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The “Reverse Tabata” Format for Conditioning Circuits

The “Reverse Tabata” Format for Conditioning Circuits

By Sarah Rippel

Author of “Home Program Design Mastery,” “The Ultimate Group Training System,” “Build ‘N Burn 2.0,” & “Build ‘N Burn



Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2008 or so, you know what a Tabata is. For those who are late to the Tabata party, basically it’s an interval format that involves 20 seconds of work paired with 10 seconds of rest.


The Tabata format incorporates “negative rest” intervals. These days, I am not a huge fan of this structure for conditioning work that involves high intensity intervals. I feel people get pooped out really fast, thus turning a HIIT circuit into an aerobic one where people are basically struggling to survive. Instead of being able to perform movements well under an appropriate amount of fatigue, people are basically encouraged to get a little sloppy just so they can keep moving!


If the goal of a specific interval format is to be anaerobic, how in the heck can we expect everyday people to be able to perform at high intensity without any decline in output across the board, when their work intervals are not paired with rest intervals that allow for adequate recovery?


By no means am I attempting to diss the Tabata format or Dr. Tabata himself. I am merely trying to emphasize the point that by incorporating appropriate rest intervals, we can achieve higher output during the work intervals. The higher the intensity, the shorter the work period. A greater work-to-rest ratio is required for this to be effective.


The “reverse Tabata” format uses a 10-second work interval paired with 20 seconds of rest. This is a 1:2 work-to-rest protocol. With this format, we can program movements that are to be performed “all out,” and expect better performance across the board thanks to a more suitable rest interval. I believe fast-paced/explosive exercises that do not require a huge range of motion to be the best for this format. In addition, the less complicated the better.


In other words, if we are talking barbells, a hang power snatch would be a better choice than a full snatch. If we are talking bodyweight, a basic squat jump done in a continuous manner would be a better choice than a box jump. One could argue that the box jump could also be a good option, but I am not a fan of rebounding box jumps. I feel that to cycle the exercise enough times in 10 seconds to get the desired training effect, that style of box jump would be necessary and then we are looking at injury risk so it’s an obvious “no” in my book. If we are talking safety, the step-down box jump always wins.


So, without further ado, here are a few simple but effective “reverse Tabata” circuits!


Reverse Tabata 1:

8 Rounds:

10sec – Max Effort Assault Bike

20sec – Rest


Reverse Tabata 2:

8 Rounds:

10sec – Barbell or Dumbbell Push Press with light-moderate load

20sec – Rest


Reverse Tabata 3:

8 Rounds:

10sec –Double Kettlebell Russian Swing

20sec – Rest


Simple but effective…Now come up with some of your own:)

To learn more about Sarah’s Small Group Training done for you Program for Fit Pros see below:)



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The Ultimate Small Group Training System”  The most Comprehensive Guide to Semi-Private and Small Group Training for Fit Pros.











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