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The 4-Minute Miracle Workout (That Really Works)

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Tight on time?

Don't give up on your workout today. If you have a mere four minutes—that's just 240 total seconds—to spare (and who doesn't), then you do have time to squeeze in a super effective workout that provides major health, fitness and weight-loss benefits.

What is this 4-minute miracle workout?


Tabata is a specific style of interval training that has you alternating between:
  • 20 seconds of the highest intensity you can handle (all-out effort)
  • 10 seconds of total rest (no movement)
You repeat the 20-second "hard" intervals and 10-second "recovery" intervals for a total of eight rounds, which equals just four minutes.
Research shows that athletes who performed these specific time and intensity intervals saw significant increases in fat burning, increases in metabolic rates, and improvements in cardiovascular fitness that were comparable or better to exercisers who go for longer, more sustained workouts.
While no one would recommend that you swap out that hour on the treadmill for a four minute workout all the time, Tabata intervals are easy to incorporate into your existing cardio plan or a way to squeeze in a workout that still makes a big difference if you're really short on time. Personally, I'd recommend no more than three Tabata-style interval sessions per week (along with the inclusion of more traditional and longer-lasting cardio workouts).
Here are some ideas to help you incorporate Tabata intervals into your workouts.
  • ON THE BIKE: Sprint with high resistance for 20 seconds, then recover with leg speed as slow as possible for 10 seconds. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • ON THE TREADMILL: Sprint as fast as possible for 20 seconds, then recover by walking or standing still for 20 seconds. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • WITHOUT EQUIPMENT: You can do "all-out" efforts of jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, box jumps, jumping rope, high-knee jogging in place—any activity that gets your heart rate up will work for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of total rest. You can stick to four full minutes of one move OR alternative between a few. It doesn't matter what you're doing—as long as you are pushing yourself to your highest possible intensity. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • OUTDOORS: Run or sprint (on a flat or up a hill) for 20 seconds, then recover by coming to a complete stop. Repeat for a total of four minutes.
  • ON DVD: Check out these titles by one of my favorite fitness trainers, Amy Dixon: "Breathless Body"  has countless rounds of no-equipment-needed Tabata drills that will Kick. Your. Butt. Her newest title "Breathless Body Volume 2: The Edge" is now available and follows a similar format. I cannot wait to try this one myself!
The great thing about Tabata is that YOU control the intensity of your intervals. You go as hard as you can feasibly go—that's what it takes to get the benefit. So even if that is 20 seconds of power walking, you're doing it right. Cater it to your own level.
As a standalone workout, Tabata is great way to fit in a nice fitness challenge (and calorie burn) when you're too busy to do anything that takes longer than 5-10 minutes. It gives you a big bang for your fitness buck.
And as a way to up the ante of your regular workouts, try incorporate a 4-minute round of Tabata 1-3 times a week into your runs, walks, or other cardio workouts to take your fitness to the next level. It could be just the thing you need to bust that plateau and start seeing the pounds drop off again.
Have you tried Tabata-style intervals before? Will you try them now? What is your favorite way to push yourself during interval training?

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PWILLOW1 10/10/2019
Great article. I will have to see what I can do. Report
KHALIA2 8/20/2019
Thanks! Report
DIROB57 5/7/2019
I actually did a Tabata workout today!...I chose battle rope and kettlebell swing intervals....the ropes are especially challenging but I'm getting better! Report
REDROBIN47 3/13/2019
Thanks for the info. Sounds good. Report
Great! Report
Love this, great article. Report
Thanks for sharing great article Report
These are great. I am excited to get back into these when my knee is 100% or at least close. Report
Great info. Report
I'm one of those extended workout people and need to change my mindset. Of course, only if I see and feel results. It seems, the shorter the workout the more time. I have to eat. :-) You'd think it'd make me more mindful, SparkFriends. Report
As always great info! Thanks, Coach Nicole! Report
It's worth a try if you're already using this equipment! Report
Great! Thanks Report
Great! Thanks Report
This is why we have exercise bikes in our tv room . Climb on any time we want, for as long or as short as we want, no dressing up, any weather, no excuses. Report
I'd like to try this but not sure I can put forth the effort! Report
I think I can do this one. Report
Always thought this was for higher level athletes. Will look into Report
I LOVE Tabata training! It is a great energizer and makes exercise so much more fun! Report
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Report
Awesome! Report
Sounds amazing! Wonder if I can do it.....70 years old, but still like to jog and walk almost every day! Report
Interesting.... i would not recommend any of it unless you are in top physical form.... high risk injuries Report
Nice article. I like walk run intervals! Report
I think I can... Report
This is something I can and will do!! Report
I've tried this before. I lost some weight. But I also got bad joint pain. I may try it again, but less intensity than I was doing. Report
Member commemts are convincing. Report
Six months ago I tried Tabata. Looooove it...the intensity, the changes in my body (less fat, more lean muscle), and the way it's upped my overall level of fitness. Comments from others are spot on, and helpful. Search YouTube for workouts, Shelly Dose has my favorites. For me this is waaay easier than figuring out on my own. You accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time. My only negative is I balk at too much repetition which means I just need to seek out new routines. Tabata, a true game changer for me... Report
I've been doing Tabata for about 4 years. One of the best workout DVDs for it is Kelly Coffey-Meyer's 30-Minutes to Fitness "Shape Up". It has two 30 minute workouts that alternate dumbells exercises with cardio, each in the tabata style. You can mix and match workouts as well, choosing only cardio, only weights, etc. Report
This stuff is great, I use an exercise bike at home literally every day, and I do this often, never knew it had a "name", it was just something done for fun. Report
I think this is an excellent incentive for people who have lost hope in their fitness or weight loss journey. Report
I always thought that this type of workout required equipment. Now that I know it doesn't, I'm going to incorporate this into my regular workout routine. I might also try out the DVD that is mentioned in the article. Thanks for posting this. Report
I am really loving this!! I am not an athlete though I am trying to become much more active through the challenges here on SP and using my Fitbit. I am a walker and since reading this article a couple weeks back through one of the challenges, I have begun using it at the beginning of my walks a couple times a week. I jog/run (which is NEW for me at my age!) as fast as I can for 20 sec then stop for 10 throughout the 4 minutes then continue on my walk. Increasing my cardio has been the key to breaking through my recent plateau. I definitely will continue with this practice. I LOVE it! Report
Wow - I've heard of interval training, but not this. I am looking forward to incorporating this into my daily morning routine to kick-start my days. Thank you for posting this information! Report
This may be just right for this Ma Ma Bear. Report
I love Tabata! It's a killer workout and you can find clocks on internet to work out with. You can basically use any exercise you want like squats, bicycle, etc. www.tabatatimer.com It's a great way to work like crazy in a short period of time. The first time my class did this I thought how can this work? After the first session I knew - try it you'll like it. Report
What kind of exercises can I do since I am in a wheelchair I would love to do some exercises pls let me know thank you

Henry Report
I have heard of this but never tried it. I do interval training, but may need to check out the DVD mentioned in this article. Report
I had not considered this, as I was mistaken in that there needed to be a high level of training prior to using this method. I was wrong. It sounds like something I can do all out for the 20 seconds on just about anything. I can start small, as that's all I got right now. Thanks. Report
I for one, love a one hour workout (run, teaching Zumba, whatever)...but certain things have eliminated the ability to have that hour and I learned about Tabata. I travel a lot for work and it's something I need no equipment for, use my body bug (or any tabata timer app works fine) and create my own little 4 minute, intense workout. They work...even if you can't fit in the other things. Depending on what you use, you can even build strength training into it as well. I like to use things such as jumping squats, plyo lunges, planks with leg lifts, russian twists, pushups, plank and slide both knees in (works lower abs amazingly), jumping jacks, high knees, run in place, jump in place, chair dips, mountain climbers, burpees - the list goes on. I do different things each time for muscle confusion - I just love this and it's been great to keep me in shape. When I have time, I'll throw in 3 or 4 times the routines (for 12 or 16 minute workouts), but I pace myself with something hard, then something easy...or I'll never make it through.

What's great about Tabata is, you'll never "master" it. Meaning, you'll always push harder and harder. Let's say your first time, you can do only 2 push-ups in those 20 seconds. A week later, you can do 5. 2 weeks, 10, and so on. You're always pushing yourself the hardest you can in those 20 seconds on. And, the further along you go in Tabata and the harder you push, the smaller those 10 second breaks seem :)

Good luck! Report
love Tabata - the Y has a 6am class on Fridays. Great way to start my day! Report
Love the explanation and HookedHangman's further comments. Great info! Report
Easy as that! Surely this is what we call the egg of Columbus, but I'll definitely try it to burst my calorie burning! Report
Caught a typo! "...no more than there" should be "no more than three"

Interesting stuff. It reminds me of when I was first getting fit when I was a chubby kid in middle school: one burst at a time! Report
I'm an ex-powerlifter who spent about 2 years after I stopped finding some way to keep fit at home. When I stopped I was about 240lb. I started doing bodyweight training 3 times a week on alternate days about a year ago. Around 6 months ago I added Tabatas to my inbetween days. I've dropped about 40lb and preserved most of my lean muscle tissue. I've managed to recompose my body so now my weight stays constant but I'm still losing bodyfat while improving muscle.

I initially added Tabata because I wanted to accelerate condition and overall fitness. I'm now in the best shape of my life and getting better.

It seems very counter intuitive considering the way we've been conditioned to believe that you need to run for extended periods to get your cardio. I for one can't run because of bum knees because of lifting injuries. +-17 years of lifting will do that to you.
The reality is that, if you do it right, you really shouldn't be able to make it beyond 4 minutes. Regardless of how fit you are. It really is pure hell for those 4 minutes but so worth it.

Tabata has the great benefit of continued calorie burn after you stop. It basically doubles your metabolic rate for up to 30 minutes after. Pay attention when you're done, and you'll notice that you feel much hotter for a while after. And you don't sacrifice that hard-earned lean muscle tissue.

As far as I'm concerned, if you choose to do only 1 form of exercise then this is the one.

As a matter of interest. I've tried many Tabat timers but I found Hard Fox Tabat timer for Android to be the best. Give it a try. It's free so nothing to lose. Report
I guess I'm going to try it now also Report
Thinking this might help me through those mid-afternoon slumps.....instead of mindlessly munching I can MOVE! Thanks! Report
Will try this work out today! Report
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