Some workouts fall into what I call the “interest-bearing” category.

That’s because with some workouts, you don’t just burn calories while you’re doing them. You also burn calories for hours (and sometimes days) after.

And that’s just one of the reasons weight training rocks. Doing an intense weight-training workout is like making a deposit in your calorie-burning account.

Now, it’s true you won’t burn thousands of extra calories as a result of an intense workout. But according to one study, women’s metabolisms were up 4.2 percent the day after their workout (1). 

Here’s the cool thing, though: you don’t need to spend an hour in the gym lifting weights. You can spend as little as four minutes and still get a great calorie-burning workout.

In fact, when you do cardio-based high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you burn 6 to 15 percent more more post-workout (2).

And HIIT appears to attack the most dangerous (and least loved) fat of all: belly fat (3).

Not bad, huh?

Tabata Workout Circuit

Here’s a fast and fun workout blast you can do on its own or as a finisher for another weight-training workout. That’s actually how I recommend doing this – as a little capper after another workout. That way, you’re already warmed up.

This type of exercise is called a Tabata, named after the coach that first came up with this format.

During Tabata workouts, you alternate periods of brief periods of hard work with even shorter rest periods, for a mere 4 minutes. This style of training improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, helps with body composition change, and is meant to be done with intensity (4) (5).

Because of the brevity of the workout, when I say “hard work,” I mean: HARD. This is relative, depending on your current fitness level as well as any health issues you might have. 

Tabata workouts – like all HIIT workouts – ramp up the burn using a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) (6).

That’s not as complicated as it sounds. Basically, because these workouts are so intense, your system has to ramp up its output. That means your muscles, heart, lungs, and more work have to work extra-hard.

Your body has to work hard to return your system back to its baseline, burning more energy (or calories). 

That’s the EPOC effect.

In fact, your body has to work so hard during these workouts – and during the recovery – that you shouldn’t do them more than 2 or 3 times a week, on non-consecutive days.

The Tabata Myth

Here’s something to keep in mind when it comes to doing Tabata workout circuits: they should be hard.

You know those 30- or 45-minute Tabata classes held at some fitness clubs? 

This might sound picky but they really aren’t Tabata workouts. Yes, they’re intense, but I prefer to call them Tabata-style training. Why? It’s impossible to sustain the amount of effort required by an actual Tabata workout for an entire group exercise class. They might follow the format of a Tabata workout, with built-in work and rest intervals, but without the crazy level of intensity required.

I’ve led my share of Tabata-style trainings, so I’m not knocking them, but that is just a reminder about the intensity required when you do the 4-minute “finisher” versions.

Fast and Furious Tabata Workout Circuit

Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes (or do this at the end of another workout, my preferred method)

  • 20 seconds box squats to overhead press (you can use a medicine ball, dumbbell, kettlebell – whatever works). Find a bench/box that is about knee height. Holding your weight at your chest, squat till you’re almost touching it then stand up, pressing the weight overhead. Work with intensity!
  • 10 second rest
  • 20 seconds jump rope (or jumping jacks), working with intensity. Feeling like more of a challenge? Do burpees – see how many you can do in the space of 20 seconds.
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Repeat for 4 total cycles (or 4 minutes)

Cool down completely by briskly walking.

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Tabata Circuit Workout


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