This HIIT Tabata finisher will finish your exercise gasping and sweaty


Strength training is a great way to stimulate your muscles. But sometimes you just want to finish your workout feeling out of breath. And that’s where a HIIT Tabata finisher comes in.

Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) where you perform bursts of 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, then repeat this pattern for a total of eight rounds. That means the tabatas are only four minutes long, but don’t let the brevity fool you. Tabatas are fast, but they are by no means easy.

Since Tabatas encourage you to give it your all, they can be ‘pretty exhausting’, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer Asher Freemancreator of the Non-normative Body Club in Philadelphia, says SELF. This intensity is what makes Tabatas especially great for a finisher as opposed to a full workout. Think about it: after working out at 100% effort for four minutes, you probably wouldn’t have much energy left to continue exercising. And lifting weights when you’re beaten can make it easier to drop out of form, which can set the stage for injury. With Tabata as a finisher, however, you can put maximum effort into the moves and then head straight for your recovery.

While Tababa may seem intimidating, Freeman points out that Tabata is just a role model. “All that matters is how long you work and how long you rest — and you can supplement that with whatever exercise is right for you,” they say.

That means Tabatas don’t have to showcase super intense, high impact moves like burpees or jumping lunges. There are many ways to modify popular HIIT exercises to make them more accessible in Tabata format. For example, you can do regular lunges instead of jump lunges, or a plank instead of a burpee.

On that note, when designing a Tabata, it’s important to choose exercises that aren’t super complicated for you. « You want to pick something that you know you can do well when you’re feeling really tired, » Freeman says. This way you reduce your risk of form errors and injuries and increase your chances of getting a nice and efficient Tabata finisher.

Also important: The goal with Tabatas is to keep moving during 20-second work periods, so if you have to modify the movement you’re doing to avoid taking breaks, that’s A-OK, says Freeman. For example, if a jack squat gets too taxing, you can switch to regular squats instead. Or, if you can’t handle another inchworm rep, hold a plank on your knees.

The Tabata workout below, which Freeman created for SELF, has just two moves that together will target your entire body and leave you breathless. You’ll work your lower body with a jack squat, and your core and upper body with a caterpillar. If these exercises are too difficult for you or you don’t feel otherwise, don’t worry, there are several alternative options listed below.

This Tabata finisher works well at the end of a full body strength workout. You can also do this as a standalone routine on days when you’re really strapped for time – just make sure to warm up first so you don’t jump out with cold, tight muscles. Here are five pre-workout stretches designed to get you ready for any routine.

Ready to get out of breath while seriously straining your muscles? Keep scrolling to find a great HIIT Tabata finisher that you can add to the end of your next strength workout!


What do you need: Just your body weight. You may also want an exercise mat for added comfort.



  • Do the jack squat for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds before switching to the inchworm. Do the inchworm for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds before returning to the top.
  • Complete 4 turns in total.

Demonstration of the movements below are Therese Hui (GIF 1), a New York native who has run over 150 road races; and Francine Delgado-Lugo (GIF 2), co-founder of FORM Fitness Brooklyn.

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