30-Minute Dumbbell Tabata

30-Minute Dumbbell Tabata

There is much data and research available to us now on how  higher intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can get us just as fit, in a shorter amount of time, as lower intensity and longer workouts can.

HIIT workouts have been proven to: increase our human growth hormone (our anti-aging hormone), decrease our body fat, improve our blood pressure, blood sugar regulation and triglycerides, as well as improve our muscle tone and aerobic endurance.

In fact, I am almost ready to give up my one long run every week due to these studies.

I mean, who wouldn’t want the same effects that a long cardio session can produce, but in half the time? But, alas my 4-legged running partner would be very upset if I stopped.


To write about shorter and more intense workouts you need not to look too far before your come across the name Tabata.

Tabata workouts are named after this gentleman, Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese physician and researcher.Dr. Izumi Tabata

He conducted a study using an interval-based workout to see if athletes would see the same gains from a shorter training program as they do with a longer duration one.

His initial study used the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating team as his test subjects and the workout consisted of 20 seconds intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for 8 rounds on a stationary bike. The whole workout took 4 minutes for the athletes to complete.

In just 6-weeks of training his subjects improved their anaerobic capacity (the ability for the body to work without oxygen, which in turn promotes speed, strength and power) by 28%, and they increased their VOmax (the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use, which improves endurance) by 14%.

While this is a pretty cool study, it is used with elite athletes as the test subjects. Would this type of training work for us mere mortals, as well?


In 2013 the American Council on Exercise enlisted a research team of their own to gauge how effective a Tabata-style workout really is – with normal people.

They took a group of 16 men and women who were deemed healthy and either moderately to very fit and between the ages of 20 to 47 years. After their initial treadmill test (to assess their starting VOmax, maximal heart rate and ratings of perceived exertion – RPE) they had the participants perform 8 rounds of 4 different exercises, using the 20 seconds hard and 10 seconds rest interval for a total of 20 minutes.

The participants used full-body calisthenics with exercises such as: push-ups, mountain climbers, high knees, split squats, box jumps, burpees, jumping rope, side skaters, plank and punch, lunges, squats, high-knees and Russian twists.

The subject’s heart rates were  monitored throughout the workout, while their blood lactate levels were tested with a finger prick blood test and RPE was evaluated after every four-minute segment of exercise.

Immediately following the sessions, the researchers crunched the data and on average showed that during a Tabata workout their subjects averaged 86 percent of HR max and 74 percent of VOmax —both of which meet or exceed established industry guidelines for improving cardio fitness and promoting fat loss.

As for calorie burning, the 16 subjects burned between 240 and 360 kcals during the workout, for an average of 15 kcals per minute burned.

Again, Tabata met established guidelines for calorie expenditure for improving health and facilitating weight loss.

I love this study due to two reasons:

  1. They used body weight exercises (instead of a stationary bike like Dr. Tabata used), and they used exercises that can be easily replicated at home.
  2. The researcher’s also increased the total workout time from 4 minutes to 20 minutes. You see what a lot of people don’t understand is that the intensity that Dr. Tabata used on his athletes was extreme. Even the most fit person would most likely puke at the 2 minute mark. So, by increasing the time of the workout, and dropping the intensity, it makes this type of workout a lot more doable for the average person.


While Dr. Tabata’s study was done in 1996, almost a decade later the fitness industry has embraced it. I don’t know why in the last few years his protocol has gotten so much attention. Interval-type training is nothing new, but now you can find Tabata-type training in almost every gym.

I’m happy that people are embracing this type of training, though. It gives people who are short on time a workout option, while providing us trainers some fresh ideas on how to keep our clients motivated.


When performing a Tabata-protocol on your own make sure that you use whole body movements and that you train at an intensity that leaves you unable to talk! Anything less will not put you in your “anaerobic threshold” and will therefore not give you the same results.

A true Tabata is also 8 rounds of one exercise for 20 seconds, with 10 seconds rest in-between. I quite often teach my Tabata workouts using 4-6 exercises, cycling through these exercises, one after another, instead of performing 8 sets of lunges and then 8 sets of push-ups, etc.

The workout below uses 4 exercises, for a total of 40 rounds (exercise #3 is done with the left leg stepping out and then the right leg).


Who should do a Tabata-type workout? This is a question that many of  us in the fitness industry are struggling with. Clearly this type of training is intense and is not for everyone.

There are three types of people that I feel should avoid Tabata training until they get their doctor’s clearance:

  • Anyone with a history of heart disease and/or that check “Yes” on any question on a Par-Q
  • Anyone with a injury
  • Anyone just starting out with fitness

30-Minute Dumbbell Tabata Workout

30 Min Dumbbell Tabata Blog graphic


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Gym Etiquette – Avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins

Gym Etiquette – Avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins

Gym Etiquette – Avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins

Lifting properly is only one area in the gym that you should be working on. What every woman (and man!) needs to know about proper gym etiquette.

The other day, when I was at the bank the nice young fellow behind the desk (jeez that line made me sound old, when the hell did I get so old?) suggested that I write about gym etiquette.

Apparently he recently had a few experiences with gym-goers who did not respect those around them because they were oblivious to the sins that they were committing.


Gym Etiquette 101

If yoi see someone lacking some gym etiquette it could be because of one of three reasons:

  • First, they are new to the whole gym-going experience and don’t know any better. It’s like when you were learning how to ride a bike. The pedalling part you knew about, cause you’d seen it, but the getting on the bike, staying on the bike and braking was not something that you could visually teach yourself. You could eventually learn, however it would take a lot of band-aids and heart ache, or better yet, it could be taught to you by someone who has been there and done that.
  • Second, there’s the gym-goer who is a frequent participant of going to the gym, but is just unaware of the fact that they are one sweat drop away from having a dumbbell thrown at them.
  • And finally, there’s the third type of gym-goer who couldn’t care less about those around them and strut around like they own the place. This blog is not going to help them. A dumbbell dropped on their toe on the other hand…. just saying.

Now, I don’t hang out in gyms much anymore (one of the perks of having a gym in my own home), but I do remember the usual gym etiquette sins, and they can be boiled down to these seven.


1/ Thou shall not hog all of the equipment.
Yes we get it, you like to super set your program, however just make sure that others around you can work in on that piece of equipment as well. For new gym-goers, if you would like to use a piece of equipment that someone else is on simply ask them “Can I work in?”, and work in when their set is done.

2/ You shall have no cell phones on the gym floor.
There is nothing worse than seeing “selfies” being taken and texts being exchanged back and forth while working out. Not only is this just ridiculous to witness, it is also distracting and takes away your own workout. Trust me, your Instagram account will survive the 45 minutes without an update.

3/ Remember, you are not the only one.
If you like to listen to music, great. Just please no singing, humming, whistling or even head banging. Leave that for the drive home.

4/ Honour your workout partners.
Don’t clang your weights together, drop your weights on the ground with drama, and grunt and groan through your set. Yes, we are struggling too with our own workout, but you don’t hear us sounding like a wounded Beluga whale while doing so.

5/ Thou shall not smell.
Working out can be stinky business and that’s why they make this amazing product called deodorant. So, please use it.

With that being said don’t swing the other end of the pendulum and douse yourself in perfume, cologne, hairspray or stinky body lotion prior to either. While you may believe that you are smelling like a garden of roses, the rest of us are holding our breathe – which FYI is really challenging to do while working out.

6/ You shall remember to wipe.
Sweating is messy business, so please wipe up after yourself. To take this one step further I would encourage you to bring a towel to the gym and sit on it (when you have to sit, cause let’s face it you came to the gym to get away from sitting), drape your towel over any gym equipment that you use and use your towel as a barrier between you and the mat.

On a completely separate note, if you are sick please stay at home. The biggest cesspool of germs originate in two places: kids and gym equipment. Please don’t add to the cesspool.
7/ In the end, nobody is watching you.
Probably one of the biggest fears a new gym-goer has is that others are watching them and judging them. With this said you will be happy to hear that that couldn’t be farthest from the truth.

In fact, everyone in the gym is far too concerned with what’s going on with them that you are really just a blip on their radar. Nothing more. So, fear not and go forth and be fit.







PJ ox

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