Known as the closest thing we have to a fitness miracle, the Tabata workout is loved by researchers and fitness pros alike for its unparalleled fat-torching abilities and simplicity. To do a "Tabata," simply pick an exercise and set a timer for 20 seconds on and 10 seconds rest. Do the exercise as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds and then rest for 10, repeating 8-20 times total. Don't be fooled: These moves may seem simple, but they're not! If you're not seeing stars by the end, you're not pushing hard enough. You can use the Tabata protocol with almost any exercise. Here, we share our favorite fat-burning exercises to get you started:
Bikes are perfect for engaging your whole lower body and skyrocketing your heart rate for those 20 seconds. Tip: It's a little easier to time and to rest on a stationary bike—you can just take your feet off the pedals for 10 seconds rather than trying to start and stop/coast on the road.
Hindu squats are similar to a traditional squat but instead of stopping when your legs are parallel to the ground, you continue down, dropping your butt towards your heels until your fingertips brush the ground. Going through the full range of motion gets your heart rate up faster and engages more muscles. Tip: Don't be afraid—contrary to popular belief, researchers now say that for healthy people, squatting to the ground won't hurt your knees.
You already know and love (to hate?) lunges for their butt-blasting ability. Add a jump in between alternating legs to up the difficulty and cardio factor. Start by stepping your right foot forward into a deep lunge, until your leg is parallel with the ground. Then jump, bringing your back (left) foot forward and landing in a lunge. Tip: You can step through each lunge if jumping gets too hard.
Cardio and coordination all in one! Take a jump rope and jump as fast as you can, using whichever foot pattern like. Options include: both feet together, high knees, the "boxer shuffle with heels in front, alternating feet, and butt-kickers. Tip: Make sure your rope is long enough before you start—nothing ruins a good Tabata workout like getting whipped across your calves! To check for proper length, stand in the center of your rope and pull the handles straight up. They should come at least as high as your armpits.
Find a weight bench or a plyo box that hits somewhere between your shins and your knees. Stand in front of it and jump off of both feet to the top of the bench. Jump back to the floor, again with both feet together. Try not to rest when you land and jump right back up again. If this is too difficult, you can do step-ups onto the box instead.
Place your hands near one end of a flat weight bench with both feet on one side. Keeping your hands on the bench, hop your legs over to the other side. Immediately hop back to the first side. Keep hopping until you want to puke or your timer goes off! Tip: Make sure you're jumping vertically and not horizontally or you'll push the weight bench to the side, which makes it even harder to get back over.
Make a triangle with your hands and feet on the floor with your butt up in the air. Bring one leg up towards your chest similar to a sprinter's start position. Keeping your hands on the ground, jump to switch your legs. Tip: Just quickly touch each toe down in front so you're not resting by putting your whole foot down.
For a real Tabata challenge, kick up into a handstand against a wall. Bend your elbows and lower down and then push back up. Tip: You don't have to go all the way down to your head for these to be effective. Even lowering 2 inches (which is what I do) will challenge your whole body.
Running in place on a mini-trampoline or Bosu is a great way to get the same cardio effect of running with much less pounding. Tip: Put one hand on a wall, chair, or trampoline bar until you're sure you've got your balance.
The ultimate non-impact exercise, swimming offers all the cardio benefits of running and cross-trains your upper body. Pick whichever stroke you are most comfortable with and sprint away. Tip: If you can, find a lane to yourself. Other swimmers often don't appreciate the start/stop nature of Tabata training.