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HIIT and Tabata: What’s The Difference and Which Burns More Fat?

We know you want to get fit, and fast. But how? Work out more often while sacrificing what little time you have during the week? Or, work out longer and struggle to complete another 15 minutes on the cross-trainer? Both approaches are admirable and effective but sometimes it pays to simply exercise harder.


Have you heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and its gruelling companion, Tabata training? If you want to push the limit of your workout ability, you may want to try either one or combining the two. But be warned: these training methods are not for the faint-hearted.


The HIIT and Tabata training methods are similar in a couple of ways:

  • Both focus on maximising your effort over short bursts of time with only brief rest breaks.
  • Both have been shown to burn fat, improve endurance and speed, and aid in weight loss.


The table below summarises the difference between Tabata and HIIT.


Reason for the name

Named after Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata

Stands for High Intensity Interval Training

Interval ratio


Varies (e.g.: 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 1:2)

Length of intervals

20 seconds of work/10 seconds of recovery

Varies, for example:

  • 30 seconds of work/30 seconds of recovery
  • 45 seconds of work/15 seconds of recovery

60 seconds of work/30 seconds of recovery

Number of cycles

8 in total (4 minutes)

Varies, for example:

  • 5 minutes
  • 3 minutes

6 minutes

Heart rate and intensity

Anaerobic – Tabata aims to get your heart rate above 100% and push the limit of your maximum heart rate

Anaerobic or aerobic – HIIT aims to push up to 80-95% of your maximum heart rate

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a 4-minute workout of 8 rounds of 20 seconds of activity at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. It is named after a researcher, Izumi Tabata, who discovered the benefits of this training in 1996. He found that athletes increased their metabolism and improved their energy during quick bursts of effort by doing a Tabata workout 5 days a week for 6 weeks compared to those who performed longer workouts at a less intense pace.

What is HIIT?

HIIT workouts involve quick bursts of intense activity followed by short periods of rest. By lengthening either period means you’ve entered HIIT territory. You can play around with movements by lengthening each sections of the workout. For example, you can try a burpee-mountain climber combo. In a Tabata workout, 20 seconds is not a lot of time to do anything complex so HIIT workouts are a great place to get creative.

So, which is better for fitness?

Both options are great for fat-burning and muscle-building and its results are shaped by the exercises mixed into your circuits as well as the effort you put in. If your goal is to build arm muscle, add in moves like triceps dips. If you’re trying to lose weight, increase your cardio. The key is to give yourself days in between for recovery. We’d recommend that you don’t do HIIT and Tabata workouts on consecutive days.


Interested in trying a quick HIIT workout? Here’s a combo that you can fit into your tight schedule.

HIIT workout example

Do the following exercises as quickly as possible with little rest in between. Do 3 rounds of the following sequence and record your time in your fitness journal or planner. Try to beat that number every time you do this workout combination.

Tabata workout example

If you have much less time on your hands, the Tabata combo is your answer. This example features two key bodyweight exercises.

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