Fitness Challenge Week 8: HIIT, Tabata, and Semantics

Hellooo Blogosphere!

So after a week hiatus due to my obsession with the Olympics, the fitness challenges are back. Which brings me to the question…is it week 8 or week 9? I couldn’t decide, so here we are back at week 8….It’s almost as if we’ve gone back in time. I told you guys I would give you 12 weeks of these, and 12 weeks I shall give you, damn it.

Even if no one is doing them.

As you can see by the title of today’s post, this weeks challenge is a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout. It was originally going to be called a Tabata workout, but then I did some extremely scientific research, and had to slow my roll a little bit.

See, I’ve used the term Tabata on here before, and honestly this type of workout has became even trendier than leggings with crop-tops (seriously…can we leave that trend far, far behind?), but what I learned through my research is that most of what the fitness world calls “Tabata” workouts, are not exactly that.

What is Tabata?

Tabata is an exercise protocol that was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata in 1996, after he and his cronies published a study in which they  found HIIT to be more effective than steady state cardio at improving aerobic fitness.  The specifics of the study were that the intervals were 20 seconds of high intensity (170% of VO2 Max) to 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 4 minutes.

Nowadays, the fitness world is a-buzz with “Tabata” workouts, where people perform sets of squat jumps, lunge jumps, push-ups, bicep curls, barbell presses…etc. And if they’re doing it with a 20s work to 10s rest time interval, they’re calling it the T word.

This is all swell, but after reading a few articles including this one, it’s abundantly clear that the widespread use of the term Tabata is not exactly correct. Yes, people are doing 8 rounds of 20 seconds of high intensity work coupled with 10 seconds of rest, but this does not a Tabata make. A true Tabata includes that crucial component — 170% of your VO2 Max. This is a level of exertion that is near impossible to create with push-ups, burpees, squat jumps, or whatever other exercises are being used for the so-called “Tabata”.  Not to mention that this level of exertion is ridiculously difficult for the average-joe to work at, even for just 20 second intervals.

Semantics, I know, but after reading up on it I just couldn’t bring myself to call this a Tabata workout. Maybe Tabata-style? Tabata-ish? Baby Tabata?

Who’s a cute little Baby Tabata!

Hmm…Maybe we better just stick with HIIT.

So regardless of what you call it (I’ll be honest here…Baby Tabata is starting to grow on me), here is your workout for this week! You will perform each group with the 20s work/10s rest interval, and you will take 1 min of rest in between each group. The entire thing will only take 20 minutes, but if you’re working hard enough, 20 minutes will be plenty.

For those of you who are beginners, or who have not done HIIT before, I recommend starting out with just 2 groups instead of all four. Trust me, if you’re working as hard as you can, 10 minutes of this will leave you in a puddle of sweat on the floor.

Another bonus — this is a circuit that you can do with very little equipment, so if you don’t have much time, or can’t make it to the gym… No excuses!


Burpees: Begin in a standing position. Squat down, placing hands on floor. Kick legs back to high plank position, quickly bring them back to your hands, and jump straight up. That is one.

Squat Jumps: Do a bodyweight squat, immediately  jump out of squat position and straight up. Continue without pauses between squats, keeping good form in mind.

Lunge Jumps: Lunge forward with R leg. Quickly jump up, switching legs in the air, and landing in jump position with L leg forward.

Lateral Ski Jumps: Starting on R leg, jump laterally to your left and land on L leg, with knee bent. Immediately jump off of L leg to land on R leg. Focus on height and distance of each jump, with proper landing mechanics.

Soup Stirrers: Begin in plank position with forearms on physio/stability ball and feet on floor. Keeping core tight (think of a straight line from head to heels), move arms in a steering-wheel sized circle. Move clockwise for the first set, counterclockwise for the second set, and so on.

A few notes:

If you don’t have a kettlebell, or have not been trained in proper KB swing technique, substitute Frog Jumps for this. (Begin in a squat position. Jump as high and far forward as you can, landing again in squat position. Repeat this.)

If you don’t have a physio-ball for the soup stirrers, substitute side-planks, alternating sides each time you perform that exercise. 

What exercises do you like to include in circuits? Do you do “Tabata-style” workouts? What Olympic sport have you enjoyed the most so far?

8 thoughts on “Fitness Challenge Week 8: HIIT, Tabata, and Semantics

  1. Haha I love your little side tangent about tabatas!! I completely agree. One certain blogger posts weekly tabata workouts that have me screaming at my computer screen, 20 seconds of air squats are NOT tabatas!!! Like you said, it’s almost impossible for the average person to reach that level. I sprint as fast as I possibly can, and every single time I do I want to puke. While I hate burpees, they do not have the same effect!

    1. Haha, I know I do the same thing…. I was doing sprint intervals on the bike yesterday and I know I was nowhere near 170% VO2 max, and I wanted to die!!

  2. WOW I’m so glad you defined it. I’ve been doing “cute little baby” Tabata-ish and would probably die if I did I’d probably puke – or want to – like Tara said 😉
    I’ve been continuing your week 7 pull up challenge and this is coming with me tomorrow. So there – SOMEONE is doing them with you =o) Keep it up, I love them.

    1. I think a LOT of people are under the impression that any time you use those time periods, you are doing Tabata… I used to be one of them! I’m SO glad you’re continuing the pullup challenge, I’ve been continuing too! And I’m definitely starting to see some gains (Slow, but the progress is coming!!) And I’m glad you’re on board for the challenges, thanks for keeping up and for your awesome comments 🙂

  3. This is great babe! I am going camping this weekend/next week and I really want to do this! I love it because you made it 😉 I am thinking of buying a kb and not sure what weight I should purchase…

    1. Awesome!! I hope you do it, and enjoy! AND I hope you have a great time camping 🙂 I’m actually going camping this weekend too!… Anyway, as for a KB, I have a 15 lb that I’ve had forever, I use it now mostly as an accessory weight in jump squats and stuff… I use a 24 kg one (53ish pounds) that I use for double arm swings. I think its good to have one lighter one and one heavier one, that way you can do so many different things with them!

  4. good to finally know what tabata is
    everyone’s blabbing about it but you’ve finally deciphered it for me:)

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