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Q | I love Tabata intervals, but I’m a little burned out with my routine. Can you suggest new ways to use them? 

A | Tabata intervals remain popular for good reason: They offer the same fat-loss and cardiovascular benefits as traditional cardio, but in a fraction of the time. They’re typically done by performing one exercise for 20-second bursts followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. One round takes a total of four minutes. (Learn more at “The Tabata Tune-Up“.)

If you’ve been training with Tabata for a while, you may be ready for some variety. Change it up by building supersets and circuits that combine a mix of exercises, selecting moves you can maintain at a high intensity without a breakdown in form. (Save technical lifts like Olympic cleans for another workout.)

Feel free to get creative and to tailor your workout according to the areas you want to focus on that day. Alternate between 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, regardless of the format. (For movement ideas, check out “Build Your Own Workout Plan“.)

Personal trainer Artemis Scantalides, NASM-CPT, owner of Iron Body Training Systems in Las Vegas, offers these suggestions:

⋅ For a full-body workout, try a Tabata-inspired superset: Alternate an upper-body pull exercise (for instance, suspension-trainer rows) with a lower-body push movement (like squats). Do each exercise four times to complete the four-minute round.

After one round, rest for a minute to catch your breath, then perform a second round, this time doing a superset of an upper-body push exercise (pushups, for example) and a core movement (like planks). In total, this workout will take nine minutes.

⋅ To focus on your upper body, create two push–pull supersets. Try pairing chest presses and straight-arm pull-downs with shoulder presses and bent-over rows.

⋅ To target your lower body, combine a superset comprising two exercises that focus on legs (such as deadlifts and jump lunges) with a superset of two core moves (perhaps hanging leg raises and ab rollouts).

⋅ For more of a circuit, flow through four exercises that work different muscles: one upper-body pull, one upper-body push, one lower-body exercise, and one for your core. In four minutes, you’ll complete two full circuits.

Your intensity level for each 20-second exercise will likely be different from your exertion during a four-move circuit, since recovery time is minimal in the Tabata Protocol.

Be mindful of your energy and pay close attention to your form. It’s OK to take a break during one of the work intervals, says Scantalides. As you progress, you’ll eventually be able to stick to the workout structure.

Tabata Circuit Workout

For a new kind of Tabata workout, try the following circuit.

For this workout, designed by Artemis Scantalides, NASM-CPT, perform the first exercise for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest, and then move on to the next exercise in the sequence. Run through the circuit two times; this will take eight minutes to complete.

Hand Walkout


  • Stand tall.
  • Bend forward at the waist and place your palms flat on the floor in front of you.
  • With control, walk your hands forward on the floor until your palms are directly beneath your shoulders and your body is in a straight line.
  • Return to start by walking your hands back toward your toes.
  • Repeat for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds.

Body-Weight Squat


  • Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Keeping your torso upright and knees in line with your toes, lower into a squat.
  • Push through your heels to return to standing.
  • Repeat for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds.


a woman holds forearm plank
  • Begin on your stomach, with forearms and palms flat on the floor beneath your shoulders, and your legs extended.
  • Tuck your toes under and raise your hips off the floor so your back is flat and your body is in a straight line.
  • Hold for 20 seconds, bracing your core and squeezing your glutes, then rest for 10 seconds.

Mountain Climber


  • Assume a pushup position.
  • Brace your core to keep your midsection tight while pulling one knee toward your chest, keeping your raised foot flexed.
  • Quickly return your raised foot to the start position while pulling the opposite knee toward your chest.
  • Continue alternating feet for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds.

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