High Intensity Tabata Cardio Workout

Burn More Calories in Less Time

If you really want to get the most out of your cardio workouts, break out of your comfort zone and try Tabata training. Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training that forces you to work at a very high intensity for short periods of time. Not only do you burn more calories during your workout, it also increases your afterburn, the calories you burn after you exercise as your body resets back to normal. This very advanced workout involves pushing you to that breathless place where you have to dig deep to find the will to keep going.

Each Tabata set involves alternating two high-intensity or anaerobic exercises for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of four minutes. In this version, you'll alternate two different exercises for the entire Tabata, rather than doing the same exercise as you often do in some workouts. That keeps things from getting monotonous and allows you to work a variety of muscles.

This workout is best suited to advanced exercisers comfortable with high-intensity training. Choose one Tabata set for a shorter workout or complete all four for an intense 35-minute workout. You won't need any equipment for this workout. See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions.

Tabata Workout Basics

  • Alternate the exercises in each Tabata set, doing each for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds between each exercise.
  • Work as hard as you can at each exercise, working for a level 9 to 10 on a perceived exertion scale.
  • Repeat each Tabata set four times, for a total of four minutes for each Tabata set.
  • Complete one or all of the Tabata sets, resting for one minute between sets.
  • Monitor your intensity throughout the workout and back off if your heart rate gets too high.
  • Modify the workout as needed and avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.

Tabata Set 1: Burpees

Burpees
Ben Goldstein

This Tabata set includes burpees and mountain climbers.

Burpees

  1. Squat and place your hands on the floor.
  2. In an explosive movement, jump feet back into a plank position.
  3. Jump your feet back between your hands and stand up, adding a jump at the end for more intensity.
  4. Repeat for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.

As a modification, you can also step the feet back instead of jumping. To add intensity, try adding a pushup after you jump the feet back.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers
Ben Goldstein

The second exercise of Tabata set 1 is mountain climbers.

  1. From the burpees, stay on the floor in a pushup position and alternate bringing the knees in towards the chest, as though running.
  2. Keep the hips down and drive the knees as high as you can.
  3. Repeat for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.

Another option is to do more of a jump switch, which is harder.

  1. Bring the right foot in and touch the toe to the ground.
  2. Now jump, switch the feet in the air and bring the left knee in.

Alternate each the burpees and mountain climbers, performing each for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

  • Repeat four times for a total of 4 minutes.
  • Rest for 1 minute.

Tabata Set 2: Long Jumps

Long Jump
Ben Goldstein

The second Tabata set includes long jumps and plyo jacks.

Long Jumps

  1. Begin with the feet together and the knees slightly bent.
  2. Jump forward as far as you can with both feet together, landing with the knees soft.
  3. Jump to turn around and do another long jump in the opposite direction.
  4. Repeat, jumping forward, jumping to turn and jumping forward again for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.

Make sure you land on your heels and keep the knees soft to avoid injury.

Plyo Jacks

Plyo jacks
Ben Goldstein

The second exercise of Tabata set 2 is plyo jacks.

  1. Begin with feet together and jump up, taking feet out to the side, landing in a low squat.
  2. Jump up and bring feet back together (a very slow jumping jack).
  3. Swing your arms overhead to add intensity.
  4. Repeat for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.

To add intensity, slow down the move and squat as low as you can.

  • Alternate long jumps and plyo jacks, performing each for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
  • Repeat four times for a total of 4 minutes.
  • Rest for 1 minute.

Tabata Set 3: Squat Jumps

Prisoner Squat Jumps
Ben Goldstein

Tabata set 3 includes squat jumps and jogging with high knees.

Squat Jumps

  1. Begin with the feet wider than hip-distance apart and the hands behind the head, elbows out.
  2. Lower into a squat keeping the knees in line with the toes, and go as low as you can. Make sure you send the hips back to protect the knees.
  3. Jump as high as you can, keeping the hands behind the head and bracing the abs.
  4. Land with soft knees and repeat for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.

Jogging with High Knees

Jogging with high knees
Ben Goldstein

The second exercise of Tabata set 3 is jogging with high knees:

  1. Jog in place, bringing the knees up as high as you can, aiming for waist-level each time.
  2. Land on the balls of your feet and keep the knees bent to absorb the impact.
  3. Repeat for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.

To add intensity, you can also take the arms up and down as you jog.

  • Alternate squat jumps and jogging with high knees, performing each for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
  • Repeat four times for a total of 4 minutes.
  • Rest for 1 minute.

Tabata Set 4: Jump Kicks

Ben Goldstein

The fourth set includes jump kicks and side-to-side jumping lunges.

Jump Kicks

  1. Stand with feet together.
  2. Raise the right knee to waist level and then jump, switching legs and kicking out with the left leg.
  3. Repeat that, bring the right knee up, then switching and kicking out with the left leg for 20 seconds on the same side, resting for 10 seconds.
  4. You'll do these on the other side during the next Tabata set. 

Side to Side Jumping Lunge

Side Lunges
Ben Goldstein

The second exercise of Tabata set 4 is jumping lunges:

  1. Take the right leg out to the side and bend the knee into a lunge, going as low as you can.
  2. Windmill the arms so that the left-hand moves towards the right foot (you don't have to touch if you can't).
  3. Stand up and jump into a side lunge to the other side, again windmilling the arms.
  4. Repeat for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.

Alternate jump kicks and jumping lunges, performing each for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

  • Repeat four times for a total of 4 minutes.
  • Rest for 1 minute.

Cool Down: 5 minutes of light cardio and stretching.