Fitness / HIIT

What Exactly is EMOM?

Find out how to incorporate this intense HIIT routine into your workout.

High-intensity interval training comes in a lot of varieties, but one of the simplest is EMOM: Every Minute On the Minute.

It’s a time-based structure that can be modified to boost strength or endurance, and if you know what you’re doing, it can be as easy or as difficult as you desire.

Here to help break down this versatile format is Zac Baumer, co-owner of Los Angeles-area gym Angelino CrossFit.

How EMOM Works

Contrary to what it sounds like, “every minute on the minute” doesn’t mean that you’re working out for an entire minute—that would be an “AMRAP,” or “as many reps as possible” routine.

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Rather, you’re doing a designated number of reps at the top of each minute, and resting until the next minute, at which point you do another set and rest, repeating the process for the duration of the EMOM workout. “It’s great for your efficiency,” Baumer says. “If it’s programmed appropriately, it can be a lot of fun; people will surprise themselves with how much they end up doing over a 10-minute EMOM.”

Time is the only fixed variable of the EMOM workout; everything else can be tweaked to achieve a specific stimulus. “Cardio is the inherent structure of a lot of these workouts. We’ll use rowers, ski machines, bikes, and jump ropes,” Baumer says. “The resistance aspect is weights and gravity. We’ll use pull-up bars, wall balls, dumbbells and kettlebells, sleds…all kinds of stuff.”

You can either continue the same exercise for the duration of an EMOM workout, or switch exercises each minute. For cardio and strength, for instance, you might jump rope for 30 steps and do ten kettlebell hip swings on the next minute. Crucially, you don’t need to be exercising for the full minute, so strike a balance between reps and rest that’s indicative of your desired effort level. “Whatever you do, you want to make it work for you,” Baumer says. “Expect to modify weight, reps, motion—whatever you want to do to make it work for you.”

Why EMOM Works

Recently popularized by the CrossFit community, the concept behind EMOM isn’t new. Strength Coach Charles Staley’s escalating density training, or EDT, a decades-old system in which you do submaximal reps for a set period of time. “Density” refers to the amount of reps you can do in a specific time period. In an EMOM workout, the density is simply the prescribed number of reps. EMOM is essentially a more modern version of EDT.

These type of exercises work because they achieve progressive overload—the foundational principle of strength training, in which you gradually increase stress throughout a workout—by forcing you to do continuous reps as fatigue increases. You can also induce muscle hypertrophy, or the growth of muscle cells during strength training, by tweaking the rep count per minute. “You increase the weight and lower the reps,” Baumer says. “A lot of the strength workouts incorporate barbells and Olympic lifting, so it’s both for time and reps.”

Pound for pound, EMOM workouts are among the most effective because they fall into the HIIT family of exercises, for which we have an increasing body of research. HIIT workouts tend to facilitate more fat loss than traditional sustained cardio over the same time period, according to a study in the Journal of Obesity.

Such routines also boost VO2 max. A PLoS One meta-analysis of 37 HIIT studies found that on average, 20 weeks of HIIT work increased VO2 max by .4 liters per minute. For a 150-pound person with a VO2 max of 45 ml/kg/min (considered average for a sedentary 35-year-old man), that’s a 13 percent increase.

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Try your own EMOM workout.

Before we begin, a word of warning. “Whenever you’re incorporating time and working with a sense of urgency, I generally like to stay away from the heavy weights,” Baumer says. It’s easy to get competitive in an EMOM workout, especially in a group fitness setting, but lifting heavier than you should while rushing could get you injured. Instead, stay in the submaximal range to be safe.

Now, try a couple Angelino EMOM workouts:

Workout 1: 16 minutes of strength

Workout 2: 20 minutes of medicine ball toning

If you’d like more workouts like these, just check out Aaptiv. We release new audio fitness classes every week!

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