Get your blood pumping with this 4 minute circuit workout!

I can't be the only one who's feeling just a little...sluggish at the moment. My hands and feet are constantly cold from sitting around, I get restless legs in the evening and I'm just feeling a little bleh.

I started looking into ways to incorporate exercise into my routine in a realistic way. It's not feasible for me to wake up at the crack of dawn and jog off into the sunrise, but also, I'm just not that person. I've tried and failed at these kind of things a hundred time and then get discouraged from trying all together. I'm a very 'all or nothing' kind of person. 

Woman Leaning on Table

Sure, I do my online workout a few times a week, and go for a long walk on the weekends, but how do I actually make exercise an everyday thing?

Tabata, might just be the answer I've been looking for. 

Tabata is a type HIIT exercise, or high-intensity interval training. It involves a set of 8 fast paced exercises, with each one performed for 20 seconds with 10 second breaks in-between. Tabata actually started as an experiment conducted by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports at Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. They wanted to know if short bursts of high-intensity workouts followed by shorter rests might be more beneficial than continuous moderate-intensity workouts. 

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Their research set up two groups, one doing the 4 minute, more intense routine and the others doing the 1 hour long, moderate routine for 5 days a week, for 6 weeks. The four minute routine was four days a week for six weeks. 

The training regime for the four minute workout was 8 sets of 20 seconds of exercise at maximum effort each followed by a 10-second rest. To do the math: (8 x 20) + (8 x 10) = 240 seconds (4 minutes).

The moderate intensity workout did actually help the aerobic/cardiovascular fitness of the subjects, but didn't do much for muscle strengthening. Meanwhile, the high intensity workouts had significant benefits for both aerobic fitness and muscle strengthening.

They believe this is because the lack of lengthy recovery time in between exercises forces the body to work to maximum capacity, raising  your heart rate and metabolism. This is endurance and muscle-building.

Tabata has evolved since this early 90s experiment, incorporating much moe intense and varied exercises. One of the programmes that I came across is laid out below:

Circuit One:

20 seconds: Mountain climbers

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Start out in a push-up position, with hands firmly planted beneath the shoulders. Keeping you balance, drawn one knee into your chest and then back out again, repeating the action with the other leg. Repeat, building speed and intensity. This is a great move for beginners and is also super handy for a quick working-from-home workout to raise your heart rate and get your blood pumping!

Where doe it target? Full body, but especially your arms, shoulders, quads, and core

10 seconds rest

20 seconds: push ups

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Get on all fours and then extend the legs behind you while planting your hands firmly beneath your shoulders. Balance on your toes. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe without sagging in the middle or arching your back. Tighten your core and slowly lower your body, bending your elbows to a 90 degree angle. Push back up into starting position, being sure not to lock your elbows.This exercise should engage lots of muscles, from the chest, shoulders, triceps, back down to your abs, and even the legs.

Where does it target? Chest, arms, shoulders, core

10 seconds rest.

Circuit Two

20 seconds: Side Lunge

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Keeping your spine straight, begin ina  wide-legged stance. Bend one knee to lower yourself into a half-squat, extending the other leg out straight. Root into your feet and be sure not to slump. Raise yourself back into the centre and repeat on the other side. This simple pose is pulled from yoga practices, but functions well to strengthen your core and stretch the muscles in your hamstrings. Because it also flexes hip muscles, it's great for targeting tight muscles in the back.

Where does it target? Hip opener, hamstring stretch

10 second rest

20 seconds: Squats

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This is a great resistance exercise for beginners and the point in the circuit where you really start to feel the burn! With your feet roughly hip-to-shoulder-distance apart and planted firmly, tighten your core and pressing your hips back, slowly bend your knees to squat. Keep your chest up and distribute your weight evenly across your feet, and pressing though them, return to an upright position. This engages the whole body.

Where does it target? Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, core (abdominals and spinal erectors), forearms, biceps, shoulders

10 seconds rest

Circuit Three

20 seconds: High knees

woman jumping near white wall paint

This is the cardio-heavy part of the workout. Running in place, bring your knees up high with each step, aiming for them to be level with your hip at their highest point. Keep your core tightened to protect the back from strain.

Where does it target? Core, quads and hip flexors

10 seconds rest

20 seconds: Jumping jacks

Young sportswoman doing stretch exercise with elastic band in modern gym

A home workout staple, this movement will get your heart rate up and your blood pumping! Standing with your feet apart and your arms held out to the side of your body, jump to bring your feet together, while simultaneously bringing your hands together over your head. Jump again to put feet and arms back to their original position and repeat. Add a resitance band if you want to up your game, but this is a high impact exercise, so mind your joints. 

Where does it target? core, hamstrings, calves, biceps, shoulders and glutes

10 seconds rest

Circuit Four

20 seconds: Burpees

Side View Photo of Woman Doing Squats Against Black Background

This is one of the hardest moves on the circuit, which means its also doing the most muscle strengthening, particularly in shoulders.This is one of the last moves on this circuit, so if your legs and arms aren't already shaking by now, they soon will be! Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend to place you hands on the floor and jump to extend your legs out behind you to move into a push-up starting position. Keeping your core engaged and body straight, bend at the elbow to do a push-up. Jump again to draw your legs back into a squat and stand, reaching your arms above your head. Phew! High-intensity indeed!

Where does it target? Entire body

10 seconds rest

20 seconds flutter kicks

Ladies doing abs exercise on sports ground

This strength building exercise is all about the core. Lying down on your back, place your palms in a little triangle at the base of your spin for support. Keeping your neck long and relaxed and tightening your core, lift both legs off of the ground. As if swimming, kick one slightly upwards and bring it back level with the other and repeat the movement with the other. Neither leg should touch the ground until the thirty seconds has passed. 

Where does it target? Core, hamstrings, glutes

10 seconds rest

And you're done! Congratulations!

Whether or not you carry this out every day, it's a good idea to take a little exercise break in between hours at your desk every day. Get the blood flowing and get a little energy boost!

*Only undertake a new strenuous exercise regime with your doctor's advice. 

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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