Woman and man working out on mats

What is the Difference Between Tabata and HIIT Workouts?

Learn about the differences between two popular styles of workouts: Tabata and HIIT, and determine which is best for you!

Tabata vs. HIIT: Understanding the Difference

Tabata and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are very similar workouts in many ways, Tabata is actually a form of interval training.The key difference between the Tabata and HIIT is the timing. For both Tabata and HIIT training workouts, you perform an exercise for a set amount of time, followed by a shorter rest period. The Tabata workout, which was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata, consists of eight rounds of each exercise with 20 seconds of effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Each exercise is repeated for approximately 4 minutes and the full Tabata workout generally lasts about 20 minutes, depending on the number of exercises you choose to do.

HIIT workouts cover a wide range of interval training and can include a variety of exercises performed in short bursts followed by periods of rest. Intervals generally last 2 to 3 minutes and the entire workout can last up to about 40 minutes. Both types of interval training work all areas of the body and are killer workouts that are great for cardio endurance and building muscle strength. Exercises can vary in terms of intensity and may include bodyweight, free weights, a cardio machine or other accessories. 

Woman doing squats on an exercise mat

Who Should Opt for Tabata and Who Should Choose HIIT?

Tabata workouts are great for people who are short on time or want to be as efficient as possible with their time. Tabata exercises can be performed at medium or high intensity and the duration of the entire workout is shorter than most HIIT workouts. Some gyms offer Tabata classes, but you can also develop your own workout by choosing a set of exercises you would like to do. Each exercise accounts for one four-minute Tabata workout, and you can choose how many exercises to do in total. The recovery period between exercises is also shorter, which makes the workout feel more intense. While HIIT workouts include a minute of rest between exercises, Tabata workouts only include 10 seconds recovery time for each 20 seconds of exercise time. 

Those who are looking for a different type of challenge may opt for a HIIT workout and perform each exercise to maximum effort for a longer period of time. HIIT workouts may include a mix of bodyweight exercises, aerobic exercises and strength training exercises. This workout includes a couple of minutes of rest between exercises, which is more sustainable for some people depending on their fitness level and goals. Both Tabata and HIIT are effective exercise routines that are great for weight loss and cardiovascular fitness. Because they are both challenging fitness routines that target your cardiorespiratory endurance, it is important to consult a health professional before starting these workout routines. If you have a heart condition, or a respiratory condition that may make this type of workout dangerous for you, it is essential that you consider your safety and health conditions above all else and do not participate in these workouts without proper guidance from a health professional. 

Man doing pull-ups with dumbbells on an exercise mat

What Exercises Should be Included in a Tabata Workout?

You can decide which exercises to include in your Tabata workout. It is important to choose exercises you feel comfortable doing, as they will be repeated over and over again during the workout, with short rest periods in between. Depending on your fitness goals, choose the level of intensity for your workout and perform each interval at the effort level that feels comfortable while still being challenging. This intense exercise routine will increase your heart rate very quickly. Common exercises included in a Tabata workout are: 

- squats

- mountain climbers

- push-ups

- crunches

- burpees

- reverse lunges

Woman skipping with a jump rope in a gym

Equipment for Tabata Workouts

If you would like to increase the intensity of your Tabata workout, you may want to use various accessories such as weights, resistance bands or a jump rope. Squats can be more challenging if you do them while holding weights. You can increase the intensity of your push-ups by wrapping a resistance band around your shoulders and hands to create greater resistance. Reverse lunges are more challenging with weights in your hands or strapped around your ankles. And skipping with a jump rope is an excellent high-intensity exercise that will significantly boost your heart rate and add a good dose of cardio activity to your Tabata workout.

Example of a Tabata Routine

Here is an example of a Tabata workout routine. Again, you choose how many exercises to do in total, the important thing is to repeat each exercise for 8 rounds: 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

- Stand with your feet hip width apart.

- Bend your knees to lower down into a squat position, making sure your knees do not go over your toes.

- Keep your back straight. Your hands can be on your hips, or extended out in front of you.

- Keeping your weight in your heels, straighten your legs to return to a standing position.

- Repeat this move for a count of 20 seconds.

- Rest for 10 seconds and then repeat a set of squats for another set of 20 seconds.

- Start in a plank position.

- Bring one knee in towards your chest, while the other leg remains extended, then extend the bent leg back to its starting position.

- Bring your other knee into your chest, and then return that leg to its starting position.

- Alternate bending each leg in towards your body and then extending it so that you are performing a "high knees" running type of movement while your hands stay on the ground.

- Keep the movement up for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds and then repeat.

- Start in a plank position.

- If you would like to make this exercise slightly easier, you can lower your knees to the ground.

- Bend your elbows to slowly lower your chest towards the ground, then extend your arms to push your body back up.

- Repeat this movement for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds and then repeat.

Woman running on a treadmill in her home

The Benefits of a HIIT Workout

HIIT workouts are beneficial for building muscle definition and cardiovascular endurance. This type of interval training burns a lot of calories, which can be helpful for those striving towards certain weight loss goals. HIIT exercises can be performed with or without equipment, which makes it a practical and convenient type of workout for many people.
Although the name of the workout includes the term "High Intensity", you can actually choose what intensity to perform your exercises at.

What Exercises Should Be Included in a HIIT Session?

There are so many exercises to choose from when building a HIIT session. You may want to start by breaking the exercises down into categories: upper body, lower body, core and cardio. Choose one or two from each category and then you know you will have balanced HIIT workout. The timing for your HIIT workout may vary, but an easy place to start is to do 20 reps of each exercise, followed by a minute or two of rest after you have completed a sequence of all of the exercises.

Required Equipment for HIIT Workouts

There is no equipment required for HIIT workouts, but if you would like, you can include weights or a cardio machine to change things up and increase the intensity of your workout. Map out the sequence of exercises you will do and how many repetitions you will do for each exercise. Then plan to rest for approximately one to two minutes in between each completed set of exercises.

Example of a HIIT Routine

You may want to do a sequence of five exercises for a basic HIIT routine. Perform all exercises in sequence and then give yourself at least one minute to rest at the end of the sequence before starting over again. Remember to take some time to warm up before starting your workout, then jump in! Your warm-up may include jogging on the spot, high knees or jumping jacks, as well as a series of stretches to loosen up all areas of your body.

 - Stand with your feet hip width apart. 

- Bend your knees to lower into a squat, then push up from your heels and lift into a jump with both feet in the air. 

- Land on both feet and bend your knees to absorb the shock. 

- Straighten up to a standing position and then repeat the movement again. 


- Start in a tabletop position with your knees lifted a few inches above the ground. 

- Move forward 3 or 4 paces in a crawling motion, while keeping your knees slightly lifted from the ground. 

- Move backwards 3 to 4 paces doing the same movement in reverse. Repeat. 


- Sit on the edge of a chair or bench and grip the edge of the bench with your hands by your hips and your fingertips pointing down to the ground. 

- Press into the bench or chair and slide your body forward and extend your legs out in front of you so that your body clears the edge of the bench/chair. 

- Lower your body down until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees. Keep your elbows pointed behind you and your arms close to your body. 

- Push yourself back up slowly until your arms are almost straight (maintain a slight bend in the elbows). Repeat this movement. 

- Start in a plank position. 

- Lift your right hand to gently tap your left shoulder, then return it to the starting position. 

- Repeat the movement with your left hand lifting to tap your right shoulder. 

- Alternate shoulder taps for a count of 20.  


- Stand with your feet hip width apart. 

- Take a big step out to the left with your left leg, keeping your toes pointing forward. Bend your knee into a side lunge. 

- Push off with your left foot to return to the original standing position. Then repeat this movement on the right side. 

- Alternate side lunges on each side for a count of 20. 

Man and woman doing stretches at home

So, Which is Better? Our Advice

Both Tabata and HIIT workouts involve moderate-intensity endurance to high-intensity endurance, and both are excellent training methods. Your decision of which to try will really come down to the amount of time you have for your workout and your preference for all-out effort with very short breaks, or more steady effort with more exercises and longer rest periods. Why not give each one a try and see which you like best? Remember to wear appropriate fitness clothing in stretchy, breathable fabrics that allow for great freedom of movement. Be sure to have water on hand to stay hydrated and have a great workout!

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