Can You Mix Tabata Training And Calisthenics To Lose Weight?

When I first started calisthenics, losing weight was my main goal. Tabata training was the most effective way I found to help me achieve that goal.

Is Tabata training and calisthenics an effective way to lose weight? Calisthenics is a great form of exercise to lose weight. Add Tabata stye training to your workouts, and both your weight loss, and your strength gains will be dramatically faster.

What Is Tabata Style Training?

Created by Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team of researchers at the National Institute Of Sports, in Tokyo. Their studies found that compared to a group that worked out for one hour a day, five days a week at moderate intensity. Which is about the standard intensity you see people working out in at most gyms.
Another group had a workout that was significantly shorter in time, but had a much higher intensity. This group increased in both strength and aerobic capacity. My own study proved both of these to be true, and the added benefit of shredding off the pounds.

No longer did I need to do a stationary bike, or some other boring machine to get my heart beat up. I thought my workouts were already pretty intense, but I never sweat or breathed as hard after working out like you do using this method of working out.

Tabata training is basically doing eight sets of the same exercise in a row. Performing the exercise for 20 seconds, and resting for 10 seconds between sets. One completed training  session would last only four minutes.
Sounds easy doesn’t it. Let me explain in more detail how to do this properly.

Choose The Proper Weight For Tabata Training.

Whether you are using weight machines to workout, or doing strictly calisthenics movements. The weight used to do do the exercise should be an amount that you can normally do 10-12 reps. If you are on a machine you can adjust that easily enough.
If you are doing bodyweight exercises, and your doing calisthenics to lose weight, you may need to modify the exercises in order to do ten reps.Two options that you can use to get the reps if you are unable to do all ten regularly, are to do negative reps only, and by using assistance bands.
By lowering yourself at a rate of two seconds per rep, you will achieve ten reps in the twenty seconds. Eventually you will start doing both portions of the rep.
Using assistance bands is the second option. When using bands, you will want to choose one that allow you to do the reps (10-12), but they shouldn’t be too easy. It would be better to use a band that makes you struggle to get the ten reps, and do negative reps on the last few reps.

Choosing a weight that will challenge you will greatly help you to progress faster. Remember, the duration of the exercise is only four minutes. Make the reps count, and push yourself as hard as you can during this workout.

Tabata Workout Plan

Choose The Exercises You Want To Work Tabata Style

Tabata Training is intense enough, that you may only want to use it on 1-3 exercises during a workout. After you have done it for a few workouts, you will know what exercises will work best for you.
I like to at least do this workout for one exercise on chest, back, and legs. This way all three of your main muscle groups are being hit.
Always start your workout with your Tabata phase first. If you wait until the end of your workout to do these reps, you won’t have enough gas to get through them.

As an example, I would do push ups, pull ups. and some variation of a squat as the exercises to do a Tabata style workout on. These are the foundational exercises in calisthenics. Also by working larger muscle groups at one time, you will be expending massive amounts of energy. This combined with the afterburn effect produced through this workout, will help you shed the pounds. At the same time, strengthening the muscles you will need for doing calisthenics.

Avoid doing a Tabata workout on smaller muscle groups, like biceps, or calves for example, until you are stronger overall. One reason is, you would destroy a small muscle with this workout, and probably be in a great deal of pain for a couple of days. There is also not as much calorie burning effect.
Don’t get me wrong, if you feel as if you have a weak muscle that you want to give a boost to, this is a great workout to do that. Just be trained enough to handle it.

Reps and sets

If you have a timer, which most phones can do. Set it for 20 seconds. If you don’t have a timer, you can count down the time on each rep. You want each rep to last for two seconds. After doing this a couple of times you will have a good feel for how fast you should do each rep. Then of coarse do ten reps.
I would advise you to not try counting out the twenty seconds. For one reason, it’s incredibly distracting. I tried this at first and it was just annoying. Plus I found myself counting faster when the reps started getting hard.
The timing aspect will not be an issue after a few workouts. You will have a much better idea of how much weight to use, and how fast to do your reps.
If your goal at this time is losing weight, then your priority is to make yourself sweat and breath hard. This kind of workout will do both of those things if you are doing it correctly.

Don’t forget to rest.

You are giving yourself 10 seconds to relax, make a phone call, maybe watch a youtube video. Just make sure that when those 10 seconds are up, that you are already in position to start the next set. This is a key point. To get the full benefit of this workout, you need to be back in position and ready to start at the end of the rest period. You wouldn’t want to cheat yourself by using part of the exercise time to get into position. Thereby also extending your rest time to 15 or maybe 20 seconds. Would you?

What Next

After you have completed the four minute cycle, if you still have a little juice in the tank, continue with your regular workout. You may feel as if this was enough and call it a workout.That would be accurate. In the study that Dr. Tabata and his team ran, the group that did this type of workout, only did this. Remember you just did eight sets at super high intensity. That’s a pretty complete workout for that muscle group. If you are fit enough and can do more, then this is great. Be aware though that if it is the first time you have done this, you could have some soreness the next day. So I wouldn’t do a lot more work on that muscle group, until you find out how your body will react. A lot depends on your conditioning beforehand.
You could now do the same workout on a different muscle group.
As I said, my goal was to lose weight when I first started losing weight. My personal workouts consisted of doing a Tabata workout on the three main muscle groups in each workout. This gave me the most benefit.
I would do this five days a week. In the beginning, it was all I did. By the end of it, I had no more energy left. As I got stronger, I started adding more exercises.
Eventually Changing the workouts around.

Go at your own pace, especially if you’re an old guy.  In my 50’s and weighing 300 pounds when I started, I was more motivated than my conditioning allowed. So there were days when I rested a few more seconds between sets. Or times when I didn’t make it through all the sets and cut the workout short.
You know yourself better than anyone, and how much you can take. Push yourself as hard as you can, but only to the point where you’re benefitting from the workout. Not being injured by it.


Trying to beat the hands of time is a challenge. I have found calisthenics to be an outstanding way to get into shape, and have some fun. I will tell you in my posts why I like calisthenics over pumping iron, for keeping in shape as I get older, and why you might want to give it a try.

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