Nausea. Seeing stars. Sucking wind. This is how you know you're doing a Tabata workout correctly. At first glance you may wonder why anyone would intentionally do this to themselves, but there's a reason this type of high-intensity interval training is becoming the go-to workout not just for athletes, but even celebs like Kyra Sedgewick. "It's the hardest exercise you'll ever do in your life," Sedgewick says of the workout routine she dubbed "The 4-Minute Miracle."
But it's worth it. Doing as little as 4 minutes (or one "Tabata") can increase your aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, resting metabolic rate, and can help you burn more fat (and make you look 200-percent leaner) than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. That's right—4 minutes of Tabata can get you better fitness gains than an entire hour of running on the treadmill.
RELATED: Watch a video of a Tabata routine and follow along—if you can keep up!
The trick to getting all these benefits is the level of intensity. To do a Tabata, an exercise developed in the '70's for Japanese Olympians, all you have to do is pick a cardio activity such as running, jumping rope, or biking and go as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Follow that with 10 seconds of rest and repeat seven more times. And when I say "as hard as you can go," I mean 100-percent maximal intensity. By the end of the 4 minutes you should feel like you're going to die.
When I first started doing these, I swear I even saw a light at the end of a tunnel. I have to really talk myself into doing the workout, but seeing the very real changes in my body has made me a believer. Adding two Tabatas per week to my workouts helped me shed 7 percent body fat in one month.
Try one of these 10 fat-blasting Tabata workouts and see for yourself. A few tips to get you started:
First, while you can do a Tabata interval with just about any exercise, start with one in which you're very comfortable. Most people choose sprinting on a treadmill.
Second, get a good timer no matter how good you think you are at 1-mississippi-ing, you cannot estimate when 20 seconds and 10 seconds have passed when your brain is that fuzzy.
Third, get a good mantra that you can repeat in time with your footfalls for each 20-second burst. It sounds silly, but it really helps focus you on what you're doing and not on your excruciating pain.