Lack of time to exercise is the number one reason most people use to explain how they got out of shape. What if there was a workout routine you could do to get the in the best shape of your life, which took less than 10 minutes of actual exercise, and you could do pretty much any exercises you want? It’s called Tabata. Named for its Japanese creator, Izumi Tabata, the routine falls under the umbrella of the high-intensity interval training programs, commonly known as H.I.I.T.
You don’t need to be a gym rat or an experienced marathon runner to begin a Tabata routine, but it’s not necessarily for beginners. If you haven’t been in the gym since P.E. was an educational requirement, you might want to start with moderate-intensity activities like jogging or biking, working towards more rigorous exercises. Tabata requires you be somewhat fit and mentally strong since you’ll need to push yourself to exert maximum physical effort during each interval.

Tabata is simple yet effective. It’s designed for eight, 20-second exercises performed at maximum effort, with 10 seconds of rest between each. The entire circuit should take 4 minutes, so doing two Tabata sets will take you less than 10 minutes, depending on how long you rest between sets. There’s also the freedom to choose your individual exercises. Pushups, pull-ups, sit ups, crunches, leg lifts, burpees, most medicine ball exercises, stationary sprints, jumping rope, light weight squats and lunges, single handed kettle bell swings, punching air, jumping in place – can all be incorporated into your Tabata circuit, as long as you’re working out with all your might.

You can also tailor your Tabata circuit to fit your personal goals. Those trying to cut fat and lose weight may want to incorporate more aerobic exercises like jumping rope or burpees into their routine. While others looking to improve muscle strength and endurance might mix in some exercises using weights. No matter what, you’ll be burning calories to the tune of about 53 calories per 4 minute circuit, and improving your overall cardiovascular health.

Besides saving time and improving cardio, Tabata boosts your metabolism. One study showed that athletes increased their VO2 max by 15% – the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during a workout, which is a marker of aerobic fitness – after six weeks of Tabata training. This study also showed that Tabata can increase anaerobic capacity by as much 28% more when compare to moderate exercise.

Tabata is not for everyone, but anyone can do it, and it’s a much more efficient exercise than long distance running or biking. It’s a physically taxing program, so if you feel like you’re getting fatigued, skip an interval and go all out on the next. Another option could be to moderate your pace for one interval to let your body catch up. If you find yourself skipping intervals or your breaks get longer, you may need to change your routine. Maybe try some different exercises or reduce the weight being used.

In the end, your fitness is up to you. If you are determined and committed to putting forth a maximum effort to achieve maximum results, give Tabata a try!