Thursday, March 4, 2010

Six New Tabata Workouts for Fast Fat Loss by Nick Tumminello

6 New Tabata Workouts for Fast Fat Loss
Barbell thrusters; start and finish position.

Tabata protocols are great for general physical preparedness (GPP) and for fat loss. This excellent article provides a good introduction and some good suggestions for combinations.

Let's face it, we all would like to be lean and fit, and most of us can't spend an hour with the weights and another 30-45 doing cardio, so this is the answer.

Regarding the image above (and I love that they use women for some of these photos) - the start position is standing with the barbell held at the shoulders, then go down into a front squat (deep) and as you stand press the barbell overhead. This is a great strength-building + cardio exercise - and it will build some serious core strength, too.

Another great article from T-Muscle.

Six New Tabata Workouts for Fast Fat Loss

Are you looking for the newest, most versatile, most effective ways to incinerate body fat and outlast the competition? Well, look no further because I'm about to give you the mother-load!

In this article, I'm going to provide you with everything you need to know about Tabata Interval Training, from the best workout protocols, to the smartest and most effective program design strategies.

I'm going to show you, step-by-step, how to perform six of my most effective, battle-tested Tabata workouts. Each of these workouts is designed to help get you ultra shredded and give you the conditioning needed to be the last man standing when the smoke clears.

Each of the Tabata workouts below utilizes a different piece of equipment ranging from a barbell, to a kettlebell, to resistance bands, to bodyweight. This way, regardless of your space or equipment limitations, you're sure to find something you can immediately apply.

But First, a Review: What's a Tabata?

If you don't already know what a Tabata interval is, it's a high intensity interval training protocol originally created by Japanese researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata.

Each Tabata interval consists of 20 seconds of high intensity (as hard as you can go) exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated for eight rounds, totaling four minutes time.

Four Minutes to Freedom

The obscure reference to the group Sublime notwithstanding, Tabata training is great because it delivers big results in little time. So, if you're short on time and looking to get in and out of the gym quickly, or just looking for some killer workout finishers — Tabatas are a great way to go.

The Tabata method is easy to understand and apply, but take heed, it's NOT easy to do. Put simply, Tabata workouts are brutal! Many folks don't make it through the full four minutes, and others that do often end up puking following the first few workouts.

This is why it's necessary to gradually progress (periodize) your Tabata training. Later, I will provide you with both an 8-week and 12-week progression model designed to help you maximize your Tabata training efforts while avoiding excessive fatigue and overtraining.

That being said, progression or no progression, in order to use the Tabata method successfully, you must be willing to work hard!

Fat Loss vs. Conditioning: It's What You Eat, Fool!

Tabatas are great for both fat loss and improving one's work capacity (conditioning). In truth, there is usually little to no difference between fat loss exercises and metabolic conditioning exercises, both should be very intense in nature and demand a total body effort.

The only thing that separates a conditioning program from a fat loss program is the diet. You most certainly can improve your work capacity (endurance/conditioning) without going on any special calorie or carb restrictive diet. But, in order to lose body fat, some diet adjustments need to be made and strictly adhered to.

There are dozens of kick-ass fat loss diets in the TMUSCLE article archives; just choose one that works for you and follow it without compromise.

Tabata Training — Performance U Style!

Here at Performance U in Baltimore, we pride ourselves on developing new and creative ways of improving human performance. The Tabata workouts below are no exception. As you will see though, I do things a little differently when it comes to Tabata training.

Traditional Tabata protocol would suggest choosing only one exercise, such as squats, and repeating that same exercise throughout the entire Tabata interval. I prefer to use either two different exercises performed four times each, four different exercises performed two times each, or eight different exercises each performed once within a given Tabata workout. I find this strategy achieves better results for several reasons:

The Tabata Six

Alright, enough talk. Here are my 6 Favorite Tabata Workouts.

Tabata Workout #1 — Barbell Tabata Complex (4 Exercises)

Just about every loyal TMUSCLE reader is familiar with the concept of performing barbell complexes. But how many have performed a Tabata style barbell complex?

In this complex, you pick four barbell exercises that you can easily transition between. Perform the first exercise for as many reps as you can in 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, and perform the second exercise as fast as possible for 20 seconds. Now, rest for 10 seconds and repeat this process for the following two remaining exercises.

Once you've completed all four exercises you're only half way done, because you'll only be two minutes into the Tabata. Go back to the first exercise and repeat the entire complex again without ever dropping the bar.

Here's a sample of a four-exercise Barbell Tabata Complex (with each movement done twice):

Tabata #2 — Barbell Tabata Complex (8 Exercises)

This complex is performed exactly the same as the previous complex described above, only you perform eight different exercises once instead of four exercises performed twice.

Here's an example of an eight-exercise Barbell Tabata Complex:

When performing barbell complexes like the one above, its okay not to use "perfect" Olympic lifting technique on moves like cleans and snatches. Why?

So, all you perfect Olympic lifting form Nazis can relax!

Tabata #3 — Kettlebell Tabata Complex (4 Exercises)

I have to tell you, kettlebells have been growing on me lately. I still think that aside from swings, you can do many of the same exercises with a simple dumbbell. But that being said, I do find myself using KB's more often to get a different feel than I do with dumbbells.

Here's one of my favorite kettlebell Tabata interval workouts:

You can also do this same KB Tabata workout without switching sides each time like this:

Tabata #4 — Resistance Band Tabata (8 Exercises)

Call me crazy, but I love using resistance bands due to their simplicity, versatility, and low cost/ big return ability. For exercises like the ones below, my bands of choice are JC bands.

Although you might expect to find these little neon-colored bands in a drug store next to the feminine hygiene section, don't be fooled, this JC Band Tabata workout will smash even the fittest athlete!

Tabata #5 — Fighter's Band Tabata (4 Exercises)

This Tabata is a favorite of my fighters because it develops the upper-body conditioning necessary to continually throw punches, push, pull, and clinch with your opponent for the entire fight.

Plus, this Tabata is great for folks who are looking for a non-leg dominant way of improving conditioning and accelerating fat loss. My bodybuilders and figure competitors love to use this Tabata after an upper-body lifting day.

This entire Tabata is performed with a staggered stance. Switch your lead leg each round. Here's how it's done:

Or, you can alternate each round this way:

Tabata #6 — Bodyweight Tabata (4 Exercises)

Bodyweight training is great for folks who train at home, train outside, or travel frequently and are stuck in a hotel room.

Even if you do have access to gym equipment, sometimes it's nice to get away from all that stuff and just allow your body to move the way it wants.

Here are a few of my most popular bodyweight Tabata workouts among the athletes here at Performance U:

When to Use Tabatas

How and when you use Tabata protocols is largely determined by your training goal.

— You can use Tabatas up to three times per week. I have used up to three different Tabata intervals per fat loss workout. When training to lose body fat, I always use them after strength training. Doing so will ensure that you have the energy to dedicate to keeping your current level of muscle size and strength while strength training before moving on to your Tabata fat loss training.

— You can use Tabatas throughout your workout, either before, during, or after your strength training. I know this breaks the rules, but sports (and real life) tend to break the rules anyway, so why can't we during training?

During most sports (football, MMA, etc.) you're often required to call upon every ounce of strength you have and explode throughout the entire competition, even when you're tired. So, mixing conditioning and strength work together can help prepare you specifically for this challenge.

This is especially important for MMA fighters and other combat athletes because you have to lift up, take down, and push your opponent around the entire fight, no matter how "gassed" you may be.

To put it simply, in a sports specific conditioning phase you need to throw the old rule of'strength before cardio' out the window if you want to be the last man standing when the smoke clears!

Tabata Workout Progressions

Not everyone is capable of starting out doing the entire 4-minute Tabata. So, you'll need to gradually build up your ability to successfully complete the full Tabata without losing intensity, overtraining, or puking up your pre-workout meal all over the hot girl with the glorious set of after-markets doing Swiss ball crunches beside you.

Here's how I progress my Tabata training over a 12-week time frame:

Just so you understand the chart, here is what each figure means — 10/20 x6 = 10 seconds work / 20 seconds rest x 6 rounds.

Now, if you're a fitter, better-conditioned athlete, you may need only eight weeks to build up to the full Tabata. Here's my eight-week Tabata workout progression:


Well, I promised big, and I think I delivered: you now have an arsenal of Tabata workouts that will help you burn fat and outlast the competition.

Although I've given you a multitude of easily applied and versatile Tabata workouts, this is by no means the definitive list of the training options the Tabata protocol offers. So don't be afraid to use this article as inspiration to be creative and develop your own personal Tabata workouts.

Got any questions or have your own Tabata-inspired creations? Hop onto the discussion forum and let's hear it!

6 New Tabata Workouts for Fast Fat Loss

Nick Tumminello is a Baltimore-based personal trainer, strength coach, and national educator who works with a select group of Physique Competitors, Elite Athletes, and Exercise Enthusiasts. Nick also serves as the Strength Coach for Team Ground Control MMA. Check out Coach Nick's Products, Seminar Schedule and Blog at

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