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Is EMOM the Most Efficient Method of Training?

Is EMOM the Most Efficient Method of Training?

Time: You don’t have a lot of it to spare, but you can’t exercise without spending it. You could rush between exercises like the Tasmanian Devil — and risk injury. You could cut your workout short — and miss out on important movements. Or you could choose a workout where working against the clock is built into the program.

That would be the every-minute-on-the-minute, or EMOM, approach. It’s a challenging, scalable, and surprisingly fun take on standard-issue strength training.

Here’s how to put EMOM workouts to work for you, whatever your goals may be.

What Are EMOM Workouts?

Image of Two Athletes Doing Push Ups | EMOM Workouts

In an EMOM workout, you exercise in one-minute blocks. In each block, you perform a predetermined number of reps of a given move, and then rest the remainder of that minute.

This approach emphasizes work density, or the amount of work you can perform in a set time period.

In a normal strength-training program, 10 reps of squats might take you 10 seconds, or it might take you 50 seconds. But in an EMOM workout, you’re on the clock the whole time, and speed (without losing form!) is of the essence. That incentivizes moving efficiently and quickly and guarantees that both your muscles and your cardiovascular system get a killer workout.

“I also love the EMOM approach because it’s so easy to vary the intensity,” says Jolie Kobrinsky, RKC, TRX, owner of Elektren Studio in Seaside, CA. “Everyone from an elite athlete to a senior trainee can do the same workout in the same amount of time.”

And by adjusting the load, exercises, rep patterns, and workout structure, you can adjust the EMOM approach for nearly any fitness goal, whether you’re aiming for greater strength, bigger muscles, less fat, or greater speed and athleticism.

Benefits of EMOM Workouts

Here are some of the ways EMOM workouts will change the way you train and help you push your boundaries.

1. Efficiency

Few workout templates are as efficient as EMOM. You have no choice but to follow the clock, eliminating wasted time between sets (or circuits) and exercises. Even if you have just 12 minutes to work out, you can put together an EMOM workout that uses every second of that time effectively.

2. Cardiovascular conditioning

Traditional strength training is usually performed at a relatively slow pace — you complete a set, rest for a few minutes, and then repeat. When you’re on the clock, you don’t get the luxury of waiting until you’re ready for your next set. When it’s go time, you go.

That ensures that your heart rate stays elevated the whole workout, helping you burn more calories as you challenge and increase the efficiency of your entire cardiovascular system.

3. Improved work capacity

Increasing strength and power are worthy goals — and you can accomplish both with EMOM — but the EMOM approach is also a particularly effective way to increase work capacity (i.e., the amount of work you can complete in a given amount of time), which is another key aspect of fitness and one that’s often neglected.

How to Structure an EMOM Workout

Image of Athlete Doing Box Jumps | EMOM Workouts

There are many different ways to design an EMOM workout (e.g., straight sets of the same exercise, supersets that pair different exercises, etc.), but it works particularly well for circuit training.

Select a series of exercises, determine your rep count for each move based on your fitness goal, and decide how many times you’ll repeat the circuit (more on how to determine rep counts and circuit rounds below).
Structure your circuit so that you alternate either upper and lower body moves (e.g., back squat and biceps curl) or moves that target muscles on the front and back of your body (e.g., dumbbell chest press and bent over row).
Set a timer — ideally one you can set to beep at the top of each minute — and press start. There are several interval-timer apps available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store — we like SmartWOD and Interval Timer.
At the top of the first minute, perform the predetermined number of reps of your first exercise. Rest for the remainder of the minute.
At the top of the next minute, perform the predetermined number of reps for your next move, resting for the remainder of the minute.
Repeat the process until you’ve completed all of the exercises in the circuit, and then begin the circuit again.

Angelo Poli, SPN, ISSA, owner of Whole Body Fitness in Chico, California, points out that most people start off strong in an EMOM workout, completing the work portion of each set in 20 seconds or less, thus earning a leisurely 40-second break.

But as the workout goes on, fatigue accumulates, and the work-rest ratio flips: “Suddenly you’re taking 40 seconds to complete the reps, which means you only get 20 seconds of rest,” he says. “Before long, your rest periods drop to almost zero. By the end of the workout, you’re on the floor, exhausted!”

Types of EMOM workouts

Follow these tips to structure an EMOM workout based on different fitness goals.

EMOM for strength

Woman Does Bench Press | EMOM Workouts

If strength is your goal, choose compound (multi-joint) movements (e.g., bench press, bent-over row, pull-up, lunge, squat), and do four to five rounds of your circuit using relatively heavy loads and low reps (three to five) for each move.

EMOM for athleticism

Woman Does Kettlebell Swings Outside | EMOM Workouts

Choose full-body, explosive movements (e.g., split jump, dumbbell snatch, T-pushup, kettlebell swing), and perform three to four rounds of your circuit using of four to eight reps with moderate loads for each move.

EMOM for fat loss

Woman Does Mountain Climbers Outside | EMOM Workouts

Choose high-intensity, full-body movements (e.g., dumbbell swing, lunge to press, mountain climber, burpee) using lighter loads for higher reps (12 to 15) and more rounds (four to five).

EMOM for muscle growth

Woman Does Pull Ups in Gym | EMOM Workouts

Choose compound moves and use moderate loads and reps (three to four rounds of your circuit with 8 to 12 reps per move).

How to Make an EMOM Workout Easier (or Harder)

One of the best features of EMOM is its scalability, or how easily you can adjust the intensity to suit any level of fitness. “There are four primary ways to vary intensity,” says Poli. “Increase or decrease the load, reps, exercise difficulty, or rest periods. Decreasing that last one is my favorite — mostly because it makes things so diabolically difficult!”

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