Military Monday: For This Brutal Chest and Abs Workout, You Gotta Tabata


There’s no better beach body workout combo for the common man than abs, chest, and HIIT cardio. Two high-priority body parts with a dash of fat-burning. The workout you’re about to see hits all these key areas in only 15 minutes using the renowned Tabata workout method, courtesy of a shredded former soldier.

Featured Trainer: Erik Bartell served five years as an infantry officer in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division before starting his career in fitness and business. Since 2018, he has used his fitness background to train high-profile clients, host events for major brands, and mentor hundreds of military veterans into finding successful careers in the fitness field. He is a founding team member of the military-native grooming company Bravo Sierra.

Equipment Needed: Ski Erg machine (Concept 2), bench press station (barbell, plates, bench, rack), pull-up bar; if training at home, you can modify the workout with resistance bands (see “Exercise Notes” below).

Time Commitment: 15 minutes (not including warmup).

Workout Overview: Tabata intervals are a scientifically proven method (by Dr. Izumi Tabata originally) of enhancing cardiovascular conditioning and fat loss through short, highly intense bouts of exercise.

A traditional Tabata workout routine consists of alternating intervals of 20 seconds on (all-out effort), 10 seconds off (full rest), for exactly eight rounds of a single exercise (four minutes total). This may not sound like much to someone who’s never done Tabata workouts, but trust those of us who have: It’s brutal.

The below workout tweaks the Tabata format to include three exercises instead of one: Ski Erg, bench press, and hanging leg raise. Because the three moves target different areas (cardio, chest, core, respectively), muscles that get worked with one exercise will get a rest during the others, thus allowing you to go longer than four minutes while keeping intensity high. So, instead of eight rounds total, you’ll do 30 rounds (20 on, 10 off, for each exercise x 10).

Don’t worry, you’ll still be done with the workout in 15 minutes… and your lungs, pecs, and abs will be torched.

Erik Bartell’s Chest and Core Tabata Workout

Warmup: Do five to 10 minutes of light cardio, followed by dynamic stretching for the upper body, then complete the following workout.

The Workout
Perform 10 Rounds of the following exercises
Exercise
Duration
Ski Erg
20 sec.
Rest
10 sec.
Bench Press
20 sec.
Rest
10 sec.
Hanging Leg Raise
20 sec.
Rest
10 sec.

Advanced Option: If you’re a badass and want a greater challenge, don’t stop after 10 rounds. Shoot for 12 to 15 rounds.

Exercise Notes
Ski Erg – If you don’t have access to a Ski Erg, do the same motion using battle ropes. If you don’t have those either, mimic the exercise with a resistance band anchored overhead. (See video above for a demonstration of the Ski Erg motion.) If you have no equipment whatsoever, any demanding cardio activity will work – in other words, burpees.
Bench Press – Bartell recommends using a relatively heavy weight here, approximately 85% of your 1RM on bench press. For safety, either have someone spot you or do the exercise in a power rack with safety pins set at the bottom of the rep (in case you fail mid-set). If you don’t have a barbell, use dumbbells instead. If you have dumbbells but no bench, do dumbbell floor presses. If you don’t have a barbell or dumbbells, do band-resisted push-ups, where the band adds resistance to better mimic a heavy bench press.
Hanging Leg Raise – Bartell does this exercise hanging from a pull-up bar, but it can also be done with a “Captain’s Chair” if you prefer. Keep your legs straight and raise them to parallel with the floor on every rep. If you don’t have either of the aforementioned pieces of equipment, sub in reverse crunches.
Work Intervals – For maximum effectiveness with Tabatas, the 20-second “on” intervals need to be 100% all-out. On bench press and hanging leg raises, you still want the reps to performed under control; with the cardio move, make sure you’re going hard for all 20 seconds.
Rest Intervals – Staying strict with the 10-second rest periods is also important; this is what keeps intensity high. Make sure the three exercises are all in close proximity to each other. If you’re deconditioned and struggling during the workout and need extra rest, take a longer break at the end of each round (i.e., 60 seconds after hanging leg raise rather than 10 seconds).

 



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