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What is Tabata?

Updated: May 30

Whether you've been involved with CrossFit or not, you've probably heard the term Tabata before.

And rightly so, because Tabata is an intense and effective training method that has revolutionized the fitness world. Originally developed by the Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata, it combines high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with various elements to achieve maximum results in the shortest possible time.

But what exactly is Tabata and why is it so popular in CrossFit? Let's take a look together!

The benefits of CrossFit Tabata

Athlete training with a barbell

The popularity of Tabata is not unfounded. This form of training not only promotes fat burning and improves aerobic and anaerobic endurance, but also strengthens the cardiovascular system, increases muscle strength and promotes mental toughness.

Another plus point is its efficiency: a complete Tabata workout often only lasts four minutes, but the intensity more than makes up for this short time.

Basic principles of Tabata

At the heart of Tabata training is the alternation between 20 seconds of maximum effort and 10 seconds of rest, repeated over four minutes. This structure can be applied to almost any exercise and makes Tabata a versatile tool in your training. The challenge is to really give it your all during the active phases.

CrossFit Tabata exercises

You can actually do Tabata with all exercises. However, the classic exercises that are suitable for a CrossFit Tabata workout include kettlebell swings, squats, burpees, mountain climbers and many more.

The beauty of Tabata is that you can adapt the exercises to your fitness level, which makes it a great option if you're a beginner.

Equipment and space requirements

Another advantage of CrossFit Tabata is that you don't need a lot of equipment. With bodyweight exercises, you can train practically anywhere - whether at home, in the park or at the gym. A timer or an app that keeps track of the time for you is all you really need. We'll give you a brief introduction to the SmartWOD Timer below.

Instructions for beginners

Close-up of the SmartWOD timer app

If you want to start with CrossFit Tabata, start slowly. Choose exercises that you can perform safely and pay particular attention to your form.

Start with less intense intervals and gradually increase the intensity as you feel more comfortable. Always remember: regularity and consistency are the keys to success.

Sample Tabata-style workouts

CrossFit Tabata offers a variety of exercises that you can perform with your own body weight as well as with equipment.

Below you will find two sample workouts to help you get started with this training method. One focuses on exercises that you can do without any equipment, while the other incorporates simple equipment to increase the intensity.

Tabata Workout 1: Without equipment

  • Burpees: 20 sec. action, 10 sec. rest

  • Air squats: 20 sec action, 10 sec rest

  • Mountain climbers: 20 sec action, 10 sec rest

  • Push-ups: 20 sec action, 10 sec rest

Do 8 rounds of each exercise (8x 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest, i.e. a total of 4 minutes per exercise) before moving on to the next exercise. With four exercises, this Tabata therefore lasts a total of 16 minutes.

Tabata Workout 2: With equipment

  • Kettlebell Swings: 20 sec. action, 10 sec. rest | Equipment: Kettlebell

  • Medicine Ball Slams: 20 sec action, 10 sec rest | Equipment: Medicine Ball

  • Lunges (Dumbbell Lunges): 20 sec action, 10 sec rest | Equipment: Dumbbells

  • Rowing with Barbell: 20 sec action, 10 sec rest | Equipment: Barbell

Do 8 rounds of each exercise (8x 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest, i.e. a total of 4 minutes per exercise) before moving on to the next exercise. With four exercises, this Tabata therefore lasts a total of 16 minutes.

Efficient Tabata timing with the SmartWOD Timer app

Close-up of the Tabata timer in the SmartWOD Timer app

Due to the many changes in intervals, you can quickly get confused or lose track during Tabata. The SmartWOD Timer app is your perfect partner for Tabata workouts so that you can concentrate fully on your training.

It allows you to precisely time the characteristic intervals of 20 seconds maximum effort and 10 seconds rest. Or whatever intervals you want to set. Sound cues help you stay in rhythm as you give your best for each lap. Use the breaks for a quick recovery before getting back into it.

Here's a quick guide on how to use the SmartWOD Timer app for your Tabata workout:

  • Download the SmartWOD Timer app for iOs or Android and select Tabata mode.

  • Set the number of rounds - the default is 8 rounds, which corresponds to a complete Tabata workout.

  • Start your workout with a simple tap on "Start timer" and the app will give you acoustic signals to indicate the change between exercise and break.

The SmartWOD Timer app not only makes your Tabata training more effective, but also easier, as it takes over the timekeeping.

FAQs about CrossFit Tabata

SmartWOD athlete who stretches

Still have a few question marks in your head about Tabata? No problem. Here are the most frequently asked questions - including answers.

What makes Tabata so effective?

Tabata combines high-intensity intervals with short rest periods, which leads to a significant increase in cardiovascular performance and fat burning, while at the same time maintaining or even building muscle mass.

Can I start with Tabata as a CrossFit beginner?

Yes, as a beginner you can definitely start with Tabata. It is important that you start with exercises that you can perform safely and gradually increase the intensity.

How often should I incorporate Tabata into my training routine?

This depends on your individual fitness goals and your current training program. Two to three Tabata sessions per week, combined with other forms of training, can be quite effective.

Do I need special equipment for Tabata?

No, the great thing about Tabata is that you can start with minimal equipment. For many exercises you only need your own body weight, which means you can train virtually anytime and anywhere.

How long does a typical CrossFit Tabata workout take?

A classic Tabata workout lasts just four minutes. It consists of eight rounds of 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest. However, it can be extended as required and you can also vary the intervals. For example, with 30 seconds of effort and 30 seconds of rest.

How do I measure my progress in Tabata?

You can measure progress in various ways, e.g. by increasing the number of repetitions within the 20 seconds of maximum effort, improving the recovery rate or through personal bests in the exercises performed.

Maximize your potential with Tabata

Tabata is an incredibly varied and, above all, effective training method that brings a lot of movement into your training routine. With its blend of intensity, simplicity and efficiency, it offers a challenging but accessible way to achieve your fitness goals.

Regardless of your current fitness level, Tabata can be a valuable addition to your training program that not only leads to improved physical results, but also strengthens your mental toughness.


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