High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a cardiorespiratory training technique that involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by even shorter rest periods. You repeat this cycle several times within a 20- to 30-minute period.

Tabata is a type of HIIT workout that aims to yield the most benefits in a short amount of time. For each exercise, you do eight rounds of 20 seconds of strenuous exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.

Read on to take a look at some of the key differences between Tabata and HIIT, sample workouts, and the benefits.

HIIT covers all types of interval training that involve a period of work followed by a period of rest. The work period can be a set time or number of repetitions. During the active phase, you exert yourself as hard as you can, even to the point of fatigue.

The times can vary, but usually, each interval lasts 2 to 3 minutes and the entire workout lasts 20 to 40 minutes. HIIT workouts can use bodyweight exercises, a stationary bike, or a treadmill. You can use equipment such as a kettlebell, a jump rope, or dumbbells.

Developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata in 1996, Tabata is a type of HIIT that’s more specific in its interval timing and has shorter recovery periods. Generally, you do Tabata at a higher intensity than a traditional HIIT workout.

Each Tabata round lasts 4 minutes and involves eight intervals of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Usually, you do a Tabata workout for 20 minutes, but you can opt to do one or a few exercises for a shorter session.

Below are a few sample workouts. Always start with a warmup and finish with a cooldown. Lengthen the recovery time if you become too exhausted, and make sure you stay hydrated. If you’re a beginner, start with a few of the exercises before building up to the full routine.

Traditional HIIT workout

Repeat this circuit four times. Rest for 1 minute between each round.

A sample HIIT workout can include:

Traditional Tabata workout

For each exercise, do eight rounds of 20 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.

A sample Tabata workout can include:

Both traditional HIIT and Tabata workouts will yield amazing results. The goal of HIIT workouts is to spend minimal time gaining maximum muscular and cardiovascular benefits. Efficiency is key, making these workouts ideal if you don’t want to spend a lot of time exercising.


During HIIT workouts, you engage muscle fibers that enhance definition. This type of activity helps your muscles rebuild after exercise by boosting testosterone production in men and the growth hormone in women.

According to the Mayo Clinic, HIIT is especially beneficial for older adults. People over age 65 saw more significant improvements than people under 30 after completing the same exercises. HIIT workouts also promoted new muscle growth, which offsets age-related muscle loss.

Other benefits of HIIT include:

  • improved cardiovascular fitness
  • decreased blood pressure
  • lowered LDL (bad) and boosted HDL (good) cholesterol
  • increased weight loss
  • reduced abdominal and body fat
  • increased strength
  • improved insulin sensitivity
  • improved endurance and stamina


Tabata training offers many benefits. It:

  • boosts metabolism
  • is time-efficient
  • boosts aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels
  • increases lean muscle mass
  • raises heart rate

According to a small 2013 study, people who did a 20-minute Tabata session consisting of bodyweight and plyometric exercises improved their cardiorespiratory endurance. They burned more calories than the usual rate during normal exercise.

While Tabata brings many benefits, some people don’t find it pleasant. A 2015 study found that Tabata training was significantly less enjoyable than other less intense types of exercise, especially as time progressed over the 8 weeks of the study.

While some people may enjoy high-intensity workouts more than others, keep in mind that you may prefer to find a form of exercise that’s more pleasurable to stick with it.

HIIT and Tabata training will both yield great results. Your results will depend on the specific exercises you do, how hard you work, and the duration of your workouts. You’ll also need to take into consideration your goals and fitness level.

With HIIT workouts, you can amp up the intensity by doing more rounds and more difficult exercises. These workouts are more flexible in terms of interval timing and repetitions.

Tabata workouts may be a better option if you’re a beginner or prefer shorter exercise routines. You can decide if you want to do one or several exercises.

The workouts can be adapted to suit most fitness levels. They’re designed to yield results in the fastest amount of time. The shorter recovery periods will make the workout more intense. Plus, you’re working yourself to the point of exhaustion, which makes the workout more demanding.

  • AMRAP stands for “as many rounds as possible.” The goal of these workouts is to do as many rounds or repetitions of a specific exercise during a workout that lasts 10 to 60 minutes. You use equipment such as kettlebells, dumbbells, or your body weight as resistance.
  • CrossFit is a branded type of high-intensity power fitness (HIPF). It uses features of HIIT along with plyometrics, weightlifting, and gymnastics. Benefits include weight loss, muscle strengths, and improved coordination. To do these workouts, you may want to join a CrossFit gym.
  • P90X is a HIIT home fitness program that’s designed to overcome plateaus. The DVDs contain 12 total body workouts that combine strength, cardio, and flexibility training.
  • Created by Beachbody, the Insanity workout is an intense exercise regime that includes bodyweight exercises and HIIT. You do the workouts for 20 to 60 minutes per session, 6 days a week for 60 days.
  • Orangetheory is a 1-hour group fitness class that’s a combination of cardio, endurance, and strength exercises. It’s a mixture of HIIT and strength training. These classes are only available at Orangetheory Fitness studios.

Talk to a trainer if you’re a beginner, have injuries or medical concerns, or simply want additional direction in meeting your fitness goals. A trainer is there to guide and motivate you while tracking your progress. They’ll be able to modify your workouts as you improve or let you know if you need to scale back.

A fitness pro can ensure that you use proper form and technique. They’ll also be able to tailor your workouts to suit your exact needs. This ensures you’ll be getting the most out of your workouts while preventing injury.

Whether you’re an avid athlete or simply wanting to improve your fitness level, HIIT and Tabata training can help you take your workouts to the next level. They’re an excellent option if you’re short on time or simply don’t want to spend ages on your fitness program.

As with all exercise routines, repetition and regularity will yield the best benefits. Challenge yourself to build on and improve your current fitness level.