Not enough time to work out? Time for Tabata Training!

One of the most common excuses I hear for not having enough time to work out is lack of time to train. What this usually really means is “I’m not motivated enough” or “I can’t be bothered”. Whilst it’s everyone’s personal decision whether to train or do exercise it’s better to be honest with yourself so that these barriers can be overcome by making workouts more fun, training with friends or by taking up a sport you enjoy, to name but a few ideas.

HOWEVER, if you want to keep super fit but genuinely do not have enough time to do a solid workout and you want to keep your fitness levels high and your body challenged, Tabata Training could be for you!

In a nutshell, Tabata is a super high-intensity circuit workout that lasts 4 minutes. Now, I imagine you’re thinking that 4 minutes doesn’t sound all that bad, but it’s 4 minutes of the highest intensity possible – 10.0 on the intensity scale. This maximum intensity is coupled with the 2:1 work:rest ratio, which makes it is an EXTREME workout. Please bear in mind that this was designed for Olympic athletes competing at the top level to shock their body so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

The circuit is broken down into:

20 seconds work (maximum 10.0 on 0-10 RPE intensity scale i.e. as many reps as possible, as fast as possible)

10 seconds rest

Repeat 7 times to make a complete 8 circuits (using one exercise or a mix of different exercises)… and there’s your complete Tabata workout that Dr Izumi Tabata himself would be proud of (yes, he invented it).

At the bottom of this post is the best example of Tabata I could find on YouTube, which uses the TRX training system.

Why should I do Tabata?

Now we should be clear that Tabata training is not for beginners. The Tabata Timer app on the iPhone has a rather daunting warning that I quite like:

Tabata training is very intensive training and can lead to loss of consciousness.

So not for everyone. It is a favourite amongst combat athletes, MMA fighters, Olympic lifters and sportsmen because it hits both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, which means it improves your sprinting/explosive movements as well as your CV endurance – perfect for sportsmen and sportswomen who compete at a high level!

Other benefits include the ‘kick-start’ it gives to your metabolism, which means you burn calories for hours afterwards as your body recovers from the high levels of intensity. It’s also, as mentioned before, great for those who don’t have much free time. Even if you work 12-hour days you could still squeeze one of these into a 15 minute break.

I feel that another big benefit is that because it is such a gruelling workout it prepares weight trainers for hardcore exercise in a way that not many other types of training can’t. It really pushes you physically and psychologically and that can only be good for getting yourself to go that little bit further, to get one more rep out.

What type of exercises should I use with Tabata?

A few things to bear in mind – big compound exercises should be used and not isolation exercises that work one muscle, like bicep curls. A few examples are:

  • Squat jumps
  • Burpees
  • Clean & jerks
  • Rows
  • Press ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Pull ups
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Military shoulder press
  • Jumping jacks/star jumps

You should also be careful with the amount of weight used – after 3 or 4 sets of these you’ll be feeling it, so if you overestimate your weight you may not finish the 8 circuits or your form could be compromised which can be dangerous with movements such as deadlifts. So keep your ego in check when selecting weights at the beginning.

Last word – if you don’t work at 100% during the 20 seconds work phase and if you cheat and have more than 10 seconds rest then you’re not Tabata training. Simple as. That’s not to say that you’re workout won’t be effective because it will, but it will not be nearly as effective as Tabata performed properly.

If Tabata is a little beyond your fitness levels, a Tabata-style circuit workout with, for example, longer rest periods, can still be squeezed into a short time frame and will still be great.

Be careful, and enjoy!

Top 10 free iPhone health and fitness apps

There is an iPhone app for pretty much anything you can imagine, and this extends to the health and fitness industry. The way workouts and diets are structured can sometimes make it quite hard to record, monitor and regulate your exercise and results.

That might all sound quite daunting, but help is at hand – there are thousands of free apps out there that can enhance your workout, give you some ideas, help you keep track of your progress or perhaps just keep you amused on a boring train ride.

Click on the links to view my top 10 FREE i-Phone apps for your workouts:

Fast Food Calories

The first app is for those who find it hard to resist fast food and sugary snacks. This comprehensive list of the calorific intake of these foods should be enough to shock most people into resisting the temptation to buy two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Ab Workouts

An awesome app for adding some variation to your ab and lower back workouts. Pages of exercises and ideas with easy to follow pics to help you lose that flab. Includes floor exercises, machine exercises and swiss and medicine ball exercises (see left).

Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker

Their HUGE database of the calorific value of different foods helps you keep track of how many calories you’ve consumed… and as we all (should) know, calories consumed < calories burnt = weight loss, making this an invaluable and useful app. Another similar and useful app is Dailyburn.

Tabata Timer

I love Tabata training, and have written a whole post on it here. The only thing that can make it a bit difficult is the timing of the short circuits, which must be kept at smooth and regular intervals to get the full benefit. In comes the Tabata Timer, a simple yet highly effective app for timing those super high-intensity mini-circuits.

BMI Calculator

The BMI scale has it’s flaws (see right) but it’s not a bad measure for your average person to see what category they fall into – underweight, normal, overweight or obese. This app tells you your BMI (Body Mass Index, or height/weight ratio) and tracks your progress on a chart which is a good way to gauge improvement.


Many people find running on a treadmill boring, uninspiring and repetitive. One benefit though is that treadmill runs are specific and measured with distance covered, height climbed (if incline is on) and calories burnt all recorded and measured. However, with iMapMyRun you can record a whole host of other information that 10 years ago had to be pretty much guessed. You do, of course, have to take your iPhone with you on your run, but many people already do this to listen to music. If you record a long run AND listen to music I’m not sure the battery life would be sufficient though!

Interval Timer

Interval circuits and routines are a great way to kick-start your metabolism and increase the intensities of your workouts. I also love the time saving element when compared to plodding along at a steady pace for hours. This great app allows you to structure your intervals, is very customizable and even allows you to listen to music at the same time.

Health Tips 1000

This app may be a little patronizing for your seasoned athlete, but these 1000 tips make a good little read and can be quite useful for someone who’s just getting into their health and fitness with some general tips and pointers.

Fitness Free HD

This one is actually only available for the iPad, but as a free app with over 700 different exercises it’s definitely worth a mention for anyone who wants to spice up their workouts or who feels stuck for new ideas.

Kettlebell Swing Timer

Kettlebells (see left) are an awesome piece of versatile equipment that are fun to use and strengthen the whole body, especially the core. Kettlebells are available in a few studios in Bangkok, including Total Body Training near Thong Lor, and I’ll write a piece on them soon. They’re also great for a home workout as they’re cheap and can be used in a small space. I’ve found this app great for timing my kettlebell exercises.

Nike Training Club

This is 11, but as one of them is an iPad app I’ll reward you with a few more. This app from Nike is billed as “giving you your own personal trainer”. I wouldn’t quite say that, but it has a whole host of instructional videos, 15, 30, 45 and 60 minute workouts and a reward system for your progress goals. It’s the kind of app that you’d normally be paying for so worth downloading. The only downside is that all the instructions feature females so it’s arguably more suitable for and targeted to the women market.

Fitness Pro

We’ve given you a load of great specific apps, so here’s another great all round app that has over 450 exercises with real photos – another great idea refresher to really challenge yourself and confuse your body into adapting!

5k Runner

We’re really spoiling you here with a 12th app that’s absolutely free. This app is designed to bring you from coach-dwelling sloth to 5k runner in 8 weeks with it’s beginners introduction to running. 5k is a great goal for someone who isn’t very active, or it can make a great mini-goal for someone who is building up to a 10k run or a half-marathon.

So that wraps up our 10 free apps for the iPhone that is actually 12 – please let us know if you have any other good free apps.

Have fun training!