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TESTED The new DVD of 4-minute workout X-Factor winner Sam Bailey did to drop two dress sizes

For Day 11 of Healthista’s get-fit-in-your-living room challenge, editor Anna Magee tried the new Tabata Workout official DVD; the 4-minute workout everyone’s talking about

You’ve probably heard the hype. A workout that does in four minutes what an hour’s cycling can do for you fitness if done regularly. Whether or not you believe it is another story. In terms of cold, hard body of proof, the 4-minute Tabata workout is the one that got X Factor Sam Bailey from frumpy to fabulous in the time it took her to blitz the competition’s gong.

Left, a new slimline Sam Bailey after winning the X Factor crown and losing a tonne of weight with the Tabata workout and right, when she started X Factor
Left, a new slimline Sam Bailey after winning the X Factor crown and losing a tonne of weight with the Tabata workout and right, when she started X Factor

So what is Tabata? Developed in Japan by Professor Izumi Tabata it’s a short, killer 4-minute workout that’s gained A-list followers including “Superman” Henry Cavill and Elle McPherson.

Professor Azumi Tabata in his Japan lab

Dubbed ‘The 4-Minute Miracle’ by Kyra Sedgewick it consists of 20 seconds of intense – think almost-be-sick intense – exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. In Professor Tabata’s trials it’s been shown to increase fitness in the same way as cycling for an hour three times a week, if it’s done a few times a week.

Last autumn, Fitness First gyms in the UK launched the official Tabata workout as classes nationwide consisting of 20 minutes in which you warm up, do the four minute interval blast of Tabata and then cool down and stretch. Read more 

The DVD consists of three 20 minute workouts – warm up, four minute Tabata blast and cool down – along with an intro and some Tabata diet advice. It’s presented by Richard Scrivener, a sports scientist and trainer and his team of super fit human machines. In the video above, Healthista interview Richard and his team do a Tabata demo. Watch it before you buy the DVD to get an idea of the moves’ intensity.

I did the first workout and literally almost expired.  Like the other two, it starts with some rotational stretches and then a warm up based on the Tabata exercises you’re about to do. Then it goes into the main workout which is based on two exercises which are each done for 20 seconds intensely – at a hugely fast pace – with ten seconds rest. This means you feel like you’re about to die. That’s the idea as to get the effect you need to get your heart rate up to around 170. The other two workouts have the same format each with two different moves.

Thankfully, the team of five instructors present a ‘killer’ and a ‘kinder’ version of each move. But I found the killer ones impossible and the kinder ones still the wrong side of painfully intense.

The workout I did was kick throughs with a giant jump and a kick as the ‘killer’ and a bunny hop as the ‘kinder’ one alternating with 180 degree jumps to plank pose in which you touch each shoulder or the kinder (apparently) move of jump lunges with touching the ground (moves are actually hard to explain in written form as they each consist of different aspects – not just a squat but a squat, jump into a plank then a push up). I couldn’t bring myself to move at the end, let alone do the other two (I love you peeps, but not that much). I fast forwarded through the other two which contained similarly torturous looking moves like frog jumps to planks. Pain.

This is a serious and advanced workout – even the ‘kinder’ bits will hurt. oddly though, I didn’t actually break a sweat during the four minutes because being in my own living room without someone pushing me, I didn’t work as hard as I could have. It was all too hard to get me interested and some of the moves seriously hurt my shoulders as they put so much emphasis on the upper body – one of my shoulders is still sore in fact. Plus, for me working out is also about getting the mental feel good benefits and I can only really get that if I workout hard for at least ten minutes.

The 4-minute thing might work if you do it in a controlled lab environment or went to classes regularly but IMHO I am not sure it would work doing it in your living room and could lead to injuries. This DVD is only for the intermediate to advanced fittie and even then, should be combined with other workouts I believe.  I will be doing this again but only once a week or so to really give my fitness an edge. I couldn’t bear it for any longer – I’m not that much of a masochist!

Tabata: The Official 4-Minute Workout, £14 (Amazon)


tabata dvd coverPROS: A tough workout for the advanced fit person. It’s short and over quickly. It has some science behind it. It will get you fit fast. There is sound diet advice at the end.

CONS: Could lead to injury as the moves are so hard (though there are ‘kinder’ versions, even these are really not for beginners). Doesn’t give you the mental feel good benefits of a longer workout. Not enough stretching or warm up for such a tough workout.

Healthista rating: 2.5/5

Note: Healthista has purchased all the DVDs in this review – they’re not press gifts

Read other reviews in the Healthista 12 days of Christmas Get-fit-in-your-living room DVD challenge:

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Day 10: Natalie Cassidy, The Perfect Ten

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Day 9: Josie Gibson’s 21 Day Fat Burn

tracy dvd

Day 8: Tracy Anderson’s The Method for Beginners


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Day 7: Roxy’s Yoga Conditioning Total Body Workout from Roxy Shahidi


vicky pattison dvd

Day 6: Vicky’s 7-Day Slim from Vicky Pattison


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Day 5: The Circuit Training Fat-Burning Workout from Joey Bull



Day 4: Fit in 15 with Davina McCall


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Day 3 Celebrity Trainer Ramona Braganza’s 3-2-1 Training Method


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Day 2: Nell McAndrew’s Peak Energy Recharged


15 minute fast

DAY 1: 15 minute fast fitness – Fat Burning with former Gladiators Jenny Pacey and Wayne Gordon

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