Tabata vs HIIT vs Functional Training: What’s the Difference?

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Tabata vs HIIT vs Functional Training: What´s the Difference?

HIIT workouts, Tabata, and functional training are all popular types of workout regimes and have found their way into the fitness world already a few years ago.

Any one of them are great exercise routines for those who want to do strength training, looking for ways to speed up weight loss, burn more calories, and reach their fitness goals in a short period of time.

And all this preferably without the use of a classic gym.

That said, most of the time HIIT and Tabata workouts – as well as Functional Training sessions – can be performed in quite confined spaces, like for example in a hotel room. So no gym is needed!

You will need little or no equipment at all. In any one of these three workout routines, you will find bodyweight exercises, resistance training elements, and also exercises that will see you using weights in different forms. What you will not need, are training machines like those that you will find in a gym.

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But what's the difference between them?


HIIT is high intensity interval training, Tabata is a specific type of HIIT workout, and functional training refers to workouts that train your body to be better at everyday activities.

In this article, we will compare traditional HIIT workout training with Tabata training and functional training.

We’ll define each term, describe how each type of workout typically looks, and explain who should use which type of training.

We’ll also provide tips on how beginners can get started with HIIT, Tabata, and functional training.

two athletes doing push ups


Nowadays, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most popular ways to work out. HIIT has been promoted all over the world since the early 2000s and marketed as a variety of fitness activities. The origin and development of HIIT go back to cycling and running.

We will still find many elements of running and cycling in today’s HIIT workouts.

    • HIIT training is a type of interval training that alternates between short periods of very high-intensity exercise and recovery periods.
    • High-intensity interval training has proven to create great health benefits. Studies have revealed that when individuals use high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs, their lipoproteins improve, blood pressure decreases, and myocardial function improves in those suffering from heart disease.
    • HIIT workouts typically last for 30 minutes or less, making them a great option for busy people who want to get a quick, effective workout.
    • As a beginner, you will usually work with maximum effort for no longer than 20 seconds which is then followed by a maximum rest time of 10 seconds. But these interval times can vary.
    • You will find variations with longer work and rest intervals, but the maximum work duration will never be more than 75 seconds.
    • HIIT can be performed with any type of exercise but is particularly effective in combination with cardio exercises such as running, biking, or rowing.
    • HIIT workouts are typically structured as a series of intervals, with each interval consisting of a burst of high-intensity exercise followed by a period of recovery.

For example, you might sprint for 30 seconds and then walk for 60 seconds before repeating the cycle.


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How a sample HIIT workout using bodyweight only looks like:

Work interval 30 seconds (you perform a maximum number of repetitions of the exercise for 30 seconds nonstop)

followed by

Rest interval 20 seconds

    1. Mountain climbers
    2. Air squats
    3. Push ups
    4. Jumping Jacks
    5. Burpees

Repeat this exercise routine of five exercises four times.


HIIT training is an effective way to burn fat, build muscle and improve your cardiovascular fitness – all this within a very short period of time.

very fit woman rowing


The Tabata workout regime was invented by Izumi Tabata for Olympic speed skaters, hence the name. In the beginning, Tabata was used to testing and train the pedaling power of cyclists.

A Tabata workout is a specific type of HIIT workout with a strict time frame that consists of 20 seconds of very high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.

The idea is to go all-out and give your best in each one of these 20-second intervals.

This cycle is repeated for eight rounds, thus accumulating a total workout time of four minutes.

Tabata workouts are typically performed with exercises that use large muscle groups, such as squats, push-ups, or burpees. However, you can also customize your Tabata workout to your needs and do a Tabata workout with kettlebells, dumbells, or battle ropes for example.

Because these workouts are so short and intense, they are a great way to get a quick, effective workout.

Just like HIIT workouts, Tabata training is also an effective way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, build a strong anaerobic capacity, and build muscle.

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What a sample Tabata workout could look like:

Work interval 20 seconds
(give 100% during these 20 seconds!)

followed by

Rest interval 10 seconds (do not extend this rest period! Keep pushing through – after 4 minutes the pain is over and the great feeling kicks in!).

Round 1 : Crunches

Round 2 : Mountain climbers

Round 3 : Burpees

Round 4 : Push ups

Round 5 : Jumping Jacks

Round 6 : Lunges

Round 7 : Side Plank Crunches Left

Round 8 : Side Plank Crunches Right

You can also choose only one of these exercises and do the entire workout with this exercise as well.

Also, you can find a huge number of “Tabata songs” which are tailored exactly to the Tabata workout rhythm. This is especially nice, as you do not need to watch the timer all the time during your Tabata class.

Watch Mat Fraser, five-time CrossFit Games winner, using the Tabata method in one of his workouts :



Tabata – being a sub-category of HIIT training – uses a strict time frame with shorter rest periods and quick bursts of higher intensity during its workouts.

The same exercises are used as in traditional HIIT workouts. It is a great form of HIIT for athletes of all fitness levels.

If your goal is burning fat and building anaerobic endurance within a short period of time, then Tabata is just right for you!

three people working out with dumbells
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Functional training

Functional training is a type of workout that trains your body to be better at everyday activities.

In this workout regime exercises typically mimic the movements you would perform in everyday life, such as lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling.

Functional training is an effective way to improve your overall fitness and build muscle.

The main focus lies in training your body to move in the way it is supposed to move. That being said, functional training not only helps you perform better in everyday life, but can also prevent injuries.

A lot of times we use machines at the gym that isolate certain muscle groups. While this type of workout has its place, functional training will help you train your muscles to work together, the way they are supposed to.

Functional training can be performed with or without equipment. It can be a short session of only a few minutes and it can also be a really long workout session of up to one hour.

Some functional exercises that can be done without any equipment are squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, and planks. These exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare your body for daily activities.

You can also use equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and medicine balls to perform functional exercises.

Some functional exercises that use equipment are deadlifts, farmer walks, and sled pushes, or sled pulls. These exercises help you build muscle, increase core stability, and improve your overall fitness.

What a sample functional training workout could look like:

Overall, do five rounds!

One round consists of a number of exercises performed one after the other.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions per exercise!

Give yourself 1 minute of rest in between rounds!


Exercise 1 : Lunges

Exercise 2 : Push ups

Exercise 3 : Squats

Exercise 4 : Hip raises (also known as “bridges”)

Exercise 5 : Bent-over rows (use a dumbell or a water bottle)

1 Minute rest – then start over with exercise 1 and work through round 2, etc…

For added difficulty, you could also put weight on yourself in form of a backpack loaded with books for example.

HIIT workout woman


HIIT, Tabata, and functional training are all great ways to improve your fitness, but they are not the same.

HIIT is a type of workout that uses quick bursts of high intensity followed by periods of rest.

Tabata is a sub-category of HIIT that uses a strict time frame with shorter rest periods.

Functional training is a type of workout that trains your body to be better at everyday activities.

HIIT, Tabata and functional training are all great ways to improve your fitness. They are all effective forms of HIIT that can help you burn fat, build muscle, improve core stability, and improve your overall fitness. Choose the type of HIIT that is right for you and your goals.

If you are new to HIIT, start with Tabata or functional training. These types of HIIT workouts are a great way to get started and will help you build up to HIIT workouts.

Remember to warm up before HIIT workouts and cool down after HIIT workouts. HIIT workouts are intense and should be treated with respect.

Start slowly and build up to any form of HIIT workouts. HIIT is a great way to improve your fitness, but it is not for everyone. Choose the type of HIIT that is right for you and your goals.

I hope you enjoyed and found the article informative. If so, please like and share.

Maybe you are interested in workout supplements – then please have a look at our articles about pre-workout supplements  and thermogenic supplements.

And as always: have a great day!

Rob K

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