What Are EMOM Workouts and What Makes Them So Great?

Walk into a CrossFit gym (known as a box) and you'll notice AMRAP, HSPU and PB peppered into conversations and written on the whiteboards. Among the most common and least understood? EMOM.

EMOM workouts challenge your strength in a whole new way. (Image: Hinterhaus Productions/DigitalVision/GettyImages)

No, it has nothing to do with your mother (unless she does CrossFit, of course). It's a rep scheme that challenges you to stay strong even as your body tires from your workout. Is your curiosity piqued? Here's what you need to know.

What Are EMOM Workouts?

EMOM stands for Every Minute On the Minute, says Tony Milgram, level 1 CrossFit trainer at ICE NYC in New York, and it's a popular workout structure in both CrossFit and group fitness classes that involves starting an exercise at the top of every minute.

"They're an interval-based workouts where the goal is to repeat the same number of reps every minute, while also working for and resting for the same amount of time as the workout progresses," Milgram says.

To do an EMOM workout, select a movement, a time and rep count that you'll complete every minute. "You might do a 12-minute jumping squat EMOM where every minute you complete 10 reps," says certified strength and conditioning coach Alena Luciani, founder of Training2xl. If finish those reps in 25 seconds, you have 35 seconds to rest. Then, at the top of the next minute, you'll start jumping again. If the jumps take you longer, you rest less, and if they take you less time, you get to rest more.

EMOMs are different than a Tabata-style workouts (which involve four minutes of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest) because, people usually complete fewer and fewer less reps as the workout continues, says Luciani. With EMOMs, you have to completely the same number of reps each time. The timer and rep-goal combination encourage folks to work harder, she says.

EMOMs are also different than AMRAP-style workouts (as many rounds as possible) because EMOMs have built in rest. With EMOM, rest periods rely on how quickly you complete an exercise.

Benefits of EMOM Workouts

"As a coach, my favorite part of EMOM workouts is that they are so versatile," says Milgram. You can create and do an EMOM that's geared toward improving your cardiovascular capacity, and you can also create one for strength gains, he says.

A cardio-focused EMOM could include body-weight movements (burpees, broad jumps, push-ups, mountain climbers and pull-ups) and machines like the rower or air bike. For instance, you might aim for 10 to 15 push-ups or 8 to 18 calories on the air bike. "And ideally, you'll have at least 10 to 15 seconds (or more) to rest every single minute of an EMOM so you can keep up the intensity from round to round," Milgram says.

If you're looking to build strength, pick a weighted movement like the deadlift, back squat, clean and jerk or overhead squat, use 70 to 85 percent of your one-rep max and complete two to five reps every minute for 10 minutes, says Tony Carvajal, certified level 2 CrossFit trainer with RSP Nutrition. This structure keeps the loads heavy while still giving you just enough time to recover before the next set, he says.

That also keeps you on pace, balancing your work and rest, Milgram says. "When you're not using a clock, you don't know how much rest you're getting or if you're under- or over- recovering between sets." Some folks will do strength EMOMS every E2MOM or E5MOM style, to force themselves to rest even longer, going every two minute or every five minutes.

You can also make EMOM workouts that include more than one movement. An EMOM could include alternating movements on even and odd minutes. Or entail cycling through five or six different exercises three or four (or more) times. There's no time limit or time max for EMOMs. Milgram says, "I've done and programmed great four-minute EMOMs and great 60-minute EMOMs."

How to Get Started With EMOM Training

If you're building your own EMOM, Luciani says it's most important to check your ego at the door. You need to pick a movement and weight that you can actually do with quality, consistently. "Yes, you're working towards rest, but you should value good form over rest the entire time," she says.

Next, choose some exercises. If you're going to do a two-move EMOM, Luciani suggests doing opposing muscle groups. On odd minutes, do a push movement (push-up, shoulder press, bench press or handstand push-ups) and on even minutes, do a pull movement (pull-up, bar muscle-up, bent-over rows or rope climbs).

You could also pair a hinge movement (deadlift, good morning, kettlebell swings) with a squat movement (air squat, box jumps, wall balls). "This way, you know you're exercising in a way that supports symmetry and good movement mechanics," she says.

If you're a few minutes in and find the workout too challenging, simply choose a lighter weight, reduce the rep goal or modify the movement. "Chances are, if you wait two months and repeat this workout, you'll be able to do it with more reps or weight," says Milgram.

3 EMOM Workouts to Try for Yourself

Want to give a tried-and-true EMOM a try? Below CrossFit trainers and fitness coaches break down three they swear by.

1. 20-Minute EMOM With Row and Burpees

The Workout

  • Odd minutes: 10 to 18 calories on the rower
  • Even minutes: 8 to 15 burpees over the rower
  • Repeat 10 times

Rowing

  1. Lock in your feet so that the strap sits along your laces.
  2. Grab the oar with arms extended, palm facing down and bent knees.
  3. Keeping back straight, core engaged and chest upright, push through heels and straighten your legs.
  4. Pull the oar to chest-height, squeezing shoulder blades together and bending arms.
  5. Next, return arms to starting position allowing legs to follow.

Burpees Over the Rower

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart, parallel to rower.
  2. Hinge at hips to place palms on floor, then jump feet back to a plank.
  3. Allow your body to drop to the ground and lift your hands off the ground.
  4. Next, replace hands, jump your feet back and stand.
  5. Jump laterally over the rower, then complete a second rep on the other side.

In the wonderful world of CrossFit, this is considered an endurance workout, so expect it to get spicy. "Consistency is key here," Luciania says. "Don't aim for 18 calories on the row if by the third round you have to drop it to 12 calories per minute." Instead, aim to find a pace that is challenging but sustainable the entire time.

2. 12-Minute EMOM With Gymnastics and Barbell

The Workout

  • Odd minutes: 5 to 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups
  • Even minutes: 2 moderately heavy front squats (75 to 90 percent of your one-rep max)
  • Repeat 6 times

Chest-to-Bar Pull-Up

  1. Hang from the bar using an overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. Engage your core and upper back and pull your body up until your chest grazes the bar.
  3. Lower back down to start.

Front Squat

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding a barbell at your shoulders, elbows below hands.
  2. Push your hips back and down and bend your knees, keeping your chest tall.
  3. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Drive up and back to standing.

If you already know how to do kipping chest-to-bar pull-ups and can do at least three strict pull-ups with decent should mobility, go for it, Milgram says. Otherwise, do one to two strict pull-ups or five to 10 strict banded pull-ups instead. Scale it down further by doing ring-rows, banded ring rows or inverted ring rows.

Need even more of a challenge? Carvajal suggests swapping out the chest-to-bar pull-ups for another, higher-skill movement like ring or bar muscle up. "EMOMs are great for working on a higher skill movement because you have to rest between attempts, which helps you really focus on the integrity of the movement," says Milgram.

3. 10-Minute Barbell Clean EMOM

The Workout

  • Every minute on the minute: 3 barbell squat cleans (70 percent of your one-rep max)

Barbell Squat Clean

  1. Begin with the barbell over your feet, feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Hinge your hips back and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  3. With straight arms, reach down and grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder width apart, palms facing down.
  4. Pull the bar straight up, moving knees out of the way.
  5. As soon as the bar passes your thighs, extend your knees, feet and hips to explode upward. Keeping the bar close to your body and shrugging the bar toward the ceiling.
  6. As the bar rises, rotate your elbows under the bar, catching it in the front rack position.
  7. Re-plant your feet hips-width apart and pull yourself under the bar.
  8. Press heels into floor and explode back to the start.

A true full-body movement, the squat clean is no joke. If you've never done it before, make sure to start light or get your form checked by trainer. Milgram says you can also do medicine ball squat cleans if you're just learning the movement pattern.

Whether you decide to do all the reps in a row or do quick singles, the reps should take you somewhere between 12 to 20 seconds total to complete. "By doing a small number of reps of the squat clean, you're allowing yourself to become more skilled at the movement and get stronger," he says.

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