Discover the Secrets of a 4 Minute Fat Burn Cardio Workout

Discover the Secrets of a 4 Minute Fat Burn Cardio Workout

If someone told you could turn you body into a fat burning machine by doing a 4 minute workout you would probably laugh at them. If I told you that person was a doctor and his name was Tabata you should probably stop laughing and listen up.

Izumi Tabata, Ph.D, was formerly a researcher for the Japanese National of Fitness and Sport. Back in 1996 Izuma Tabata performed research into an interval training routine that had been developed by the head coach of the Japanese Speed Skating Team. His findings were staggering.

What is the Tabata Protocol?

The Tabata Protocol is a timed workout that is only 4 minutes long. It consists of 20 seconds of hard (intense) exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, and then you repeat this 8 times. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

Fat Burn Cardio

The 4 Minute Fat Burn Cardio Workout Worked For This Athlete

What Did The Study Involve?

The study examined the effect of the Tabata Protocol vs. traditional 60 minutes aerobic workout. The 4 minute exercise group had to ride a stationary bike at 90 RPMs at 170% of VO2max. For those that don’t know much about vo2max, let’s just say 170% is working extremely intensely.

At the end of the 6 week study the aerobic and anaerobic fitness of the participants was tested. The 4 minute exercise group had improved both their aerobic and anaerobic markers of fitness – only exercising 4 minutes a day. The 60 minute aerobic group improved their aerobic fitness (not as much as the 4 minute group) and saw no change in their anaerobic fitness.

So How Does A 4 Minute Fat Burn Cardio Workout Burn Fat?

This form of short high intensity interval training improves your body’s metabolic conditioning, through the use of a combination of strength and anaerobic conditioning drills. The goal is to work as intensely as possible staying around your anaerobic threshold.

Basically speaking the 4 minutes of exercise will boost your metabolic rate and will have your body burning calories for hours after the workout is completed. You will actually burn more calories after the workout, than you do during the workout.

The other massive bonus to this style of workout, is that the research showed that whilst it is extremely effective at burning fat it will not result in muscle tissue being compromised.

What Exercises Can Be Used During The 4 Minute Fat Burn Cardio Workout?

As you can see from the study, the participants worked extremely intensely for the 4 minutes. As such you need to select exercises that are challenging, there is little point in selecting an easy exercise, such as sit-ups. The choices of challenging exercises are pretty much endless and can change from workout to workout.

You can select body weight exercises such as burpees, jump squats, push-ups or even chin-ups. You can chose resistance based exercises such as squats, thrusters, push-press, kettle bell swings. Or you can even use cardio equipment as they did in the study, my only advice is when choosing cardio equipment, pick a piece of equipment, that will allow you to get to your maximum capacity quickly.

Here is a short video of body weight squats being used to complete a 4 minute fat burn cardio workout. Take note of the intensity during the workout.



This Routine Can Even Be Sports Specific

You can even select your exercise to suit your sport. As a footballer, you could chose to do sprints for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds rest, a fighter could punch and kick a bag for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest, or a rower could get on a rowing machine and row intensely for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds rest.

How To Fit The 4 Minute Fat Burn Cardio Workout Into Your Training

Personally I use the 4 minute fat burn cardio workout as a finisher to my weight training sessions. What that entails is at the end of my session I complete a 4 minute workout to finish my training. I chose to do it at the end of my session as I want to be at my freshest when I am lifting weights.

With respect to which exercise I chose, it all depends on what body parts I have trained during the session. I usually try and choose an exercise that utilises muscle groups that I haven’t totally exhausted during my session.

As an example I won’t choose to complete push-ups during my 4 minute fat burn cardio workout if I had just completed bench press during my weights session. My reasoning is I simply could not get through the Tabata session as my chest would already have been pre-fatigued. Instead I would choose something like jump squats as it in no way relies on my upper body to complete the movement.

What To Do When You Are Only Starting To Get In Shape

As you can probably see, you need to be in reasonable shape to complete the Tabata Protocol. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it if you are a bit out of shape. All you need to do is simply work your way up to the full 20 seconds on/10 seconds off protocol by varying the times within the 4 minute workout.

  • 10 seconds on, 20 seconds off x 8
  • 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off x 8
  • 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off x 8

If you are struggling on your weight loss journey, you should consider taking a look at my recommended nutrition plan <— Link to Website. Once your nutrition is in order I recommend you have a look at my recommended training program for women <— Link to Website or my recommended training plan for men <— Link to Website.

Good luck with your training and if you need any help with exercise selection or have any advice for people that are new to the Tabata Protocol, drop a comment below!

  1. Niko,

    This sounds like a great way to finish off a routine. It’ll really help to get the body burning the fat well after your efforts are completed.

    I know four minutes sounds like it won’t be enough to promote real results, but it’s the effort matched with the rest that makes this great method for fat loss.


    • Mitchell,

      It is deceptively hard. 4 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but when you are doing doing it, it feels like forever.


  2. Wow, who knew that just 4 minutes of the Tabata Protocol could burn fat off more effectively than 60 minutes of cardio! I know that most of the fat is burnt off after the 4 minutes but still, that’s amazing! Thanks for the info Niko.

    • No worries Chris, the great thing about this research is they are advocating less time spent training, not more. I can see a lot of people adopting this type of training in the near future.

  3. Great website Dan, its a great methhod to get fit and loose weight. I copied Masso a couple of years ago and trained for the fire service fitness test. I would do 30 second sprints on a footie field then walk back and do it again 8 times. 20 minute workouts. The other days I would do 30 seconds hill sprints 8 times. Some days I would do 30 second squats or step up on stairs or a bench with a 20kg weighted vest as you had to wear a weighted vest for firies obstacle course. In three months I lost 15kg and my fitnss went from a beer gut copper 98kg to lean 83kg. I smashed the fitness test. I got into the fire service but my wife got sick so I cancelled.

    Either way your correct I read that research at the time and its the most effective way with quick intense workouts. Its hard at first but in short time you see great results with fitness and weight loss. What do you recommend 30 seconds for sprints or 20 seconds like you mentioned after weights workouts.

    Where do your crossfit workouts at home or at crossfit gym? I just joined a local crossfit gym at Salisbury on the southside. I’m going to train to learn few techniques and learn the powerlifting techiques. The plan is to train at home eventually.

    Great website very impressed. You have definitly researched you stuff. I will keep reading your website. I’m back to 95kg and ready to pull my finger out and loose 10kg really quick for the footy carnival so you can run over me again to score your many tries.



  4. @Tony Brown, for sprints I like to do 15 seconds, as I can give it my all. Doing 6-8 rounds of 20 second sprints I found made you perform poorly in the latter quarter of the workout.

    Great article Niko, similar to one on my site, I haven’t done tabatas in a long while, but might start using them as finishers like you recommend. As you probably know I used to do it with punches, but I noticed my fitness this soccer season hasn’t been where I want it, and this will be a good way to give me a bit of an edge

    • Michael,
      Whilst punches are great cardio, I find that I need to use a whole of body movement exercises to really get my heart rate up. Try some jump squats, box jumps or burpees. Let me know how you go.

  5. How often do you recommend to do the Tabata routine?

    • Carlos,

      I tend to use the tabata routine as a finisher to my weight training sessions and sometimes at the end of a crossfit session. All up I use it on average about 3 times per week.


  6. Tabata Training causes your body to burn stored fat faster than any style or exercise routine I’ve tried. The Glutamine in the body is used up very quickly. Is it better to begin your workout with a Tabata or finish off with one?

    • I always recommend finishing with Tabata as, when done correctly is is so intense, that you shouldn’t have anything left in the tank.


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