name is/was Dennis O’Melia.

        • Thank you dear.
          And I’m very sorry about about Dennis. I don’t mean to sound cruel, but I hope he was KIA. I’d hate to think he has spent all these years in captivity suffering. If that offends you, I’m very sorry. My intention was not to hurt you.
          I had a friend that was MIA and then a POW in Vietnam. He was a couple of years older than me. He suffered terribly. He was never mentally or physically the same. He passed away two years ago.
          It’s a horrible place. And they want ME to buy clothes made there? Uh, no.

  4. Avatar Sam says:

    Please help me understand two things: 1 – If you do each move for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds, then 60 second of rest at the end of the four move circuit and repeat the circuit 8 times, it will take 15 minutes. Why does it say it is a 22 minute workout? 2 – The explanation of Tabata refers to working out 4 minutes a day, four days a week but then you say to make sure you have 25 minutes and provide a 22 minute workout.

    • Avatar P says:

      I think it comes out to be 170 seconds x 8 / 60 = 22min. yes?

    • Avatar Woody Woodiyaki says:

      look at it per circuit: 20 second exercise, 10 second rest, 20 second exercise, 10 second rest, 20 second exercise, 10 second rest, 20 second exercise, 60 second rest.

      That’s 170 seconds per circuit. Multiply that by 8 circuits and you get 1360 seconds. That’s 22 minutes and 40 seconds. If you consider at the end of the last circuot that you’re actually done, and don’t count that last 60 second rest, the 21 minutes and 40 seconds. That’s close enough for me, all things considered.

  5. Avatar Andreas says:

    Each circuit is 80 total seconds of the exercises, 30 total seconds of rest after the the first 3 exercises and 60 seconds after the fourth exercise. That’s 170 seconds for each circuit. 170 seconds multipled by 8 equals 1360 seconds but subtract the 60 seconds because your done after the fourth exercise in the eight circuit. That equals a total of 1300 seconds or 21 minutes and 40 seconds.

    Can’t answer the second question. I was thinking it was a typo and was suppose to be 22 minutes 4 days a week.

  6. Avatar Beverley Faulk says:

    all the exercises are great when you are young can get down on the floor or do squats but for those of us that are 75 with joint problems cant do. I walk and can walk about 2 miles 4-5 times a week. what other exercises do you have for us. I do love your map a walk. it has been very helpful.

    • Avatar bobpaulson1 says:

      Beverly, maybe you could try four substitute exercises like:
      1. Walk in place with high knees, holding your hands out as targets for your knees.
      2. Stand up and sit down on an arm chair, using your arms to assist as much as needed. Don’t just flop down; control the movement both up and down.
      3. Walk in place while pressing light dumbbells, soup cans, etc. overhead. Perhaps alternate arms on the presses as you keep in time with your steps.
      4. Shadow box, no weight in your hands but punch as quickly and vigorously as feels safe. Probably don’t punch so far as to jar your elbows. Concentrate on just moving your hands with gusto, like when a boxer uses a speed bag.

      I think if you can find some moves like this that will raise your heart rate without getting on the floor or jarring joints, it might work!

    • Avatar Rodger says:

      Hi, Beverly! Perhaps you could use your 2-mile walk as a “foundation” & build on it…for example, grab 2 cans (soup, green beans, etc, etc) from the pantry & “pump out” arm curls in time with your steps (I use 3 lb. hand weights when I am on my recumbent exercise bike to raise my heart rate.) Use your imagination to slowly add a bit more intensity.

      I’m 57, with multiple knees/ankle issues. I’ve “discovered” Rule #1 of senior fitness: “First, don’t injure yourself!” Let the words “gradual & careful” be your mantra.

      Maintaining a safe training heart rate is key to improving fitness. Subtract your age from 220, then try to maintain % of that number…60% to start, gradually increasing % as your fitness improves. (i.e., 220-75=145…60% of that is 87 beats per min).

      Hope this is helpful.

  7. Avatar Melissa Downing says:

    I am trying to learn to perform push-ups using proper form and don’t think that the picture matches the description. Hands in the picture are too wide, correct? Just wanting clarification, not pointing out an error.

    • Avatar Kazzi says:

      My understanding is that your arms are wider than shoulders and as the push up is executed, your elbows should be at 45 degree angle (once you are in the down position)

      • Avatar Melissa Downing says:

        That is how it was explained to me as well. Thank You!

        • Avatar Felita Viruet Delikat says:

          I agree with all idea shared but for preventing injury in shoulder
          I think keeping elbows closer to body better when you are pushing out those last few that are really hard its easy to injure
          your shoulder if arms out wide. I think the variation are for men more or woman with very strong arms most woman have
          less chest strength than men with chest muscles not boobs lol.

    • Avatar Dana Blair says:

      There are actually several variations for push ups. Shoulder width, wider than shoulders, close hands (triangle) etc. They vary in what muscles they use and focus on – wider than shoulders are more chest work, close hands are more triceps, etc. Google for a true explanation of each variation.

      • Avatar Melissa Downing says:

        Thank You! I had been doing them wider and would experience the soreness in my chest but my bootcamp trainer suggested that I should have my hands just outside my body since she views it as more of a tricep workout.

    • Avatar Kalsang says:

      Correct , put your hand as per your comfortable position . But u hav to make sure that you should b in plank position that will give you core strength .

  8. Avatar Marilyn Robinson says:

    Hi, glad to have found this. Unclear about a couple of things. Aren’t you supposed to do all of one exercise — 20 seconds of effort interspersed with 10 seconds of rest — 8 times and then move to the next exercise? And if that’s correct, don’t you do those 8 sets of 4 exercises just once? Some of the wording suggests otherwise: i.e. “Rest for 60 seconds before starting the circuit again.” Also, the written description of the Sit Up mentions hands touching floor twice but doesn’t show it, and it’s hard to see how palms could touch the floor in the overhead position. Please clarify. Many thanks. -Marilyn

  9. Avatar Ryan Justmann says:

    Don’t want to ask a dumb questions, but if I do this cardio circuit is it still ok to do my elliptical 5 days a week?

  10. Avatar Duchess says:

    I cannot understand how it exactly works. So you have 20 seconds then rest 10 seconds total 30 seconds x 8 total 4 minuites which is one circuit. then what do next repeat the same exercise for 5 times?…

    • Avatar Hoosier gal in Iowa says:

      You do the same exercise for 8 times (the 4 minutes) then you move on to a different exercise for the next 4 minutes. Do as many exercises as you want. We have a 45 minute class and we get 9 exercises done.

    • Avatar Lisa says:

      If you have apple they have an app for a Tabata clock or iTunes has Tabata song you can purchase.

  11. Avatar Marty Squicciarini says:

    How do I add each circuit to my daily log? I wanted to start slowly so I only did 3 circuits today and will continue this week adding a circuit a week until I reach eigtht (8)

  12. Avatar Sara says:

    Hey, quick question here….I would like to add this workout to My Fitness Pal. Does anyone know how many calories this would burn? Thanks!

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