Thanksgiving Day Tabata Workout Guide

by Shana Verstegen

Exercising may not be the first thing you think about on Thanksgiving Day, but it sure feels good to get in some movement on a holiday that is notorious for sitting, eating and more sitting. This holiday workout is quick, fun and perfect to do with the entire family!

The Tabata-timed format was popularized by a 1996 Japanese research study done by Dr. Izumi Tabata. The participants exercised at 170% of their VO2 Max: In other words, at a very high level, for 8 sets of 20 seconds, separated by 10-second recoveries. The results showed significant gains in aerobic and anaerobic capacity and a high level of calorie burn even after the workout was finished.

Most Tabata workouts, including the one below are not at the same level as those researched in the study, however, many employ the timing used in Tabata’s research.


For this workout, complete a 5-minute cardiovascular warmup of your choice before the Tabata training. For each of the four Tabata workouts, do the first exercise for 20 seconds, take a 10-second rest, complete the second exercise for 20 seconds, take a 10-second rest, and so on for eight total rounds. This equals four sets of each exercise and four minutes of work. Enjoy a 3–5-minute rest and begin the next Tabata combo. As mentioned earlier, these are not at the same intensity the elite athletes withstood in the research study, but try to challenge yourself to a high level of muscle and cardiovascular fatigue paired with perfect movement patterns for every set.

Thanksgiving Day Tabata Workout Guide


Hold a kettlebell by the horns (or a dumbbell vertical by one end) up against your chest. Your feet should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart and toes turned out slightly (the less mobile your hips, the more your toes need to turn out). Drop your hips straight down with your chest open and shoulders anchored down and back. Pretend you’re separating the floor with your feet and engage your glutes as you power back up to the starting position.

Options: This can be done as a bodyweight squat or an assisted squat with the TRX suspension trainer.


You won’t regret your time spent at the dinner table this year after these plank rows! Begin in a straight and tight plank position with wide feet for support. Avoiding rotation, row one dumbbell up at a time squeezing behind that shoulder blade.

Options: This can be done with no weight and/or with your plank position on the knees.

Thanksgiving Day Tabata Workout Guide


The best part of the turkey is also one of the best exercises in this workout! Begin by holding a dumbbell or any weighted object in the opposite hand of the planted foot. Keeping a neutral spine and only a slight bend in the planted leg, hinge forward, remaining square with the floor. Once the end range of a flat torso is reached (your body should form a capital T if you have the mobility) lower that leg back to the floor.

Options: Limit the range of motion if the low back begins to round. This exercise can be done with no additional weight.

CLICK TO TWEET THIS ARTICLE > You definitely have time to fit in this 4-minute workout before the turkey and football starts. via @myfitnesspal #myfitnesspal In-app description: This workout takes just 4 minutes, and then it’s time to relax and enjoy the holiday!


Begin in a tight, active plank position on the ground. Keeping your body in a straight line, lower down and press through the floor to complete a pushup. Immediately snap your feet below the body to land in a perfect squat position. While driving the arms up to the ceiling, press through the floor and engage through the glutes as you leave the ground for your jump. Hinge hips back, place hands on the floor, and hop back into the active plank.

Options: The pushup portion of the burpee can be done on the knees or removed altogether. If you aren’t up for flying during this workout, you can skip the jump.


Happy planksgiving! Begin in a high-plank position. With minimal body movement, lower your right forearm to the ground. Repeat with the left. Keeping your back straight and tight, return to your right hand, and then the left.

Options: This can also be done from your knees. To up the challenge, balance something light (like a yoga block) on your back to ensure you are not wiggling.


Stepping to the left with your left toe pointed directly forward, allow your left hip to drop down and back. By bracing that hip and keeping your right leg straight, step your feet together and repeat on the other side.

Options: Standing lateral lunges with a wide stance and shifting weight side to side is a lower intensity option.

Thanksgiving Day Tabata Workout Guide


The fall harvest is filled with so much joy you can’t help but hop from side to side. Standing on your left leg, leap laterally to the right, immediately bending at the knee and hip to absorb the landing. Simultaneously reach the left leg behind and tap it to the floor for stability. Repeat by pressing off of the right leg and landing on the left.

Options: Remove the jump and simply step and curtsey to each side, or increase the intensity by bending lower and touching the ground with each hop.


High Knees

Even if your annual 5K turkey trot is canceled, you can still trot in the house to finish this challenging cardiovascular Tabata! Jog in place with very high knees. The goal is to get your upper thighs past parallel with the floor.

Option: Remove the jog and march in place, continuing to have very high knees

Originally published November 2020

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