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Consider Tabata training.
If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can perform multiple rounds, doing a different exercise each time, taking at least a 1-minute break between rounds before starting the next exercise.
Read on for four exercises you can try Tabata-style in single rounds or consecutively for a total-body HIIT workout.
Important note: Make sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Why Tabata training?
Borden said she regularly uses Tabata in her online classes for the fat-burning benefits as well as the less intimidating nature of its format — 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. “It’s something that people feel is more doable than trying to push themselves for 5 minutes before a minute of rest,” she said. “They say, ‘I can push myself for 20 seconds.’ That’s a big selling point for people who might be intimidated by other forms of HIIT.”
With Tabata training, you want to keep the exercises simple so it’s easier to maintain form. Even in 20-second spurts, high-intensity exercise is exhausting, making it more difficult to maintain proper form throughout the 4 minutes. When form breaks down, injury risk goes up.
That’s why it’s important to modify exercises, as necessary, to make them easier to execute. For instance, if you’re doing push-ups and notice that exhaustion is starting to affect your execution, drop to your knees so you can finish the full 4 minutes with good form.
Because of the high-intensity nature of Tabata training, it’s crucial to use caution. If you’re new to exercising or have recently taken time off and are just getting back into it, build up to higher intensities rather than jump into this style of training too fast.
As with any exercise program, consult your physician before starting. The safest way to practice high-intensity exercise is to monitor your heart rate. If you experience chest pain or difficulty breathing, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
Tabata can work with almost any simple, repeatable exercise. Below, I’ve outlined four you can use in the 4-minute format of 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. It doesn’t matter how many reps you perform during the 20-second intervals if you’re working at a high intensity. On a scale of 1 to 10 of perceived exertion, that’s an 8 or 9. High intensity is considered 80% to 90% of your maximum heart rate, which is why wearing a heart rate monitor is advisable.
If you choose to do all four rounds as a workout, it’s essential that you adequately warm up and cool down.
1. Body-weight squats
Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance. Inhale, brace your abdomen and lower into a squat with your arms out in front at shoulder distance for counterbalance. Push your knees out slightly, squatting until your hips and knees are parallel, or as low as possible, with your chest up and back neutral. Exhale as you push through your feet to stand up.
Modification option: Squat to a box or a chair.
From a plank position with your wrists under your shoulders, lower your entire body down by bending your arms until your elbows, shoulders and hips are level.
Avoid arching your back by keeping your core engaged. Exhale as you push up, moving your entire body in one motion.
Modification option: Either lower to your knees or elevate your upper body by placing hands on a step.
3. Jumping jacks
Jumping jacks are performed by jumping your legs out to the side in a straddle position as you take your arms out and above your head so your hands meet (or come close). Then jump your legs back together while bringing your arms back down to your sides.
Modification option: Reduce speed or shorten range of motion.
4. Mountain climbers
Begin in a plank position with your hands aligned under your shoulders, core engaged and back neutral. Alternate by bringing each knee up to your chest, then back to plank position, at a pace you can sustain.
Modification option: Do a plank hold without moving your legs.
Tabata training is one of the most efficient ways to accomplish maximal calorie and fat burning in minimal time.
“If fat burning is a goal,” Borden said, “adding Tabata to your workouts adds so much value to your health and time management.”
Dana Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”