Tabata Push Ups Exercise Guide — How to, Muscles Worked, & Alternatives

tabata push ups

Adding Tabatas to push ups turns the chest strength training exercise into a more muscle endurance workout. 

Push ups are the quintessential bodyweight exercise for upper body strength. This compound movement engages various muscle groups, though it’s commonly celebrated for its effectiveness in chest workouts. You can make it more of a conditioning workout by turning it into a Tabata push up. 

The Tabata protocol, an exercise method created by Dr. Izumi Tabata in the 1990s, is a way to make movements more endurance-based. It’s a high-intensity interval training routine that boosts aerobic and anaerobic capacities. It alternates short bursts of vigorous activity with brief periods of rest. Typically, a Tabata workout lasts 4-5 minutes and consists of cycles of 20 seconds of intense effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times.

Merging the traditional push up with the Tabata method elevates your workout to an unparalleled intensity. This fusion amplifies conditioning and has proven highly effective for weight loss. Research indicates that integrating push ups into aerobic exercises can significantly increase calorie expenditure (1). Therefore, the Tabata push up routine could be your go-to regimen if you aim to enhance your conditioning and burn more calories. 

This guide delves into the Tabata push up and outlines its myriad benefits. It presents a meticulously crafted routine with a step-by-step tutorial to ensure proper execution. Continue reading to discover this and additional routines to optimize your conditioning efforts.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

Tabata push ups work on your pecs, triceps, shoulders, abs, and obliques. Due to its intensity, this routine also significantly improves your cardiovascular fitness. Here’s a study that shows that the number of push ups you can do can indicate your cardiovascular health (2)

For the Tabata push up routine, you can do just regular push ups the entire time. You can also vary your push ups by including sphinx, diamond, wide hands, or even shoulder tap push ups. Then, follow the step-by-step guide below, substituting the push up variation as you go along.

  1. Get on the floor and assume a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Brace your core, legs, and glutes to align your body and spine. This is your starting position.
  3. Keeping a straight back, bend your elbows until your chest lightly grazes the floor. Tuck your elbows close to you the entire time. 
  4. Exhale and push your palms into the floor to raise your elbows and return to the starting position, completing the rep.
  5. Using a timer, repeat the reps for 20 seconds. 
  6. Rest for 10 seconds.
  7. Do steps 1-6 eight times. Those who want to do so can switch out the push up variation for each interval.


The Tabata push up is a great way to add intensity to your strength training. You don’t need equipment for it and can do it anywhere. Below are more benefits of this exercise. 

Build Muscular Endurance & Strength

Tabata push ups are intense and work your muscles to exhaustion. Over time, this routine will build your muscular endurance and improve your strength levels. 

Weight Loss

Tabata push ups will have you burning calories at an impressive rate. This study on energy expenditure during a Tabata workout found some participants lost as much as 360 calories in 20 minutes (3). Over time, combined with healthy dieting, this could lead to significant weight loss. 

Time Effective

If you’re short on time, you can do the Tabata push up in under 30 minutes—just enough to fit it into your insane work, home, and social life schedule. There’s also no limit; you can do as many of these as you want for as long as you can maintain the correct form. 

Tabata Push Ups Alternatives


The Tabata push up is an effective way to increase the intensity of your routines and save time. If finding time to train is a constant problem, studies suggest three other routines that can help (4). Let’s look at them below.


Supersets combine two different exercises without rest in between, reducing the overall time needed for both exercises. They also boost your aerobic capacity and improve your metabolism

Drop Sets

Drop sets also use little rest, helping you train faster if you are under a time crunch. They also work on your muscular endurance and induce muscle hypertrophy. You can incorporate a drop set into your workout by doing it as the last set of your exercise. 


Rest pause training — where you briefly rest between finishing your set — also utilizes a brief rest interval, allowing you to train as much as possible in minimal time. 


What are Tabata push ups?

Tabata push ups involve doing push ups using the Tabata training routine. You do multiple reps of push ups in 20 seconds and follow that with 10 seconds of rest for eight intervals. The push ups could be regular push ups or variations like the sphinx push up. 

What exercise is Tabata?

Tabata is an exercise method created by Dr. Izumi Tabata in the 1990s. It involves 20 seconds of high-intensity training and 10 seconds of rest for eight intervals, which is 20 minutes of intense training for your heart, endurance, and weight loss. 

What are the four benefits of Tabata training?

Tabata training is time efficient and offers significant benefits in just 20 minutes. This routine is also great for weight loss. Tabata training can build muscular endurance and is also great for cardiovascular health. 

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  1. Villareal, D. T., Aguirre, L., Gurney, A. B., Waters, D. L., Sinacore, D. R., Colombo, E., Armamento-Villareal, R., & Qualls, C. (2017). Aerobic or Resistance Exercise, or Both, in Dieting Obese Older Adults. The New England journal of medicine, 376(20), 1943–1955.
  2. Yang, J., Christophi, C. A., Farioli, A., Baur, D. M., Moffatt, S., Zollinger, T. W., & Kales, S. N. (2019). Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. JAMA network open, 2(2), e188341.
  3. Emberts, T., Porcari, J., Dobers-Tein, S., Steffen, J., & Foster, C. (2013). Exercise intensity and energy expenditure of a tabata workout. Journal of sports science & medicine, 12(3), 612–613. 
  4. Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No Time to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 51(10), 2079–2095.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.