When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. But I may have found an exception: a simple workout that gives you the same fitness benefits as a one-hour run, in four minutes. And no, this isn’t a dodgy late-night infomercial. It’s called Tabata protocol and it’s a type of high-intensity interval training, named after Dr Izumi Tabata, who developed it in 1996.
Tabata intervals involve high-intensity bursts of exercises for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Continue these consecutively for four to 10 minutes.
Choose one of the exercises pictured and perform as many reps of it as you can in 20 seconds. The higher your intensity, the better your results will be. Rest for 10 seconds before going again. Perform eight rounds in total (four minutes). Try to keep your reps consistent each time. Perform a five-minute warm-up before this workout and a short cool-down to finish off.
This form of Tabata training uses more than one exercise. Perform as many reps as you can of one exercise for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and then move on to the next exercise for 20 seconds. Keep going in this manner through four exercises. Try a total of five rounds of 10-minute circuits.
Most rowing machines will allow you to enter intervals into the computer, so it can do all the timekeeping for you. To start, slide the seat most of the way in, lean forward slightly with your torso and reach forward fully with your arms. Drive back powerfully with your legs, before drawing back with your torso and then finally pull with your arms. Keep your stroke long and smooth.
Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, and your feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers at the sides of your temples, contract your abs and sit up with control as you exhale. Stop just short of upright and then lower. Don’t rest on the ground between reps. Your lower back should touch down lightly before you commence your next up phase.
Squat down on the floor and place your hands flat on the ground just in front of your toes. Leaning on your hands, jump your feet far enough behind you so that as they land, your body is in a perfectly straight push-up-type position. Don’t allow your hips to sag to the ground as you land. To finish, jump your legs back in towards your hands and stand up.
Stand in front of a chair or bench, feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lightly touch your backside to the chair, keeping a steady rhythm, with no pause on the up or down phase. Focus your weight through your heels and keep your gaze fixed on a point directly in front of you.
As you skip, land lightly on your feet and keep your arm movements to a minimum. You can use any skipping technique you want, as long as you can skip fast and get through as many reps as you can in each interval. About 50 reps is a good total.