Strength training is an awesome way to challenge your muscles. But sometimes you just want to end your workout feeling breathless. And that’s where a HIIT Tabata finisher comes in.
Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in which you perform 20-second bursts of maximum effort work followed by 10 seconds of rest and then repeat that pattern for a total of 8 rounds. That means Tabatas are just four minutes long—but don’t let the brevity fool you. Tabatas are quick, but they’re by no means easy.
Since Tabatas encourage you to give it your all, they can be “pretty exhausting,” ACSM-certified personal trainer Asher Freeman, creator of the Nonnormative Body Club in Philadelphia, tells SELF. This intensity is what makes Tabatas especially great for a finisher as opposed to an entire workout. Think about it: After working at 100% effort for 4 minutes, you probably wouldn’t have much energy left to continue exercising. And lifting weights when you’re beat can make it easier for your form to falter, which can set the stage for injury. With Tabata as a finisher, though, you can give the moves max effort—and then head right to your cooldown.
While Tababa may seem intimidating, Freeman emphasizes that Tabata is just a template. “All it is is the time that you’re working and the times that you’re resting—and you get to fill it in with whatever is the appropriate exercise for you,” they say.
That means Tabatas don’t have to feature super-intense, high-impact moves like burpees or jump lunges. There are plenty of ways to modify popular HIIT exercises to make them more accessible in Tabata format. For instance, you can do regular lunges instead of jump lunges, or a plank in lieu of a burpee.
On that note, when designing a Tabata, it’s important to pick exercises that aren’t super complicated for you. “You want to choose something that you know you can do well when you’re feeling very fatigued,” explains Freeman. That way, you reduce your risk of form errors and injury and up your chances of an enjoyable, effective Tabata finisher.
Also important: The goal with Tabatas is to keep moving during the 20-second work periods, so if you need to modify the movement you’re doing to avoid taking breaks, that’s A-okay, says Freeman. For example, if a squat jack becomes too taxing, you can switch to regular squats instead. Or, if you can’t manage another rep of the inchworm, hold a plank on your knees.
This Tabata workout, which Freeman created for SELF, features just two moves that together will target your entire body and leave you breathless. You’ll work your lower body with a squat jack, and your core and upper body with an inchworm. If those exercises are too difficult for you or you’re otherwise not feeling them, don’t worry–there are several alternative options listed below.
This Tabata finisher works well at the end of a full-body strength workout. You could also do it as a standalone routine on days when you’re really strapped for time–just make sure to warm up first so you don’t jump in with cold, tight muscles. Here are five pre-workout stretches designed to prep you for any routine.
Ready to get breathless while seriously challenging your muscles? Keep scrolling for an awesome HIIT Tabata finisher that you can tack onto the end of your next strength workout!
What you need: Just your bodyweight. You may also want an exercise mat for comfort.
Do the squat jack for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds before moving onto the inchworm. Do the inchworm for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds before returning to the top.Complete 4 rounds total.
Demoing the moves below are Teresa Hui (GIF 1), a native New Yorker who has run over 150 road races; and Francine Delgado-Lugo (GIF 2), cofounder of FORM Fitness Brooklyn.