Time is a valuable commodity and for many people when time is short, the first causality is their workout. In this series, Patrick Dale shares some of his favourite fitness-in-a-hurry-workouts that take only 30-minutes or less.

The Tabata protocol uses 20-second work periods and 10-second recoveries to deliver a demanding and effective workout that is as short as it is brutal.

Japanese sports scientist Dr Izumi Tabata turned the exercise world on its head with his revolutionary approach to exercise and specifically, interval training. Until Tabata published his HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) research, most of us used far more forgiving interval training protocols such as 30-seconds of work paired with 90-seconds of recovery.


The Tabata protocol uses 20-second work periods and 10-second recoveries to deliver a demanding and effective workout that is as short as it is brutal. This workout is light on equipment, short in duration but provides a great training effect all the same!

The samurai tabata circuit


Exercise mat, skipping rope, barbell or Powerbag, kettlebell, timer.


25 minutes, plus warm up and cool down.


Whole body muscular endurance, anaerobic conditioning fat burning.


Tabata training uses 20-second work periods alternated with 10-second recoveries repeated for 8 sets and totalling 4 minutes. For this workout you’ll perform 5 Tabata exercises, one after another with a one minute’s rest between exercises. Try to perform as many reps as you can for each exercise. Make a note of your rep totals per exercise and try to beat that score next time you perform this workout.The five exercises are:

1. Burpees (8 sets of 20 seconds’work, 10 seconds’ recovery) One m inute’s rest.
2. Crunches (8 sets of 20 seconds’work, 10 seconds’ recovery) One m inute’s rest.
3. Skipping – knee lift sprint (8 sets of 20 seconds’work, 10 seconds’ recovery) One m inute’s rest.
4. Thrusters (8 sets of 20 seconds’work, 10 seconds’ recovery) One minute’s rest.
5. Kettlebell/dumbbell swings (8 sets of 20 seconds’work, 10 seconds’ recovery).


You will be performing a high volume of burpees in this workout separated by only short rests. Don’t forget to focus on good exercise technique to get the most from your training session and avoid any unnecessary injuries, aches and pains. Burpees are a great all-over exercise that get a lot of work done in a short space of time and remember, you are only doing four-minutes’ worth!

– Squat down and place your hands on the floor just in front of your feet
– Jump your feet out behind you so you land in the press-up position
– Perform a single press-up
– Jump your feet back under you and up to your hands
– Leap up into the air as high as you can
– On landing, immediately drop into another rep.
– Try not to land like a baby elephant when doing this exercise – stay on your toes and although you are jumping as high as you can make sure you land as lightly as possible.


Crunches, like sit-ups, come in for a bit of stick from many trainers in the fitness industry. The truth is that they are an effective anterior (front) core exercise that will strengthen and condition your rectus abdominus (or ‘abs’ for short). The secret to successful crunch performance is to do them slowly and really squeeze your abs like you are trying to wring them dry! Remember, no pulling on your neck.

– Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor.
– Place your hands on your temples, across your chest or on your thighs.
– Exhale and raise your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor.
– squeeze for two to five seconds!
– Return to the starting position and repeat.
– You can also perform this exercise with your feet elevated and your knees and hips flexed to 90-degrees.


Skipping is a great no-frills cardio exercise. If you can’t skip, you can substitute running on the spot or jumping jacks.

Looking for a fast but intense workout_3

– Begin skipping normally and then transition to jogging on the spot.
– Keep your body upright and lift your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.
– Pump your legs as fast as you can as you spin your rope.
– This exercise is more challenging – especially if you are new to skipping. Persevere and practice skipping whenever you get the chance and you’ll soon be skipping like a pro.


Thrusters combine a squat with a shoulder press to target your legs, arms and midsection. They will also challenge your cardiovascular system. You can perform this exercise using dumbbells, a barbell, a medicine ball, kettlebell or sandbag – even a large rock!

– Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your chosen weight in your hands
– Raise the weight to chest-level so it is resting in your upturned palms and your elbows are down by your chest
– Squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the floor
– Drive up out of the squat and use the momentum from your legs to push the weight overhead to arms’ length
– Lower the weight back to your chest and then lower into another squat

Kettlebell/dumbbell swings

The final exercise in this workout is the kettlebell swing. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to a kettlebell though you can perform this exercised with a dumbbell or a medicine ball (the latter in a strong bag). Kettlebell swings strengthen your hips, hamstrings and lower back and are one of the best butt exercises around.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight held in front of your thighs.
Bend your knees slightly and then hinge forward from your hips.
Lower the weight between your knees.
Drive your hips forward and swing the weight at arms’ length up to between chest and head -height. The hip drive in this exercise is not dissimilar to the take-off for a standing long jump. Keep this in your mind to maximise the effectiveness of the exercise
Do not allow your lower back to round at any point during this exercise.

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