Your All-Inclusive Guide to EMOM Workouts
When you're already short on time, nothing is more irksome than trying a workout advertised to take just 20 minutes but, by the time you're finished, has become a half-hour ordeal, thanks to rest breaks and convoluted equipment set-up.
One solution? Try an EMOM workout, which has fixed work and rest periods so a 20-minute workout is just that — 20 minutes.
To get the lowdown on everything this training style entails, turn to this EMOM workout guide, which breaks down what "EMOM" means, how it differs from other workout methods, and its key benefits. Plus, you'll find EMOM exercises and workouts for every fitness level and training need so you can easily start adding them into your fitness routine.
What Are EMOM Workouts?
EMOM stands for "every minute on the minute," and an EMOM workout is a type of interval workout that involves performing a single or a handful of specific exercises for a set number of reps at the start of every minute, says Saman Munir, a certified personal trainer with EvolveYou. Once you complete those reps, you can use the remaining amount of time within that minute for rest. For example, if you finish your 15 push-ups within the first 30 seconds of the minute, you can use the remaining 30 seconds as recovery time, she explains. Once that minute is up, you'll repeat the process with another exercise.
Since you're striving to power through all your reps as quickly as possible, maximizing the amount of time you have to rest before the next minute kicks off, EMOM workouts are generally high-intensity and fast-paced, adds Kelly Froelich, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of the digital fitness platform Balanced. There isn't a single prescribed workout time with EMOM-style training sessions either: You can design your workout to be anywhere from five- to 30-minutes long, says Froelich.
The Benefits of EMOM Workouts
Not quite sure if EMOM workouts are right for you? These benefits will surely convince you to incorporate them into your fitness program — or at least give them a trial run.
Improve Cardiorespiratory Health
Remember, the length of your recovery period is dependent on how quickly you can power through your reps — while maintaining good form, of course. "With an EMOM, if you slow down, you're actually going to get less rest," adds Froelich. "So the goal is to keep up that pace even as your body tires throughout the session." In turn, EMOM workouts are an effective way to get your fill of cardio. "They're really good at getting your heart rate up because you're incentivized to get things done as quickly as possible," she says.
ICYDK, cardiorespiratory training involves exercises that help stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, Melissa Kendter, an ACE-certified trainer, functional training specialist, and EvolveYou coach, previously told Shape. More specifically, cardio increases your heart rate, gets your blood pumping, and trains your lungs and heart to work more effectively to deliver oxygen to the muscles, which ultimately helps you tackle more strenuous activity without feeling winded, she explained. Both the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend performing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combo of both each week to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other health conditions. Luckily, tackling EMOM workouts will help you meet those targets.
Can Be Changed to Meet Your Fitness Goals
Although EMOM workouts are generally comprised of high-intensity cardio exercises, you can tone down the sweat factor. If you're looking to build muscular endurance or strength, you can choose weighted exercises performed slowly (e.g. thrusters, shoulder presses) or isometric exercises performed for a certain time (think: squat holds, planks, V-sits) rather than fast-paced jumping jacks or bodyweight squats. "Depending on the exercise, the reps, and the weight, it can really flex between a high-intensity cardio workout or more strength-building workout," says Froelich.
What's more, you can design your EMOM workout to target your entire body or hone in one specific muscle group, says Munir. If you're looking to target your core, for example, you can set up an eight-minute EMOM abs workout, she suggests.
Can Also Function as Warm-Ups and Finishers
Though the EMOM method can be used to design complete workouts, you can apply the technique to any part of your training session. You can do an EMOM-style warm-up featuring bodyweight exercises to get your body ready for a weightlifting session, for instance. If you like to end your workouts on a high note, you can also do a five-minute, high-intensity, EMOM-style finisher, which is Froelich's favorite way to utilize the training method.
Help Track Your Progress
Since the goal of EMOM workouts is to finish your reps as quickly as possible to maximize your rest period, you're able to gauge how your fitness is improving from week to week, says Munir. Say you finish an average of 10 push-ups in 50 seconds during your very first several rounds of an EMOM workout. Over time, by consistently working on your push-ups by working this EMOM workout into your routine, you may find that you're able to complete those 10 push-ups in just 40 seconds. As you increasingly pick up your pace or improve your strength, you can then challenge yourself by increasing the number of reps to continue progressing.
This benefit can be particularly important if you're coming back to exercise following an injury, says Froelich. "Maybe you set yourself at five squats when you were typically doing 10 before your injury, and then you work your way up — you can add a rep the next time you do the workout," she explains. "You can really track your progress."
EMOM Workouts vs. AMRAP Workouts
With both EMOM workouts and AMRAP workouts, the length of your workout is set, and a workout advertised as 10 minutes, for example, will always take that long to complete. However, the key distinction between the two is the rest period. Specifically, you're free to take a breather whenever and for as long as you desire in an AMRAP workout, which entails performing as many reps of an exercise or rounds of circuit as possible within a predetermined time frame, Kendter previously told Shape. In an EMOM workout, however, you're supposed to rest only after you finish all your reps and just for the amount of time you have left in the minute. TL;DR: If you perform best when you can take breaks without the pressure of the clock, AMRAP workouts may be a better fit for you. (Of course, you should listen to your body and take a breather or modify as needed during any workout — EMOM included — then jump back in when you feel ready.)
The Best EMOM Workout Exercises
For newbies to the training style, the best EMOM exercises are bodyweight-only, as adding weights to the mix when you're trying to move as quickly as possible can increase your risk of injury if you're not properly prepared, says Froelich. Plus, spending even just a few seconds gathering your equipment for the next round reduces the amount of precious full-on rest time you have available, she adds. As you grow more experienced, you can incorporate dumbbells or kettlebells into your EMOM workout.
Another point to consider when selecting exercises is the goal of your EMOM workout. If you're in the mood for a cardio-heavy and strength-building workout, alternate between cardio exercises and strength exercises (think: 20 bodyweight squats for the first minute, then 10 weighed squats for the second minute), says Froelich. "You're doing cardio and building muscle, and switching between the two makes it a little more exciting."
To further up the challenge without increasing reps or adding in weight, you can also perform two different exercises in one minute. You might perform 10 push-ups followed by 10 bodyweight squats, for example, all before the minute ends, says Munir.
When you're ready to try an EMOM workout, choose four to five of the exercises below, then cycle through them for a full-length workout. For example, "I'll do push-ups for minute one, then bodyweight squats for minute two, punches for minute three, then jumping jacks for minute four," says Munir. "Then I'll repeat the whole thing four or five times, depending on how much energy I have."
Regardless of your experience level and the exercises involved, you'll want to choose a number of reps that you can finish within 45 to 50 seconds, says Froelich. "The goal is to have at least 10 to 15 seconds of rest until the next minute kicks off," she explains. "Because it's more of a high-intensity workout, you want to be able to give your body that quick rest period in order to reset for the next set." Those 15 seconds will allow you to catch your breath enough to tackle the next set, but it won't drop your heart rate enough to reduce the cardio burn, she says.
The Best EMOM Workouts
To get your heart rate up and put your muscles to the test, consider incorporating these EMOM workouts into your routine. Whether you're in need of a full-body training session you can do at home or you're looking to master one single move, you've got options.