Get in Fantastic Shape with this 4‑Minute Workout

Get in Fantastic Shape with this 4‑Minute Workout

Posted by Lori Shemek; April 21, 2015

Are you spending a lot of time at the gym but not seeing the results you want? Maybe you want to get in better shape but can’t find time to go to the gym? What if you could get in fantastic shape exercising only 4 minutes each day, 4-5 days week? What if you could do all the exercises at home without buying any equipment? You can. This article will teach you how.

Tabata interval training is a highly effective training protocol designed to produce exceptional results in a very short period of time. In 4 short minutes, you get a complete workout that will improve your fitness performance, build muscle, and burn fat.

Tabata interval training is very simple. Perform 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat 8 times without pause for a total of 4 minutes. The 4 minutes are challenging and very intense, but yield better results than 60 minutes of aerobic exercise.

The Science

In his ground breaking study, Dr. Tabata had two different groups of athletes perform two different exercise regimes, and then he compared the results. The first group exercised for 60 minutes, 5 days/week at an intermediate intensity. The second group exercised using short but very intense intervals (20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds, for a total of 4 minutes). After 6 weeks, Dr. Tabata found:

  • Group 1 improved their aerobic capacity by 9.5% but got no improvement in anaerobic capacity
  • Group 2 (the interval trained group) improved their aerobic capacity by 14% and their anaerobic capacity by 28%

Later, a 2007 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found high intensity interval training (HIIT) increased fat burning capacity in women after only 7 sessions over a 2 week period.

In 2009, a study found that men performing HIIT doubled their metabolic rate and increased glucose and fatty acid oxidation (burned fat) for three hours after exercising.

In 2013, Dr. Olson found that a 4-minute Tabata routine of jump squats burned 13.5 calories per minute, (5 times the calories burned in the average cardio workout) and doubled the subjects’ metabolic rate for 30 minutes after the workout ended.

What Exercises Can Be Performed in Tabata Interval Training?

A variety of exercises can be performed, but they must be compound movements that activate a lot of muscle mass. So think squats, not calf raises. Bodyweight exercises like squats, sit-ups, and push-ups can be done as well as full body movements like burpees, sprints, or jumping jacks. You can also use weighted movements like deadlifts or power cleans. You can mix and match exercises depending on your fitness goals.

How to Perform a Tabata Interval Workout, Step by Step

Step 1: Plan the Exercises
Determine the exercises you will perform. No equipment or gym membership? No problem. Bodyweight exercises are perfect for Tabata interval training. Go here for a periodic table of bodyweight exercises complete with instructional videos on how to correctly perform each exercise. They are arranged by difficulty, so you can pick exercises that fit your fitness level. Don’t have time to plan the exercises? You can use Strength Stack 52 bodyweight exercise cards. Simply shuffle the deck and deal yourself 8 cards.

Step 2: Warm up
Start with some dynamic stretching and then perform full body movements (jogging, rowing, etc.) that increase your body temperature until you achieve a light sweat.

As you warm up, get fired up and mentally prepare for an intense 4 minutes. Remember, a 4 minute workout is more fun than a 60 minute workout, and it’s more effective too!

Step 3: Get a Clock
Get a clock or stop watch handy. Better yet, if you have smartphone or computer go to for a Tabata timer with voice commands that tell you when to start, stop, and rest between intervals.

Step 4: Workout
Set the timer, get in position for the first exercise, and wait for the beginning bell to ring. Without sacrificing technique, get as many reps as possible for each exercise in 20 seconds. So if you’re doing squats, try to get as many squats as possible using good technique before the 20 second timer is up.

When the timer rings, stop the exercise, breathe deeply, and get in position for the next exercise. Repeat this for all 8 intervals at the highest intensity you can manage.

Step 5: Cool down
Yes, you just finished an awesome workout, and it only took 4 minutes! You will be thoroughly exhausted. Breathe deeply and walk briskly until your heart rate and breathing returns to normal. Finish by lightly stretching your muscles.

The Stack 52 4-Minute Workout

Want to get started right away? Try the Stack 52 4-Minute Tabata Workout. First watch the video of each exercise and practice a few reps to make sure you know how to perform the exercise. This will help you warm up to a light sweat. Then get your Tabata timer ready and go for it!

Round 1: 20 Seconds of bodyweight Squats

10 Seconds of Rest

Round 2: 20 Seconds of Push-Ups

10 Seconds of Rest

Round 3: 20 Seconds of Mason Twists

10 Seconds of Rest

Round 4: 20 Seconds of Burpees

10 Seconds of Rest

Round 5: 20 Seconds of Diamond Push-Ups

10 Seconds of Rest

Round 6: 20 Seconds Vertical Crunches

10 Seconds of Rest

Round 7: 20 Seconds of Clock Lunges

10 Seconds of Rest

Round 8: 20 Seconds of Mountain Climbers

10 Seconds of Rest


Not only can you get a great workout in only 4 minutes, you will get results faster than anyone doing 60 minutes of cardio at the gym. Tabata interval training is wonderfully challenging and extremely effective. After a few weeks, you will notice your overall fitness has dramatically increased, and you have burned a lot of fat. I worked out for 10 years at gyms, and I never had 6-pack abs until I started doing Tabata interval training. If you play sports, you will notice that you can play with much more intensity for longer periods without getting winded. You will run circles around your friends who will think you’re some kind of freak who doesn’t get tired.

You can become extremely fit and love the way you look working out for just 4 minutes a day, 5 days a week. That’s only 20 minutes a week! You can do this, and if you use bodyweight exercises, you can do it anywhere without equipment!

If you have preexisting health problems or are not used to performing exercise at a high intensity, be sure to check with your doctor before attempting Tabata interval training. Remember to start at your own pace and increase the intensity as you are able.

This article was written by Kurt Boyd, fitness fanatic, and director of Strength Stack 52, a unique way to transform bodyweight exercises into fun, competitive workouts that can be performed anywhere.


Tabata I. et. al.  Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. (1996) 28(10):1327-30.

Talanian J. et. al. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applied Physiology Apr 2007, 102 (4) 1439-1447

Gibala M. et. al. Brief intense interval exercise activates AMPK and p38 MAPK signaling and increases the expression of PGC-1α in human skeletal muscle. Journal of Applied Physiology Mar 2009, 106 (3) 929-934

Olsen, M. O. Tabata Interval Exercise: Energy Expenditure and Post-Exercise Responses
Scharff-Olson Kinesiology Lab, Auburn University Montgomery, Montgomery, AL