There are some fitness fanatics committed to spending hours in the gym going all out, all the time in order to build strength and burn fat. And then there’s the rest of us looking for similar gains, but whose training time has to fit in between long work hours, family time and other obligations. The solution may be incorporating an EMOM workout to your routine. This all-purpose training protocol is less intimidating than its aggressive-sounding acronym, but a surefire method for getting maximum results in minimal time no matter your skill level.
The EMOM—or Every Minute on the Minute—simply means that at the start of every minute, you’ll work for a prescribed amount of time (30 to 40 seconds) or a set amount of reps. When you hit that mark, you rest for the remainder of the minute, then start up again once the minute is up.
They’re great for building muscle, increasing muscular endurance and of course, burning fat. A HIIT and CrossFit hybrid, the EMOM is going fatigue you as you’re burning calories (a 20-minute HIIT workout is said to burn anywhere from 150 to 400 calories). Best of all, EMOM can be programmed not just for those with time constraints, but also extended for well-conditioned athletes.
But unlike your traditional HIIT workout—an all-out session in which you’re expected to be hunched over in heaping, breath-heavy pool of sweat at the end. The goal with the EMOM isn’t working to failure—you’ll want to leave a little in the tank during each EMOM round—but to maintain as much volume as prescribed from beginning to the end.
What makes the EMOM such an effective training tool for anyone of any level, according to Christian Harris, a CrossFit athlete, and founder of training community Move Fast Lift Heavy, is that each workout can be customized to each person’s time restrictions and skill level.
“Most people have 20 to 30 minutes in their day that they can carve out to find some time for fitness,” the Reebok-sponsored athlete says.” Doing a 20-minute EMOM is gonna give you a lot of bang for your buck. So I love them from that standpoint.”
There are limitless ways to program your own EMOM-style workouts—as Harris explains in his newsletter (movefastliftheavy.com) or on his new training app (MFLHtrain.com). But for some of the important tips for getting the most EMOM gains, Harris shares his top tips to master the EMOM.
“The EMOM is a very versatile piece. It doesn’t only have to be for conditioning,” Harris says. “I actually use EMOMs for a lot of my strength work as well.”
EMOM Workouts—the Good and the Brutal
According to Harris, what makes this type of training such an underrated and highly effective workout is that an EMOM workout can be programmed for any person of any skill level and at a time that can fit anyone’s schedule. So no more excuses.
But don’t mistake convenience as an excuse for generating less effort. Despite the short time invested during some workouts, EMOMs require you to put in the work at the top of every minute. It may not be as painfully brutal all-out assault as some HIIT-style workouts as an all-out HIIT, Harris says, but the EMOM will hold you accountable for your effort if you start to slack.
“The EMOM exposes people a little bit because the clock tells you when to go,” he says. “You can’t just rest when you want to rest. So once that minute, once that clock starts and we have to do X amount of work, we got to get it done. Once that next minute hits, you got to get it done. So it really holds you accountable for starting that work on time and keeping you on task.”
Get the Right Shoes Before You Start
Because of the variety of exercise combinations an EMOM workout can have—from running, jumping, squatting, pushing, even climbing, the last thing anyone want to be thinking about is switching shoes between activities. According to Harris, the importance of functional footwear is essential to any types of activities you may be performing.
“Something super important for me is the right pair of shoes for this” he says. “For me, I wear the Reebok Nano X3 for all of my workouts,” he says. “It checks all the boxes, and I never need to change my shoes. It’s the one shoe that I can wear to run squat jump rope climb in.”
Types of EMOM Workouts
There are a few different types of EMOMs that can anyone can add to their routines. Harris usually mixes his EMOMs says it’s good to mix them up—some cardio types sprinkled with a strength session or two.
- Cardio and Endurance. According to Harris, these are your more traditional metabolic conditioning or HIIT type of workouts to help increase your conditioning and help. Here, you’ll select a number of exercises (5 to 6 is optimal, Harris says), preferably mixed between weights (think dumbbell presses, rows) along with some cardio work (such as ski erg, Row machine, Assault bike), usually on 40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest formula. You can keep the reps for weights to around 8 to 12 reps (or for 40 seconds if you’re going for time). Rest for the prescribed time then get moving again for the next round.
- Strength based: Because your goal is to increase strength, this type of EMOM workout utilizes less volume at times (one or two exercises). An example Harris uses, is a squat or power clean. Take a percentage of your 1RM (usually around 70% to 80%), and perform for a rep each round. One that you wont need to take more than a minute’s rest. “Use a percentage that I’m confident that I can hit every single
- EMOM Spinoff: Although an EMOM workout, by definition, is every minute on the minute, there are some similar spinoffs, Harris says, that fall under the EMOM umbrella. One is a cluster round, in which you take a group of exercises, and perform a prescribed amount of reps (or watts in some cardio instances). For example, one of Harris’ workouts include a combo of cycling for 500m, 20 GHD situps, followed by three rope climbs), with each round taking 2-3 minutes. The quicker you get through, the longer the rest you’ll be awarded at the end of each round.
Tips for Maximizing Your EMOM Workout
- Keep It Balanced:According to Harris, if you want a very well balanced EMOM, one idea to keep in mind is utilizing a whole host of movement patterns for each routine. What that means, is instead of overloading one body part, you’re going to need to think of mixing up movement patterns. This includes the following:
- Push: Think any type of presses or sled push
- Pull: the opposite, think rows, pulldowns, deadlifts.
- Squat: Pretty obvious, most exercises will do—from goblets squats to back to squats.
- Hinge: Think of deadlifts, RDLs, good mornings, a bending movement in which weight is placed on your midfoot to heel, hips are pressed back and the spine is kept in a neutral position.
- Lunge: A lunge is a single leg exercise that requires one leg stepping forward and bending down to the ground while maintaining your chest high and back straight and keeping the back leg stationary.
- Gait: A gait is a walk, jog, or sprint. Crawling, climbing, even jump also qualify as a gait.
- Twist: Two types—rotational and anti-rotation. These rotational movements require actually using a twisting motion across the body and anti-rotational exercises are when you are preventing the rotation of the body.
“I think if you can put one movement into each of those buckets you’ll have a very well balanced and program for yourself,” Harris says.
For example, for a 20 minute EMOM, you can add a treadmill run (gait), a KB snatch (hinge), burpee (conditioning push with a plyometric jump), wrapped with a goblet squat (squat). The more you spread out the movement patterns, the better for more balanced gains.
Christian Harris’s EMOM Workout Tips For Beginners
- For Beginners, Aim for Time, not Reps: If you’re just starting, Harris suggests a time over reps. He stresses, however, that with an EMOM, there should be a slight amount of rest—don’t turn your EMOM into an AMRAP (as many reps as possible).
This means you’re going to do 20 to 30 seconds of work and then you’re going to rest for the remainder of the minute,” Harris says. ”We’re not going to put a number of reps on what you’re doing for today. We just want to work for this amount of time. So if I said we’re going to do as many air squats as you can in a 20 to 30 second window, you’re going to rest the remainder the minute. I want you to try to hold as close to that number as possible for the rest of the EMOM.”
- Try minimal equipment if Using a Commercial Gym: Sometimes a spread out gym wreaks havoc if you have to bounce from a treadmill to the squat rack back to the row machine. A quick and easy solution, Harris says, is to bring a pair or two of dumbbells or kettlebells over to the conditioning equipment for the strength portion of your EMOM. This should save you travel time. Or you can also utilize your body weight for pushups, box jumps, etc. The options are limitless, but it’s best to keep your equipment close by and eliminate excess travel time.
- Keep the Rep Count Consistent: It’s common to fly out of the gates and get an awesome first round in, only to sputter toward the end of the workout. This could sabotage your EMOM the longer you go. Maintain an intense but manageable pace, Harris says. The intensity should vary according to the length of your EMOM. If it’s a 20-minute EMOM, Harris says to pick up the intensity a bit. As your EMOM gets longer, you may have to reduce the intensity a bit in order to finish strong—the goal is to keep your reps in the same range for each round. If you get 10 reps the first round, keep it around there for the duration. If you drop off to say, 4 reps, that’s a sign to scale back a bit. Mastering the EMOM comes with experience, he says.
“Think of it like 400m meter sprint versus a 5k run,” he explains. “You’re going to be able to maintain a higher output for the 400m run than you are for the 5k run.