Four Minutes to Fit

Four Minutes to Fit

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Our Tabata-based cardio plan is the most intense way to burn fat - in the time it takes to make a morning cup of coffee.

In four minutes, you could watch the latest viral video of an adorable puppy. You could throw a load of washing on. Or, in the same short amount of time, you could blast fat, build strength, increase endurance and improve your fitness. Welcome to the ultra-high intensity world of Tabata training.

In 1996 Izumi Tabata, a researcher at the Tokyo National Institute of Fitness and Sport, conducted a study with 10 participants to determine the effects of ultra-high intensity interval training. Each participant was given a micro-training program in which they alternated 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise with 10 seconds rest. They repeated each series up to eight times. While most workouts generally improve only your aerobic or anaerobic capacities, Tabata noted that this style of training may in fact improve both at the same time. This results in increased fat loss and improved strength.

Why Tabata?

  •  Improved aerobic and anaerobic capacities. Tabata may help you push through training plateaus by allowing you to lift more and train for longer.
  • Increased use of fast-twitch fibres. About half your skeletal muscles are composed of these fibres; they are the ones that respond best to explosive moves such as quick reps or sprints. Tabata’s short and explosive style is perfect for working these fibres.
  • Increased excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This means your body will continue to burn calories after your four minutes is over. Interval training, similar to Tabata training, can result in up to nine times greater fat reduction than regular aerobic workouts!
  • Increased use of gluteus maximus fibres. Research has revealed that fast-paced lower-body training can in fact activate more of these fibres than slow repetitions.
  • Increased power and endurance. This will enable you to lift heavier and for longer when you hit the weights in the gym.
  • Minimal time – no matter how busy you are, four minutes is doable!

Mind, Body and Soul

Research suggests that people often don’t exercise because they believe they need to undertake long efforts for results. Luckily, research also suggests that short, maximal-intensity exercise is very beneficial. According to Sean Foy, MA, exercise physiologist, president and founder of Personal Wellness Corporation and author of The 10 Minute Total Body Breakthrough (Workman, 2009), people often get bored quickly with working out. Consequently, short intervals could be easier to absorb psychologically.  Instead of watching your clock you can focus on putting your mental energy into working at maximum effort.

Tabata How-To:

Classic Tabata:

Choose one exercise and do as many reps as you can in 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and do it all over again! Repeat this for a total of eight times over four minutes. Be sure to give it everything; at the end of the four minutes you should feel like you can’t continue. Your heart rate and respiration should be much higher than normal. If you are a beginner, start by only doing two sets of 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Your goal at this stage is to help your nervous system create patterns of response, allowing you to maintain form as you increase intensity. If you feel like you can do more, repeat the Tabata cycle once more. As your strength and endurance improves, keep adding cycles (up to four), and if you want to mix it up, add different exercises. But you must make sure you can maintain each exercise with perfect form.

Our Tabata Cluster:

Try dedicating a minute to each of the exercises on the list by performing two cycles of 20 seconds of maximum effort with 10 seconds rest. Move on to the next exercise until you complete all four exercises. At the end of the cluster you will have trained nearly all large muscle groups in your body and, if done correctly, should be lying on the floor like a limp rag.


Do either high-intensity Tabata option no more than twice per week, leaving at least 48 hours between each session. Remember to warm up for at least five minutes prior to the routine with light cardio, and always perform a cool-down that includes stretches for all major muscle groups immediately after.







between sets


between exercises



2 x 20 seconds

10 seconds

10 seconds


2 x 20 seconds

10 seconds

10 seconds

Seated ball twist

2 x 20 seconds

10 seconds

10 seconds

Jump squat

2 x 20 seconds

10 seconds

10 seconds

*NOTE: Tabata training is only for those who have been working out for some time and whose bodies have athletic-calibre functioning. If you have or suspect having cardiovascular disease, pulmonary problems, high cholesterol, angina and so on, do not do Tabata.

Prime Performance Plan:

·    Do not perform these exercises if you are not an advanced trainee – as the moves are performed at such a fast pace and you are expected to have nothing left when you reach your rest period, Tabata should only be undertaken if you already have strength, fitness and correct form.

·Do not compromise form for speed – if done correctly, strengthening your ligaments, tendons and muscles through the use of Tabata training can actually reduce your risk of injury. Over time, you will be able to push more weight safely when you strength train.

Do not replace your entire training program with Tabata – this is a valuable addition to your traditional exercise regime, but it should not be viewed as a substitution.


Target Muscles: Quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius

Set-Up: Stand with your hands resting gently on your hips with your feet hip-width apart.

Action: Step your right leg forward, bending both knees. Place your weight in your front heel, pushing yourself back to the starting position before repeating on the left side. Continue alternating with each rep.


Target Muscles: Anterior and middle deltoids, pectorals, abdominals, gluteus maximus, quadriceps

Set-Up: Stand tall with your feet together.

Action: Squat down and place your hands on the ground in front of your feet. Bring your body into a plank or push-up position by jumping your legs out behind you. Hop your feet back towards your hands and push off the floor through your heels. Jump as high as possible before landing back in the starting position. Repeat.

Seated Ball Twist

Target Muscles: Obliques, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, anterior deltoids

Set-Up: Sit on the floor with your feet flat and together. Hold a medicine ball in both hands close to your chest. Lean back until your body creates a 45-degree angle with the floor. Ensure your back is straight and your chest is open.

Action: Rotate your torso to the left, keeping the medicine ball close to your chest as you move. Rotate back to the centre and continue to the right. Continue rotating from side to side, maintaining muscle control for the whole exercise. Remember to monitor your breathing to ensure it is slow and controlled as you rotate.

To increase the intensity of the seated ball twist, raise your feet slightly off the ground and feel the increase burn in your abdominals.

Did you know?

Quick repetitions reduce levels of myostatin, a protein that can limit muscle growth.

Jump Squat

Target Muscles: Quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius

Set-Up: Place your hands on your hips, feet shoulder-width apart and soften your knees.

Action: As you sink your butt back, ensure your knees are tracking over your toes and your back is straight. When you reach a full squat position, push through your heels and jump as high as you can. When you land, soften your knees and allow yourself to naturally drop back into a squat. Repeat immediately.

Body-Weight Squat

Target Muscles: Quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius

Set-Up: Stand with your hands raised directly out in front of you and your feet hip-width apart.

Action: Lower yourself into a squat. Once again, ensure your back is straight and your knees are tracked over your toes. Keep your chest proud and shoulder blades retracted to maintain a stable core. When your thighs become parallel with the ground, stop. Press through your heels to return to the start position. Repeat.

Create Your Own Cluster

Play mix and match with this routine – it can be applied to almost any type of exercise. You can make your Tabata cluster pure cardio by doing outdoor sprints or jumping on a bike (you will need a timer). If you are already very fit and strong, you can even incorporate other body-weight exercises such as chin-ups and push-ups. With so many options to choose from and the ability to tailor it to suit exactly what you want to achieve, Tabata training will never get stale!

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