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Created by a Japanese scientist, Izumi Tabata, this takes just four minutes of your workout time – although you should do a 10-minute warm up before you start – and cool down afterwards.

The idea is that you do 20 seconds of all-out exercise – rating 10 out of 10 on the effort scale, then you rest for 10 seconds. And that means resting completely, sitting or standing still. Trust me, doing a little walk is not going to help you. Stop, recover and go all-out for the next 20 seconds. Simply repeat this eight times and you’re done.

Tabata sounds easy – but if you’re doing it right it’s incredibly hard. Don’t do more than two sessions a week.

It works on: machines like the bike, rower and cross trainer. You can also use a skipping rope or try moves such as burpees, press-ups, squats and lunges. If you want to try Tabata as a running move, do it outside on a straight piece of path or track. It’s hard to control the speed quickly enough to change intervals effectively on a treadmill and jumping onto the sides is a dangerous move when your legs are as tired as they will be past your fifth set

Not suitable for. Weights. Some trainers use Tabata with weights and yes, it’s great if you’ve got someone watching your technique and who could catch the weight if you’re about to drop it – on your own though it could potentially be a recipe for injury.

This is an extract from  GYM-SPIRATION: 52 Ways to Wake Up Your Workout by Helen Foster, £1.99, a new e-book, released February 11th 2013. Available for Kindle via amazon.co.uk and for iPad, iPhone or computer at healthehelen.wordpress.com.

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