30 Day Challenge Review: Tabatan Abs

Sup! First 30 Day Challenge Review of 2017 just arrived by owl mail! This time, it’s Tabatans. And if you’re one of these types of people, then boy, 30 Days of Tabatans are gonna be for you.

A) you like to optimise every aspect of your life, and are a total efficiency beast. Tabatans take only 4 minutes, and pack one hell of a punch, giving you your best ROI time wise. Win.

B) you like to optimise nothing, and want to spend the least amount of time possible involving the gym – In the gym, walking to the gym, or watching old people toweling naked in the gym. Tabatans take only 4 minutes, and involve no walking, gyming, nor old-naked-toweling. Win, win, win.

If you’re nodding in silent agreement, then boy, do I have a 30 day challenge treat for you!

Let’s go!

WHY I Chose this Mission 

I can see it so vividly. I was in my Granny’s kitchen, and she was making the Granny recipe. You know that recipe? The one where no matter how many times you try, you’re Granny’s is always better? Yeah, that one.

Well, there we were. The two of us and the recipe. Amid the swirls and simmering of deliciousnes, she turned to me. It was the moment I’d been waiting all year for… The secret ingredient to the Granny curry.

She turned to me, and she told me something that would stick with me for the rest of my life.

“Iain, always remember this. A Tabatan a day keeps the doctor away.”

Ahh, yeah. Sorry, that was apples. Right, yeah.

Where was I?

Ahh! Fitness! Of course. Fitness.

After a month living afloat on a boat, I felt pretty unfit. Despite the short bursts of intense physical exertion – hauling on ropes, pulling on sails, fixing stuff that goes wrong – life at sea is amazingly devoid of physical activity. Or perhaps I just wasn’t imaginative enough. But with the constant moving of the boat, doing something like burpees would be suicidal.

Arriving in Mexico, I wanted focus on getting stronger and feeling fitter. I hadn’t yet joined a gym, and with no access to equipment, Tabatans were a solid place to start.

Q: What actually is a Tabatan?

Tabatans are intense. 20 second bursts of maximum effort followed by 10s of rest. 8 reps of this = 4 minute workout. The timing is incredibly easy with an app, or a half-interested stop-watchee.

The Challenge 

One Tabatan a day for 30 days. Simple.

How did I do it? After waking up, I’d turn on the Tabatan timer and go for it. I chose ab exercises, as I believe abs to be one of the few muscle groups that can be trained on consecutive days. (Gg 30 days of Tabatan press ups). To keep the challenge as simple as possible, I didn’t want a schedule of chest this day, thighs that day yada yada. Abs it was.

After turning on the timer, I had 10 seconds before the workout would begin. In that time, I’d choose between sit-ups (only engaging abs to get head slightly off the ground for 1 rep), crunches, bicycle kicks, flutter kicks, pulse ups and planks.

The Results

Do I have a six pack?


Are my abs stronger?

Hell yeah. I did my usual ab workout in the gym a couple of days ago. Usually, if I do that after a long break off, it destroys me. This time, sailed through it, with no soreness the next day. (DOMS) Fitness wise, it ticked all the boxes. But what I’ve discovered is that Tabatans are soooo much more than just a little fitness thing for your routine.

Here’s why you’re gonna love Tabatans.

Why You’ll Love The 30 Day TabatanAb Challenge


A Tabatan workout is 4 minutes long. So straight off the bat, Tabatans are SUPER convenient to fit into your routine. Who hasn’t got 4 minutes? If push comes to shove, shower less and tabatan more. Or even better… Try a 30 day cold shower challenge. Spend the time difference saved from your warm showers and do a Tabatan. (Tabatans and cold showers are like almond butter and banana. Just meant to go together.)

Fit them in effortlessly to your morning routine.


Tabatans are so short that you can do them while the kettle’s boiling, while the eggs are frying, or even while you’re waiting for your flatmate to haul their raisin-wrinkled ass out of their 60 degree shower. (Yes, I do judge. Harshly.) The possibilites are endless. Turn those scraps of timing into a beastly work out.

No equipment.


Ok, I lied. You need a smartphone, laptop, tablet or kindle with one of the many Tabatan apps. On my kindle (android), my favourite is the Tabata Timer for HIIT. It has a yellow image with a black stickman on it. (That’s probably considered racist nowadays.)

Alternatively, find a groggy bed-head to hold a stopwatch for 4 minutes.



Here’s one for all you minimalists out there. Working out really doesn’t get simpler.

1.You wake up.

2. You roll out of bed

3. If you land on your back, you’re doing abs and you’re already in sit up position. Congrats. If you land on your belly, you’re doing Tabatan press ups. RIP.

4. Turn on Tabatan timer, think of a workout, and off you go.

5. Bask in that 4am morning workout glory.


Hell of a Way to Start the Day

A Tabatan is an absolute beast of a workout. It’s intense, it’s tough, and it’s absolutely freakin’ fantastic. They completely reset your state of mind from Uhhh, today.. to Lets freakin do this! If you’re a night owl who hates mornings, boy are you gonna love Tabatans. And if you’re an early bird who loves mornings anyway, they’ll put you in an even more gulper-of-life mindset.

They say the mind is the body. If you don’t believe it, do a Tabatan. Doing something intense with the body makes a radical change in your thoughts.

Because of the way Tabatans energise your thoughts, I believe the mornings are by far the best time of day to do them, purely because you’ve got more day at stake. If you’re in an unresourceful state of mind in the morning, you’ll probably have a crappy day. Of course, you might shift into a more resourceful state by the evening, but by that time you’ve wasted a huge part of the day. Why not start in a kick-ass frame of mind with a Tabatan a day?

I’m intrigued as to how we might sprinkle a strategic Tabatan in at certain times of the day when you need to reframe your thoughts.

I’m just imagining the scenario:

“Iain, what are you doing?!”

“Man, I am just SOOO pissed off, that I’m doing Tabatan burpees.”

I garauntee you that after Tabatan burpees, you’re gonna be in a completely different frame of mind.

(State management with exercise is definitely something to explore further.)


Building Self-Discipline

The idea of a Tabatan is to go as hard as possible for 20 seconds, 8 times. Pushing your mental limits (aren’t most physical limits really mental limiting beliefs?) each day is never gonna be a bad thing.

I didn’t measure how many reps of say, sit-ups, I did with each Tabatan, purely because I didn’t think of it during the challenge. In the interest of measuring how much fitness and self discipline increases, I think I’ll have a few indicator exercises to track over the coming months.

Also, as certain exercises, like the plank, get too easy for 8 x 20s, then I’ll try harder variations, or swap them for burpees or press ups. Or, dare I say it, Tabatan pull ups. That would be intense.

Self discipline via Tabatans is something I’m really excited to explore in the coming months.


Old Naked-Toweling.





  • Kick-ass way to start the day. Get a killer workout in only four minutes. Only need an app, or a stopwatchee. (Former is more reliable, the latter doesn’t need charged… decisions…)
  • Puts you in a productive frame of mind.
  • Super Convenient.
  • Do You Even Lift? Yeah, lift myself out of bed for a kick-ass workout…
  • Old-Naked-Toweling non-essential.



If any or all of those points are speaking to you, then you’re gonna love the 30 Day TabatanAb challenge.

One question and one question only.

Can I borrow you for 4 minutes?


Let’s kick some ass in 2017.


As Always,


Mucho Amor.





photo credit: dkoloechter <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/96012980@N02/15814879314″>”What’s a plank challenge?” said Woody…</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/34120957@N04/5969781608″>In Speedos</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>