The 4 Minute Workout

Can you fit in four minutes for exercise?

Can you fit in four minutes for exercise? You can if it’s Tabata, a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that’s been touted as the new wonder workout. (It’s not actually new. It was named in the 1990s after the scientist Izumi Tabata, who studied the effects of HIIT on the Japanese Olympic speed-skating team.)

Studies show Tabata is a great way to burn fat, boost your metabolism and get both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning in less time than most workouts require. “Tabata trains your heart to recover, so it’s very functional, and it’s a great workout because you can get in and get out quickly,” says Ellen Babajko, group exercise director at Ethos Fitness in Midland Park. But as with any exercise program, you only get as much as you put in.

How it works: One “cycle” of Tabata comprises eight rounds, each with 20 seconds of all-out intense interval moves plus 10 seconds’ rest (“just enough to take the sting out,” says Babajko). A workout might consist of four cycles, with a minute’s rest after each cycle, which you can complete in about 30 minutes, including warm-up, stretching and cooldown. If you only have a few minutes, Babajko suggests doing a quick Tabata of squats or pushups.

Designing your Tabata: The cool thing about Tabata? “You can pick any exercises you want to do,” says Babajko. The moves or types of cardio you choose depend on your fitness goals: Weight loss? Strength? Endurance? You might do the same exercise in one cycle to target a specific muscle group, or eight different exercises for a total-body workout. Here’s an example of a Tabata session:

  • Squats or squat jumps (intervals 1 and 3)
  • Pushups (intervals 2 and 4)
  • Crunches or roll ups (intervals 5 and 7)
  • Lat pull down (intervals 6 and 8)

In the above, says Babajko, “you do four exercises in a cycle and hit all your muscle groups in the four minutes. By the time you get through the eighth interval, you’re pretty spent.” Beginners should modify the exercises and do them at their own pace.

What you need: Fortunately, Tabata training is low-tech and low- or nocost if you do it at home. Weights and a floor mat are optional. You really just need a timer to mark your rounds, or a wall clock with a large second hand. And, of course, “there’s an app for that.” Try Tabata Timer for iPhone, or mp3 Tabata, an online clock at

To learn more, check out Find Ethos Fitness at 85 Godwin Ave., Midland Park, 201.251.4500;

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