16-Minute HIIT Workout to Burn Fat and Build Strength

Many people know about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and a favorite among these routines are the Tabata intervals. These have you working hard for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds, and then repeating until you’ve reached 8 intervals—which makes one full Tabata.

This type of interval training is one of the most effective ways to ​shed fat, boost your metabolism and train your heart and respiratory system to function more efficiently. It's a great way to improve your overall fitness in just 16 minutes at a time. 

What Tabata Intervals Do for Your Body

Man holding plank position at gym
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Tabata intervals were invented by Dr. Izumi Tabata (and colleagues) at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. Though originally developed for Olympic speed skaters, his training style is now practiced by fitness enthusiasts everywhere. 

The "20 seconds on/10 seconds off" method has been shown to tax both the aerobic and ​anaerobic pathways more than other types of exercise. By taking rest periods only half the length of the hard push, you are forced to perform without a complete recovery. This keeps your heart rate elevated, helping you ​​burn more calories and lose fat faster.

A Total-Body Workout in 16 Minutes

Admittedly, your highest heart rate results are going to come from cardiovascular intervals such as sprints or plyometrics. However, Tabata intervals have evolved to include strength training exercises as well.

By replacing your 20-second sprint with a 20-second squat thrust or removing the 20 seconds of all-out speed on the elliptical and putting in 20 seconds of as many push-ups as you can, you get the dynamic combination of cardio and strength all at once.

In fact, in just 16 minutes, you can get a complete workout that is more effective and burns as many calories as 60 minutes doing something at a more moderate intensity. Try this routine for a kick-butt Tabata workout that will burn calories and build strength. 

Set #1

Perform these four Tabata intervals for a high intensity interval workout that will help build strength.

How to Do This Tabata Set

Complete the exercises in each Tabata set, performing each for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between. Do each set twice for a total of 4 minutes. Then rest for 1 minute and move on to the next Tabata set.

A) Plank to Upright Row

  1. Start in a plank position with arms and legs long and hands shoulder-distance apart while holding dumbbells.
  2. Walk or jump both feet outside your hands, coming into a low squat like you're sitting back into a chair. Press your weight back onto your heels. Squeeze your glutes and then come to standing.
  3. Pull dumbbells up slowly to chest height, letting your elbows point out to the sides as you lift the dumbbells. Then release your arms back down with control.

B) Push-Up Punch

  1. Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists, your feet together, and your body in a straight line.
  2. Keeping your body straight, bend your arms to lower your body toward the floor.
  3. Straighten your arms to push your body back up into plank position as you punch your right arm forward. Return your hand to the floor and lower back to the bottom of your push-up.
  4. Repeat, punching with your left arm.

C) Sit Up Press

  1. Start on your back with bent knees and your feet on the mat. Elbows are bent and dumbbells are resting above the chest.
  2. Bring the head, neck, and shoulders off the mat so you're sitting up. Extend the arms out long, pressing the dumbbell forward.
  3. Return back to the mat with control.

D) Army Crawl

  1. Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists, your feet together, and your body in a straight line.
  2. Bend your left arm so it is now in forearm plank position.
  3. Then bend your right arm so you are in a full forearm plank position.
  4. Lift your left hand and place it on the mat directly below your shoulder as you push through your palm to lift yourself.
  5. As you reach the top, place your right palm on the floor under your right shoulder and push back into a full plank.
  6. Repeat, leading with the right arm.

Set #2

Try this Tabata set to build arm and core strength.

A) Plié to V-Raise

  1. Stand with dumbbells in hand and your feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart, toes turned out, and bend the knees lowering down into a deep plié.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and straighten your legs to come to standing. Tighten the abdominals and lift your arms up and out forming a v-shape.
  3. Lower your arms to return back to the starting.

B) Squat Jumps

  1. Start standing with your feet hip-distance apart and lower into a squat position by bending the knees. Keep the spine straight, chest lifted, and knees behind your toes. Arms are in front of the chest for balance.
  2. Jump straight up and swing arms overhead. Return to squat.

C) Walking Push-Up

  1. Start with your hands on the mat a fist's distance apart from each other, legs long, and on your toes in a full plank position with your abdominals engaged.
  2. Walk your right hand and foot out to the side and lower to a push-up by bending your elbows to the sides and lowering your chest towards the mat.
  3. Press up, straightening your arms and bring the right and left foot back to your starting position. 
  4. Repeat on the other side.

D) Leg Loops

  1. Start seated on the mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor and have a dumbbell nearby.
  2. Scoop out your core, lean back, and lift your legs into a tabletop position so they are parallel to the floor.
  3. Take a dumbbell in one hand. Drive the knee on the same side in towards the chest and extend the other leg long so you can loop the dumbbell under the bent knee and through to the other hand.
  4. Once the dumbbell is through, repeat on the other side.

Set #3

Build strength and burn calories with this Tabata workout.

A) Squat Thrusters

  1. Start standing with your feet hip-distance apart and lower into a squat position by bending the knees. Keep the spine straight, chest lifted, and knees behind your toes. The elbows are bent and dumbbells are at shoulder height.
  2. Using the lower body, thrust up to standing and press the dumbbells overhead extending the arms long.
  3. Lower back to starting position.

B) Forward Lunge Bicep Curl

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart. Take a large step forward with one foot and lower your body toward the floor. Both legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
  2. Bring weights in toward your shoulders to complete a bicep curl, then push off the front foot and return to start.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

C) Spiderman Push-Ups

  1. Start with your hands on the mat, slightly wider than shoulders, legs long, and on toes in a full plank position with your abdominals engaged.
  2. Drop into a push-up by bending your elbows out to the side and lowering your chest towards the mat. Pull the left knee toward the outside of your left elbow and hold for one count.
  3. Press up to plank returning your foot to the mat.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

D) Dips and Kicks

  1. Begin by sitting on the floor with your feet hip-distance apart in front of you. Bring your arms behind you with your hands flat on the floor, fingers facing glutes.
  2. Lift your body up off the floor, squeezing​ your abs and glutes to keep the body lifted.
  3. Bend the elbows behind you, working your triceps as you kick your right foot into the air until your leg is straight.  
  4. Return to start and repeat, switching legs.

Set #4

Your last set in this Tabata workout will leave you feeling the burn and building muscle.

A) Stationary Lunge to Overhead Press

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart and dumbbells next to your shoulders. Step left foot behind you, keeping heel off the ground.
  2. Bending your knees, lower your body toward the floor as you press the weights up overhead. Both legs should bend to a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
  3. Straighten your legs back to standing as you lower dumbbells back to shoulder height.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps and switch feet.

B) Cross Behind Lunge Lateral Raise

  1. Start standing tall with feet shoulder distance apart and dumbbells in hand alongside legs.
  2. Cross your right foot behind the left leg, landing on the ball of the back foot with both knees bent.
  3. Step your right foot back to start position and lengthen arms out to your side with a slight bend in the elbow. Slowly lower arms back to your side and repeat with left foot stepping back.

C) Renegade Row

  1. Begin in a full plank with dumbbells in your hands, arms extended, and on your toes. (A kneeling variation is fine if you are not able to do a full plank.) Engage your abdominals, drawing the belly inward towards your spine.
  2. Pull the right dumbbell up toward your right hip bone keeping the weight close to your side.
  3. Slowly return it to the floor and repeat with the left dumbbell.

D) Bend Extend Ab Tuck

  1. Start seated on a mat with arms behind you, hands on the mat, and fingers facing your backside. Sit back on your hands and lift your feet up off the mat, keeping the knees bent.
  2. Keep abs tight and press your legs out long and your lower back down slightly. You should feel your lower abdominals working.
  3. Push yourself back up and pull your knees in to return to your starting position.


Tabata I, et al. Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on Anaerobic Capacity and vo2max. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 1996;28(10):1327-30.