“Lead Legs” – 15 Minute Tabata Workout

Lately I’ve been learning how to go with the flow, both in life and in my workouts.  Spontaneity is not my strong suit (ok, it’s pretty much my kryptonite), but changing things up has definitely been a good experience.  We could all stand to shake things up once in awhile.  To my surprise, some of the workouts I’ve come up with on the fly have been really enjoyable and worth repeating…and, well, this was one of them I thought I’d share.  This bodyweight strength workout targets the lower body – quads, hams, and glutes – without using any equipment besides a bench.  Rather than counting reps, I used tabatas, which made things interesting. It did not, however, make things easy – I was actually surprised by how challenging this was by the end of each tabata circuit!  It’s a short workout (less than 15 minutes of work time, plus rest between each tabata), enough so that you could tack it on to another short workout if you wanted to sweat a little longer.  I threw this together after doing my rehab exercises for my posterior tib injury and a quick core workout, and thought that combo was just right.  And then I added in pull ups because I can’t help myself.

“Lead Legs” – 15 Minute Tabata Workout

Lead Legs Tabata Workout - COLLAGE

A tabata is a workout format that follows a pattern of 00:20 work / 00:10 rest for 8 rounds, which amounts to 04:00 for the whole tabata.  (The Free Tabata HIIT Timer app is the one I use to time my tabatas, and it works like a charm.) This workout is made up of 3 separate tabatas, each of which features a different lower body exercise. Make sure to warm up beforehand, and focus on proper form and muscle engagement during each work interval (translation: don’t just gut out a ton of sloppy reps).  Rest a few minutes between tabatas – i.e. between plie squats and squat pulses, and between squat pulses and hip bridges – and if you need to take more than a 00:10 rest between each work interval, cut down the number of rounds per tabata, or even adjust the intervals to 00:15 work / 00:15 rest for every round, don’t be afraid to go for it.  Make the workout work for you, and as you continue challenging yourself, you’ll eventually find that you’re ready to tackle a full on tabata.

Give it a shot, and let me know what you think!

Tabata 1: Plie Squats

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Wide stance, toes are out, and knees track over the toes as you come down and up.  Keep your upper body straight (it’s really easy to lean over forward), tailbone “tucked” (basically, no sticking your butt out), and jazz hands are optional but encouraged.  Focus on squeezing your glutes to raise yourself.

Tabata 2: Squat Pulses

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Feet are should width apart or slightly wider, toes can be turned out slightly, knees track over the toes the whole time, and your goal is to hoover around parallel.  Each pulse dips down slightly below parallel and then comes up slightly above parallel. Keep your weight evenly distributed between feet, and think about pushing through the heels rather than the toes (which is tempting when you’re trying to stay balanced down low).

Tabata 3: Hip Bridges

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Feet can be on the floor or elevated for more of a challenge (use a bench, like I did, or a Swiss ball/chair/whatever you’ve got).  Squeeze the glutes to come up, and make sure that at the top of the movement your body comes into a straight line from knees to shoulders.  Keep the arms and shoulders relaxed and don’t try to push against the floor with your hands; instead; power the movement only with your lower body.

If your legs don’t feel a bit lead-like at the end of all this, you may be a mutant.


Have you used tabatas in training before?

What are your thoughts bodyweight/minimal equipment workouts?

Do you like to make up workouts on the fly?


3 thoughts on ““Lead Legs” – 15 Minute Tabata Workout

  1. Awesome workout! I truly despise squats but I know how good they are so every bit of motivation I can get to do them helps! I love tabatas because I can always tell myself ‘just x more seconds’ as opposed to ‘x more minutes’ – seems mentally easier 😉

    1. That’s what I’ve always thought – tabatas make it “easier” (at least mentally) because you can really do anything for 20 seconds, right? Let me know if you give it a go!

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