Perhaps you’ve heard of a Tabata-style workout. It’s a fairly common style of circuit used in the fitness industry. The name comes from the creator, Izumi Tabata, PhD, a Japanese sports scientist. Tabata published a study in 1996 that used short, high-intensity workouts. The format of the workout was 20 seconds of intense cycling followed by 10 seconds of rest. This was repeated eight times, putting the total workout time at 4 minutes.
The researchers showed that this method could improve short-term anaerobic fitness (Think: sprinters) and long-term aerobic fitness (Think: distance runners). Previously, it was thought you needed longer workouts of up to an hour to improve aerobic fitness.
An important thing to think about when you do one of these quick-burst workouts is the work-to-rest ratio. Tabata workouts have a work to rest ratio of 2:1. You work for 20 seconds and rest for 10. The higher your work-to-rest ratio goes, the harder it is to recover.
While you may not be able to match the intensity of the Tabata protocol, which leaves many participants lying in a pool of their own sweat, you can match some of the intensity with your own 5-minute workout.
Not only can you use these 4-minute finishers to tack onto the end of your weight-training workouts to keep your cardiovascular system strong, you can use them on days when you’re pressed for time. All you need is a quick warmup, a little bit of space and a towel for when you get sweaty.
SAMPLE 4-MINUTE WORKOUTS
Hannah Daugherty, a NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness expert, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living, offers a workout with a work-to-rest ratio of 1-to-1. You’ll work for 15 seconds, getting as many reps as possible (AMRAP), then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat the same exercise again for a total of 1 minute per exercise. All you need is a medicine ball and something taller than you to use as a target. The circuit looks like this:
The move: This is a traditional burpee, but Daugherty makes it more challenging by adding an overhead target. As you jump up at the top of the movement, aim for something overhead like a pullup bar.
The move: Start standing on one leg. Keep your balance and squat down as low as you can on that leg, then stand back up and switch legs. Try not to let the leg in the air touch the ground.
The move: Start standing with your feet together. Hop into a lunge stance with one foot forward and one foot back. Drop your back knee down to the ground. Jump and switch legs in mid-air. Daugherty suggests adding a squat at the end to make the move harder. Repeat the whole sequence until time’s up.
The move: You can either do regular pushups or add a twist to make things interesting. Daugherty likes to use medicine ball pushups. Start with a medicine ball on the ground. Put one hand on the ball and get into the pushup position. Do a pushup, then roll the ball over to the other hand and do another pushup. Continue alternating until time’s up.
Dennis Cervini, founding trainer at The LIV Method in New York City, likes to use EMOMs for his circuits. EMOM stands for every minute, on the minute. That means you’re on the clock, trying to finish the specified exercise before one minute is up. For this circuit, each minute contains an upper-body movement, a lower-body movement and a core stabilization exercise. The order is from most difficult to least. The core exercises are for active recovery to keep you moving throughout the 4 minutes.
LATERAL SKATER JUMPS
The move: Start standing on your right leg. Push off that leg, hop to the left, and land on the left leg. Then, hop back over to the right; that’s two reps.
PLANK WITH REACH
The move: Start in a forearm plank position. Reach your right arm forward, then put it down. That’s one rep. Switch arms each rep.
The move: Lie on your back with your hands next to your butt. With your knees straight, lift your legs off the ground until the bottoms of your feet face the ceiling. Then, lower them as low to the ground as you can without touching. That’s one rep. Then, raise the legs again.
The move: Similar to jogging in place, lift your knees one at a time as fast as you can. Each time a knee comes up, that’s one rep.
The move: These are regular pushups with your knees on the ground.
The move: From a pushup position, lift one knee up underneath your stomach. Then, hop and switch legs in the air. That’s two reps.
JUMP ALTERNATING LUNGES
The move: Start at the bottom of a lunge position. Jump and switch legs. Land in a lunge on the opposite side. Jump and switch again. That’s two reps.
LATERAL PUSHUP WALKS
The move: Start in a pushup position. Take three steps to the left, then perform one pushup. Take three steps back to the right, then do another pushup. That’s two reps.
OBLIQUE PLANK ROTATIONS
The move: Start in a forearm plank position. Rotate your hips down to the left and back up, then down to the right. That’s two reps.
PLANK LEG LIFTS
The move: Start in a plank position. Lift your left leg with the knee straight into the air. Then, put it down and switch legs. That’s two reps.
The move: Start in a pushup position. Keeping your knees as straight as possible, walk your feet forward as far as you can. Then, walk your hands forward until you’re back in a pushup position. That’s one rep.
The move: Sit on your butt and lean back like you’re in a beach chair. Lift your legs straight in front of you at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
Check out “Workout Routines” in the MyFitnessPal app to discover and log workouts or build your own with exercises that fit your goals.