The Ultimate 30-Minute Tabata Workout For Runners

Today I’m going to share with you a workout routine that will not only help you burn mad calories and increase overall fitness level, but also help you improve your running and break through any fitnesss pleateau: Enter Tabata training.

In fact, according to plenty of research, if you do tabata workouts on a regular basis, then you will definitely increase your aerobic and anaerobic power with minimal training time.

Therefore, I encourage you to try the workout below, but if it’s too much then try a modified version of it and see if you are up for the challenge.

However, before I delve into the routine, let’s first take a look at what tabata is and how it can help you run better and get fitter.


What’s Tabata?

The brainchild of Izumi Tabata PhD, a former scientist and researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, the tabata training method is a form of high intensity interval training that involves exercising at full effort for 20 seconds, recovering for 10 seconds, then repeating the cycle for eight times for a period of four minutes.

In other words, Tabata is a HIIT type of workout that combines 20 seconds of maximum bursts effort with 10 seconds of rest in four-minute rounds.

Genesis – Study Behind the Tabata Protocol

The initial study goes back to 1996 when Dr Tabata and his team of researchers examined two groups of amateur athletes in their mid twenties for a period of six weeks.

The athletes studied where divided into two groups, following two different workout protocols.

Group I followed protocol 1 where they exercised for an hour of stationary cycling at 70 percent of VO2 max, five days a week. This is similar to a long running session at a steady moderate pace.

While, on the other hand, Group II followed protocol 2 in which they exercised 4 times per week, opting for a workout that consists of eight 20-second bursts of highly intense biking—at 170 percent effort—and 10-second of rest, totaling for only 4 minutes a workout.

At the end of the study, both groups saw increases in aerobic power, but only the second group performing the four minutes interval improved in both aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels.

In other words, the group that worked out less, and thanks to high intensity intervals, ended up fitter at the end of the six-week period.

Benefits of Tabata Protocol Training

Here is a list of the benefits to expect if you do tabata training on a regular basis:

Improved anaerobic capacity. Anaerobic power can be defined as the amount of extra work a runner can eke out beyond their aerobic capacity. According to studies, an improved anaerobic capacity can help you run faster and longer by teaching your body how to fight fatigue and boosting your muscles ability to flush out lactic acid.

In fact, anaerobic power is the second greatest predictor of 5K running performance after aerobic capacity. Not only that, anaerobic power, or speed and power, is also vital for distance running performance.

Therefore, whether you are looking to improve your endurance for marathon training, increase your sprinting speed or set a new 5K personal record, then anaerobic power is key. In fact, anything that improves speed, is welcomed.

Burns mad calories. The typical tabata workout routine can burn up to 12 to 15 calories per minute, according to a study. Therefore, the tabata workout method is really a 4-minute fat-burning miracle workout.

Endless combinations. What I really like about tabata workouts is the endless number of training combinations you can do. Just pick an exercise then go all-out-effort for 20 seconds, recover for 10 seconds, then repeat it for eight times for to complete one round.

Saves times. Tabata can help you squeeze a workout in and stay consistent with your fitness routine—especially if you are running a hectic daily schedule. All you need is some space, a mat, and there you go.

Tabata is not the only god in town

Hopefully by now you are excited about incorporating this method of training into your training program, but keep mind that tabata workouts should not be an alternative to your current running sessions.

Instead, make sure to follow a well-rounded running program that includes recovery runs, tempo runs, interval sessions, Fartlek intervals and long runs, if you are serious about reaching your best running performance.

Tabata Logistics – Time it Right!

To keep track of your training time and your cycles, you can simply use a stopwatch, or an app. I prefer using apps because they take the guesswork out of the equation, helping me stay focused on the task at hand. One of my favorite is the Tabata pro (Get it for $3). Or just search for Tabata and you will find plenty of free versions that deliver.

Note: I hate to sound like a broken record, but please keep in mind that the main key to doing tabata is intensity. So if you are serious about making the most out of tabata protocol workouts, then you need to mimic Dr Tabata’s study and exercise at a high intensity.

If you do Tabata right, then it’s going to be an extremely unpleasant workout experience where you will feel like you are about to lose consciousness due to the intensity.


Image Credit – Nathan Meijer via Flickr

The 30-Minute Tabata Workout

The routine I’m sharing with you today involves doing five rounds of intense work tabata style. Each round lasts for four minutes, and they will be four of the most intense and most challenging minutes you have ever experienced.

Here is how you should proceed: push as hard as you for 20 seconds, either eking out as many reps as you can of an exercise, or moving as fast as you can when doing sprints or any other form of cardio exercise. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat the process for a total of eight times.

Without further ado, here is my favorite tabata workout protocol.

The Warm-up

Begin with a warm-up, by jogging for 5 minutes and doing dynamic exercises to increase your core temperature and loosen your muscles and joints.

Here is the dynamic warm-up routine you need.

Next, do each exercise for 20 seconds, pushing yourself as hard and as fast as you can without losing form, then rest for 10 seconds before you move on to the next move. Rest for at least 30 seconds between each round of this Tabata series.

Round One: Sprints

Here is the simple formula: Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then sprint for another 20 seconds, shooting for eight sprints at an all-out effort.

You can also perform the sprints on a steep hill, but make sure to pick a hill that’s not too technical since you will be running at your maximum speed for at least the first set of reps.

For treadmill lovers, set the machine at a speed of 2 to 3 mph per hour to warm up, jogging for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Then after the warm-up, sprint at nothing less than 12 mph for 20 seconds, then take 10 seconds of recovery.

I prefer that you don’t do tabata on a treadmill, but in case you choose to, then be careful. On the treadmill, you might not be able to speed up and slow down fast enough so be careful.

Round Two: High Knees

Begin by standing with feet hip-width apart. Keep your back flat and core engaged the entire time.

Perform high knees by jumping from one foot to the other, lifting your knees as high as you can. Concentrate on lifting your knees up and down as fast as you can, landing on the balls of your feet as you run in place.

Do this for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then repast the cycle for eight times to complete one round.

Round Three: Jumping lunges

Take a lunge position with your right foot forward, knees bent, and left knee nearly touching the floor.

Next, while extending through both legs, explode up and jump as high as you can, swinging your arms to gain momentum. Then switch the position of your legs mid-air, moving your left leg to the front and right leg to the back, then immediately lower yourself into a lunge on the opposite side.

Keep jumping back and forth for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, repeating the cycle for 8 times.

If you can’t keep doing jumping lunges with good form, then perform walking lunges instead. Be aware of your own limits.

Round Four: Squats

Assume an athletic position with feet hip-width apart. For more challenge, hold a set of dumbbells or plates at shoulder-height.

Next, to perform the squat, bend your knees and sit back, lowering yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Just make sure to keep your back flat, head facing forward and toes tracking over the knees the entire time.

Last up, return to standing by pushing through your heels.

Continue squatting for the full 20-second interval, moving as fast as you can, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat the cycle for eight times.

Round Five: Burpees

Begin by standing with your feet hip width apart, back straight and core engaged.

Next, squat down and place your palms on the floor, then jump both of your feet into a full plank position, then quickly hop your feet back into a squat and, explosively leap into the air, reaching your arms straight overhead. Add a clap for some sound effect!

In case you are looking for more challenge, then you can either add a standard push up from your plank, or drop your chest to the floor before jumping back up.


Here is the routine in a nutshell

Round 1 (4 minutes) Sprints

  • Sprint at your highest speed for 20 seconds.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 2 (4 minutes) High Knees

  • High knees for 20 seconds, as many reps as possible with good form.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 3 (4 minutes) Jumping Lunges

  • Jumping lunges for 20 seconds, as many reps as possible with good form.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 4 (4 minutes) Squats

  • Squats for 20 seconds, doing as many reps as possible with good form.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Round 5 (4 minutes) Burpees

  • Do as many burpees as you can for 20 seconds.
  • Rest for 10 seconds.
  • Complete 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Once you complete the five rounds, finish off your workout with a proper cool down. And that’s it.

Featured Image Credit – Aijse via Flickr

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