12 Minute Body Weight Tabata Workout

We’ve already covered that I’m a fan of Orangetheory and exercise apps (I’m also a fan of yoga, Peloton rides, running, and any activity that allows me to be outside. Apparently I’m really just a fan of variety). What we’re going to chat about today is another form of exercise that I’m into – quick, body weight movements. These are reserved for the days when I just can’t. You know what I’m talking about; I have approximately 58 errands to run, 27 emails to answer, a child to pay attention to, a play date to manage, dinner to make, a shower to take (lol yeah right). It’s a lot, and I’m struggling to cover the basics, let alone squeeze in time for a workout. I should probably go read this post about self care on those days, but I digress. It’s important to me that I move my body in some way every day, so the exercise has to get in where it’ll fit in. Enter: a quick 10-20 minute circuit that works large muscle groups and requires little to no equipment.
I like tabata workouts for their ability to get gnarly fast, with high intensity bursts of exercises followed by short rest periods. I’m all about ‘let’s just get this over with, but make me feel like I did something’ on days when I have a lot of other stuff to do, and a tabata set accomplishes just that. Bonus: it can usually be done anywhere. At the park, in your living room, in your garage (the one below was done on my pool deck) – you just need your body and a mat or towel. The definition of low maintenance.
First, you want to select the length of time you have to work out, and structure the number of exercises around that. A typical tabata has you doing a certain exercise 20 seconds on/10 seconds off, for 8 rounds. To break that down: you go hard in those 20 seconds, 8 times, and rest for 10 seconds in between each set, equaling a total of 4 minutes per exercise. So (not that I’m trying to get math-y on you here) if you choose three exercises, you’ll be doing your thing for a total of 12 minutes. Five exercises is 20 minutes, and so on and so forth.
For the sake of today’s tabata (and the literal amount of time I had to actually do this), we are doing three. Ideally, your exercises will focus on large muscle groups, fatiguing those areas in a ‘burn out’ style. A tabata is obviously great for when you’re short on time, but it’s also good for pre-cardio training, to build endurance, or to switch up a routine.
The three exercises I focused on here are: air squats, push ups, and sit ups.
Air squat: start standing with legs shoulder-width apart. Put your weight in your heels and your arms in front. Lead with your rear (almost like you’re carrying a bag of groceries and closing the car door with your butt) and squat to where your thighs are parallel with the ground. Repeat for 8 rounds (with rest in between each).

Push up: start in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists and your body aligned (keep that butt down, but not too low!). Bend at the elbows, keeping them close to your body. Push back up to a plank, without losing your form. There’s also no shame in doing the push up from your knees – especially if you’re trying to make sure your form is accurate (like yours truly. Have you ever tried to hold a push up for a photo before?!) Repeat for 8 rounds (with rest in between each).

Sit up: start laying flat on your back, hands lightly touching the back of your head (or crossed over your chest), knees bent. Engage your core and lift up to a seated position, with your back flat. Don’t pull on your head if your hands are back there – you should be able to accomplish this movement using only your core. If you’re struggling, modify by taking it halfway to a crunch position, or have a partner hold your feet down so you’re anchored. Repeat for 8 rounds (with rest in between each).

To make it really easy-peasy for you, there are tabata timer apps so you don’t have to try to count or set your iPhone timer for every round or do anything that will basically make you want to give up before you even start. This one is my favorite; super user-friendly, and does all the work for you.
That’s it! Workout done. Now go do all the things. Or take a nap. Either way, you’ve been productive, so high five.

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