12-Minute Total-Body Tabata Workout

This no-excuse Tabata workout only requires a set of dumbbells — and some grit!

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Tabata. Just the mere mention of this four-minute workout can strike fear into the heart of the most formidable of athletes, and for good reason. “A Tabata is just as mental as it is physical,” says Vanessa Serio, NASM-CPT, ACSM, owner of The Top Strength Project in Providence, Rhode Island. “Your goal is to push past your comfort zone to get the results you want.”

This workout, designed by Serio, triples the traditional format, stringing together three Tabata couplets to create a 12-minute workout. “This is a great way to get in some movement on those impossible, fit-it-all-in days,” she says. “You can also use it as a fun finisher.”

Make sure, however, you’re delivering 100 percent effort. “You should work at an all-out pace while using correct form,” Serio says. “Yes, it is going to burn, but it’s only 20 seconds. Then you get to rest — a little!”

The 12-Minute Total-Body Tabata Workout

Choose a set of dumbbells between 5 and 15 pounds, depending on your fitness level. Repeat each couplet four times. Complete all four rounds of one couplet before moving on to the next.

Couplet 1

Exercise Time
Squat With Supinated Press 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds
Dumbbell Slide Plank 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds

Couplet 2

Exercise Time
Alternating Sumo Squat to Curtsy Lunge 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds
Pop Squat With Forward Dumbbell Press 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds

Couplet 3

Exercise Time
Dumbbell Woodchopper (right side) 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds
Dumbbell Woodchopper (left side) 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds
Squat with supinated press exercise

Squat with Supinated Press

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and turned out slightly from your hips. Hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders with your palms facing rearward, elbows bent. Push your glutes back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat. Then drive through your heels and explode to standing, pressing the dumbbells up overhead to full extension. Lower the weights and repeat.

Trainer’s Tip: Keep your core tight and use that upward driving force to get those weights overhead.

Dumbbell slide plank exercise Tabata Workout

Dumbbell Slide Plank

Place a dumbbell on your right side on the floor, and get into a plank with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Place your right hand on the outside head of the dumbbell and push it underneath your body to the left side. Repeat with the left hand. Continue, alternating sides.

Trainer’s Tip: Tuck your tailbone and squeeze your glutes to keep your hips stable — no rocking side to side!

Alternating sumo squat to curtsy lunge exercise

Alternating Sumo Squat to Curtsy Lunge

Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet outside shoulder-width apart, legs and feet turned out from your hips. Bend your knees and lower your glutes straight down toward the floor, chest lifted and knees tracking over your toes. Return to the start, then step your left foot across and behind your right on the diagonal, keeping your hips square, and bend both knees to lower into a curtsy. Return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.

Trainer’s Tip: Do these slowly and with deliberation, and make sure your knees are always tracking over your toes.

Pop squat with forward dumbbell press exercise tabata workout

Pop Squat with Forward Dumbbell Press

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest. Quickly jump your feet apart into a wide stance and bend your knees to lower into a squat as you press the dumbbell straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Quickly jump your feet back in and pull the dumbbell into your chest.

Trainer’s Tip: The forward press should be a quick and punchy out-and-in; keep your core tight to protect your lower back as you press the weight forward.

Dumbbell woodchopper exercise

Dumbbell Woodchopper

Hold a single dumbbell with your arms straight and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pivot to the right on the balls of your feet and bend your knees, reaching the dumbbell toward the floor in front of you. Pivot back through the start and to the left side, extending your legs and reaching the dumbbell up overhead. Complete all reps on one side before switching.

Trainer’s Tip: Lock your arms into place and keep them straight as you rotate, moving your arms and torso as one unit to move the dumbbell diagonally up and across your body.

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