Tabata Workout Plan | How to Lose Weight with Tabata

Choosing exercise styles that you enjoy, or simply finding the time to exercise even when you are motivated to do so can sometimes be quite the challenge. This method of training allows your workouts to pack a punch in a very short amount of time, so they can be ideal if you’re struggling to fit some exercise in for the day.


What is Tabata?

Tabata training consists of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that comprises of bouts of 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated 8 times to form a 4-minute workout. Of course, it is recommended that you still warm up appropriately prior to each session.

Tabata and Weight Loss – How does it Work?

Exercise in general, and particularly HIIT exercise obviously uses a proportionate amount of caloric energy depending on the duration and intensity of your session. A Tabata workout can increase the energy demands from your muscles, just like a regular workout, which allows you to benefit from heightened energy expenditure for the rest of the day as your muscles use the energy to recover.

  • Like other variations of HIIT, Tabata workouts dramatically increase your heart rate for short periods of time. This can have fantastic positive effects on helping to ward off cardiovascular diseases, particularly if you work in a more sedentary role.
  • The nature of a Tabata workout stresses your anaerobic energy system and challenges your body’s capability of managing lactic acid build-up. This can ultimately lead to increases in local muscular endurance which can translate to other things (e.g. if you’re into running in your free time).
  • While you may think that 4-minutes is not enough to do much, it counts for a lot more than remaining sedentary throughout the entire day. If you can incorporate this style of exercise during busy days then you will massively increase your energy expenditure over longer periods of time, supporting fat loss. Each 4-minute round of a given exercise will also stimulate a hypertrophic response as well as getting your heart rate up high.


Tabata Workouts for Weight Loss

A Tabata workout should firstly incorporate an appropriate warm-up – if you are focusing on your upper body only, then focus on warming up your upper body more, and the same goes for lower body-focused sessions. Dedicate 5-10 minutes to a warm-up prior to starting, then enter the workout.

Each ‘round’ will consist of 4-minutes where there are 20 seconds of working time in the given exercise (remember to maintain quality and not rush each rep in favour of quantity!). This will be followed by 10 seconds of rest before you start, repeating this method 8-times to make 4-minutes. This typically involves around 5 exercises, so the whole workout is only 20-minutes of intense work.


Upper-Body Tabata Workout


Start in a plank position, with your arms extended directly below your shoulder joint. Keep a straight line between your ankles and your shoulders. Lower yourself to the floor, keeping your elbows tucked to your sides (enough that they touch your lats or are at least at a 45-degree angle relative to your torso). Press yourself back to the top position, squeezing your triceps at the top, and repeat.


Anchor your feet to a secure object (i.e. pinned under the sofa) and lie on your back with your knees flexed to a right angle. Without using momentum, contract your abdominal muscles to lift your shoulders from the floor. You should feel a contraction in your abs before lowering back to the start position in a controlled manner and completing the following reps.

Kettlebell Swings:

Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your hips so that it is dangling between your legs. Bend slightly at the hips and knees before explosively extending to swing the kettlebell out directly in front of you. Absorb the swing back of the kettlebell by catching it with your knees and hips slightly bent, then use its momentum to execute the following rep.

Dumbbell row:

Select an appropriate weight, bend your hips to 90-degrees so that your torso is parallel to the ground, and support yourself by putting your opposite hand on a stable surface like a bench or railing. With the dumbbell dangling straight down, pull your elbow up towards the ceiling with the dumbbell tracking towards the crease of your hip. Slowly lower to the start position and execute the next rep.

Overhead press:

Start with two dumbbells or a barbell at shoulder height, brace your core and press the weight straight up until your elbows are locked out and your wrists are stacked over your elbows, which should be stacked directly over your shoulders. Squeeze at the top before lowering to the start position in a controlled manner and execute the next rep.


Tabata Workout for Abs

Side plank dips:

Get into a side plank position with a straight line from your shoulder to your ankles. Your shoulder should be stacked directly over your supporting elbow and try not to lean forwards. Allow your hips to dip to the floor before returning to the original position. Complete this on both sides or alternate for each successive round.

Knees to chest:

Lying or hanging from a bar, tuck your knees to your chest, allowing your lower back to round so that you can maximally contract your abdominal muscles. Maintain controlled reps throughout the designated round.

Russian twists:

Using a dumbbell or kettlebell, start in a v-sit position with your feet elevated from the floor and your hips/knees flexed at right angles. In a controlled fashion, move the weight to touch the floor on your left and right sides in an alternating manner throughout the round.

Back extensions:

Using a GHD or by securing your feet and lying prone on the ground, flex your lower back muscles, thus extending your lower back. Squeeze at the end of every repetition to maximise the activation of these muscles.


Anchor your feet to a secure object (i.e. pinned under the sofa) and lie on your back with your knees flexed to a right angle. Without using momentum, contract your abdominal muscles to lift your shoulders from the floor. You should feel a contraction in your abs before lowering back to the start position in a controlled manner and completing the following reps.


Lower-Body Tabata Workout

Bodyweight Squat:

Start with your feet shoulder-width apart (or whatever is comfortable for you). Bending at the hips and knees, lower yourself down until your upper leg is parallel to the ground, or until you are sitting in a deep squat. Maintain a neutral spine posture throughout this exercise. Stand back up to the start position, squeezing your glutes together at the top of the exercise.

Walking Lunges:

Start standing with your feet together, then step forwards so that your torso is halfway between your feet and your knee angles form right-angles. Step forwards until your feet meet, then perform the same for the opposite leg. Keep your torso upright throughout this exercise.

Broad Jumps:

Start standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, then squat down and use your arms to help you gain momentum. Jump straight forwards, extending powerfully so that you cover the most distance possible. Reset and execute more reps throughout the duration of the Tabata round.

Lateral Lunges:

Start standing with your feet together, then step out to the side with one leg, keeping the opposite leg straight. Sit deep into the lunge position and without altering your foot position, transfer your weight onto your other foot and sit into the deep lunge stance. Alternate sides throughout the duration of the round.

Glute Bridges:

Lying supine with your pack on the floor, pull your heels back until they are directly beneath your knees. From the floor, extend your hips and squeeze your glutes at the top for around 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the start position and initiating the next rep. Try to maintain a neutral spine position throughout each rep.


Take Home Message

If you’re strapped for time, then Tabata workouts could be the key to ensuring you can still hit your fat loss goals. The high intensity and short frequency allow you to get a solid workout in, even with a packed day ahead.

Scott Whitney

Scott Whitney

Writer and expert

Scott developed a passion for sport and performance through competing in long‐distance running and bouldering prior to attending university. Scott’s academic achievements include a BSc honours degree in Sports Therapy and an MSc degree in Strength and Conditioning. He is also a member of The Society of Sports Therapists and CIMSPA. Previously, he has worked with amateur and elite athletes, ranging from university sports teams to elite rugby league athletes and Team GB rowers. He currently works with various gyms in developing and delivering training programmes for amateur athletes and gym‐goers. While passive treatments remain in his arsenal as a Sports Therapist, Scott uses his skills to promote physical activity for combatting obesity, lower back pain and other sporting injuries, and simultaneously providing programmes for athletic development. Being a recent graduate, Scott strives to gain experience wherever possible, offering advice and sharing knowledge along the way. He believes it is important to practice what you preach, so in his spare time, Scott practices Olympic Weightlifting and enjoys being active outdoors in all weathers, although he still believes it is important to make ample time for social activities.