Can You Really Cram a Full Workout Into 4 Minutes?

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When it comes to fitness, there are few quick fixes. If you want a rockstar body, you’re expected to put in hours at the gym for maximum results. Or at least 20 minutes a day, right? Wrong! Let me introduce you to Tabata training.

Tabata training is a type of high intensity interval training that supposedly can give you results similar to a 30- to 60-minute, moderate cardio routine in only 4 minutes. Whoa. I’m all about short, high intensity workouts, but 4 minutes!? Does it really work? It seems to!

In a 1996 study (there have been many), Professor Izumi Tabata looked at athletes who cycled for 60 minutes, 5 times a week, and those who did 7 to 8 sets of 20-second high intensity cycling followed by 10-second rest periods (about 4 minutes total), 5 times a week. Both improved their cardiovascular fitness, but he found the second group had an improvement in both anaerobic and aerobic fitness.

In other words, this type of workout seems to help your performance in high intensity, short duration activities, and also in longer endurance workouts.

Intrigued? Try it yourself with this 4-minute Tabata workout. (Although much of the research has been done on cycling and running, almost any high intensity exercise is thought to do the trick.)

A 4-Minute Tabata Workout

Perform each move for 20 seconds followed by a 10 second break. Do the circuit twice. Remember to go hard! In order for it to work, you must be giving 100% for the whole 4 minutes.

1. Standing Mountain Climbers. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Raise both of your hands up over your head with your palms facing in. From this position, jog in place bringing your right knee up and your left elbow down first. Return them to starting position, and then bring your left knee up and your right elbow down. Do this as quickly as you can.

Health.com video: How to do a Mountain Climber

2. Squat Thrusts. Start in standing position with feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees until your hands can touch the ground on either side of your feet. Your butt should be down toward the ground. From here, kick your legs out in a pushup position. Next jump your feet back into your squatting position, and stand up. Repeat.

Health.com: Squat Thrust from Jessica Alba

3. Box Jumps. Stand facing a moderately high platform or step with your feet shoulder width apart. From here, bend at the knees and explode up on to the box. You can use your arms for momentum as you jump. Once on the box, jump back down to the ground and repeat.

Health.com: How to do a Box Jump

4. Dumbbell Swings. Start in a squatting position with your feet hip width apart and your toes forward. Hold a dumbbell in both hands down between your legs. Keeping your arms straight, swing the dumbbell up over your head in a controlled motion. While swinging up, push up into standing position. In a fluid motion, lower the dumbbell back down while squatting into your starting position.

Health.com: How to do a Dumbbell Swing

Phew!  How was it? At the end of this workout you should feel as if you’ve given your all for the entire 4 minutes. Your heart rate should be up and your entire body will feel worked. Not sure if you’ve given it 100%? Make sure your heart rate is at 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate while you are working out. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Take this number and multiply it by 0.8 and 0.9 to find 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate. Want to make it simpler? I always wear a heart rate monitor when I workout to ensure that I am working out intensely enough.

For more quick workout ideas, check out A Head-to-Toe Workout in Just One Move and 5 Quick Workout Moves for Busy Women!

Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, best-selling author, and entrepreneur. With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CW’s Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestants’ to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBC’s Today Show, Extra, The Doctors and Good Morning America. Connect with Jennifer on FacebookTwitterG+ and on Pinterest.

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