Lacking the time and motivation to get into sport? The Tabata method involves just 4 minutes of exercise! Want to try it?


If you've never heard of it, you probably won't believe it possible. Can 4 minutes of physical effort really be considered sport? Believe it or not, the Tabata method was created to train the national speed skating team for the Olympic Games, no less. It was the brainchild of a Japanese researcher at the National Institute of fitness and sports, called Izumi Tabata. This method can be explained in the same time that it takes to complete:


- 20 seconds of intense physical effort

- 10 seconds of recovery

- Repeat the sequence 8 times


Want to see how it's done?

Intensity tabata method

1. The intensity.

Those who are more experienced will certainly have made the connection: yes, the Tabata is a HIIT (our article "Discover HIIT: easy exercises that you can do anywhere!" below). Like HIIT, the key feature of the Tabata method is its intensity. Indeed, the 20 seconds of intense exercise to be repeated 8 times over a period of 4 minutes must be particularly intense because you will be hitting 90% of your maximum heart rate on average. Does "full throttle" come to mind? That's exactly right.

If you are starting a physical activity, start slowly when it comes to the intensity and difficulty of the exercise. After you have warmed up for about 10 minutes, you can start your Tabata, which can include 1 to 8 exercises, according to your preference.

Example of a cardio Tabata:

Complete as many burpees as possible for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. Repeat this 8 times.

Example of a muscle strengthening Tabata:

Complete as many press-ups as possible for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. Then, complete as many squats as possible for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. Repeat 4 times

Example of a full body Tabata, for exercising all the muscles of your body:

Complete as many press-ups as possible for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. Then, complete as many squats as possible for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. Then, complete as many burpees as possible for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. And finally, complete as many hollow holds as possible for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds. Repeat 2 times

Recovery TABATA method

2. Recovery

Do the 10-second recovery periods seem short? Don't worry, the feeling of tiredness will diminish over time and you will be able to optimise your recovery. What's more, it has to be said that this "breather" is deliberately brief because exercising when you are tired increases your anaerobic capacity, which involves short, yet highly intense physical efforts. The added extra? Your body will immediately draw on its fat reserves. You will therefore lose weight while gaining muscle mass.

Bear in mind that the recovery can also be active. This means that if you are doing a cardio Tabata that involves sprinting as part of the intense phases, the recovery can quite easily be composed of light jogging phases.

Furthermore, your recovery is not limited to the 8 x 10 seconds of the Tabata exercise. Indeed, we recommend doing 1 to 4 Tabatas per week, alternating between one day of training and one day of rest.

3. With music!

Rather than having your eyes fixed on your stopwatch all the time, there are other, albeit less precise, alternatives… Entertaining! On the different musical platforms, you can find a wide range of playlists especially put together to accompany you during your sessions. Very often, they are composed of well-known rousing remixes containing very clear instructions to help you during your physical effort. From the start of your training session to the end of your high-intensity phase, after completing your recovery period, your training session will fly by… So much so that you might even want to do another one!

music tabata method
tabata method for exercising in your living room

4. Exercises that you can do anywhere

Whether you are in your living room, a meeting room (without a meeting, if possible) or even on the beach, (just be careful not to spray too much sand on your neighbour's towel), there are plenty of places for doing the Tabata. Indeed (almost) any location will do! And for good reason, 4 minutes of exercise (plus 5 to 10 minutes of warming up) is achievable even when you are dragging your feet to do it. And yet, we all know how it goes: once you get started, you can't stop!

One last thing, the Tabata can be combined with other forms of exercise: it can be done after a jog or your swimming session. Ideal for supplementing your favourite sport and becoming a ferocious competitor!

5.All in all, there are only benefits

What more could you ask from a 4-minute training session that burns fat, increases muscle mass, can be done anywhere and has its own dedicated music?
Well, there's a lot more!
Among other things, you will develop your endurance and your ability to withstand physical effort. The Tabata can be adapted to suit any sport: running, walking, swimming, cycling, fitness, etc. Etc. What's more, you will continue to burn off fat after your session!

The benefits for your health have also been demonstrated following tests conducted by a panel of cyclists. Over a period of 6 weeks, one group completed 5 weekly Tabata workouts while the another group completed 5 weekly 1-hour cycling sessions. The results? Those who were practising the Tabata exercises had boosted their VO2max by 15%*, compared with only 10% for those who had done the cycling. Even more impressive was the 28% increase in anaerobic capacity** of the first group, while the second group experienced no increase at all.

So, are you convinced?


*maximum volume of oxygen that a body can consume during an exercise at maximum aerobic speed, i.e. the speed at which the consumption of oxygen cannot increase further.


**The quantity of energy delivered by the energy system, i.e. that which allows us to maintain an intense physical effort by drawing on fat reserves.

At the end of your Tabata, you can relax your muscles by doing some light stretches and enjoying the post-workout feeling of well-being. And who knows, maybe you will want to try out the more lengthy albeit more relaxed MICT (Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training) as a result?

Manon signature


daughter, sister and partner of cyclists. Trail runner* brought up in the great outdoors, who has practised sport from a very young age. In the process of becoming an ultra trail* runner. Marathon runner and 2013 Junior French 10,000 m race walking champion. Obsessed with stories about sportsmen and sportswomen.