EMOM Workouts: What They Are (and Why You Should Do Them)

Here's what to know about EMOM workouts

Here’s what to know about EMOM workouts | iStock.com

Though you may wish you had hours to spend weight training at the gym each day to achieve your weight loss or muscle building goals, most men are lucky if they can get to the gym every single day for any amount of time without other commitments (or life) getting in the way. And, if you think you should start with the same boring set of reps with a lighter weight to maximize your time spent performing the exercise, you should think again. Though lower weights with more reps can be beneficial for cardiovascular health and light muscle build, this approach isn’t ideal for a quick and extremely tough workout. But then again, if you decide to go for the heavier weights during your workout, you may find yourself tiring out incredible quickly and giving up a mere few minutes after you’ve begun. So, with a tight schedule and minimal opportunities to make your workouts really count, your best plan may be to start training with the EMOM approach in mind to maximize your gym time.

EMOM, which was originally popularized in CrossFit circles, focuses on training “Every Minute On the Minute,” meaning that you start your number of reps at the beginning of every minute and you rest for the remainder of that minute. When the top of the next minute begins, you begin your reps again, and so on. Men’s Health explains the benefits of EMOM workouts — if you begin this routine with heavy weights at the start of the minute while giving your muscles a chance to relax for the rest of that minute, you’re creating an easy structure to follow that allows you to stave off early muscle tiredness and continue your reps for a longer period of time. You can also implement a steady increase of weight this way — you may start your 20 minutes of EMOM with a lower weight, and then after five or so minutes, start your sixth minute with a heavier weight to slowly increase your level of strength training with an adequate amount of time to rest in between.

While doing 25 reps continuously may make you feel like you’re doing more work than the EMOM approach, your quality of those reps may fail after the first 10 to 15, making you more prone to injury or improper form. Performing 5 to 10 reps EMOM with a heavier load can help you keep your form, strengthen your chosen muscle group effectively without potential injury, and work those muscles for a much longer length of time. The EMOM method may be the key to rapid fat loss and muscle build because you’ll be spending more time and energy on your chosen muscle group without getting hit with immediate fatigue.

A man lifting weights

A man lifting weights | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

EMOM is also extra effective for tracking your pacing and progression with your chosen exercise, weight, and number of reps. Box Life Magazine describes how easy it is to track your progress using this method because it’s all guided by the clock. Whether you’re working or resting depends on how far along you are in your minute, and by looking at what time you finish your reps within that minute, you can see if you completed the reps faster or slower than the previous minute.

You can even track this progress week to week — let’s say during your first week, you want to perform 10 lunges every minute on the minute in under 30 seconds, giving yourself another 30 seconds of rest before you begin again. If you find that you can perform these lunges in 20 seconds the following week, you can up your resistance and easily see your progression. You can even analyze your progress during your seconds before you start each new set — you think about your performance in the previous minute, including your pacing and your technique, to improve your next set.

While the EMOM approach for muscle building is most often performed using a small number of reps paired with maximum weight, you can also use EMOM for cardio benefits according to Raw Fitness Combine. If your focus is on cardio, aim to use a smaller weight with more reps at the start of each minute — this will give you less recovery time than using more weight with less reps, but you should still give yourself a bit of rest during the end of each minute so you don’t experience muscle fatigue. Also, don’t focus on one weight and the same set number of reps each day, no matter if you’re focusing on strength or cardio — aim to change up your routine every 45 to 60 days so your body does not get too used to the workout.

squats

A man doing squats | iStock.com

In case you’re a little unsure of how well the EMOM method is going to work for a solo workout journey, you can even consider trying it out with a friend — Boot Camp Ideas lists several ways you can incorporate EMOM into partner drills so you’re not in this new routine alone. The fifteen-minute partner ladder drill involves repeated push-ups, running 20 meters, and jump squats all within a minute’s time.

To start this move, you’ll be facing your partner — you will start at the push-up line, and your partner will start at the jump squat line. You’ll keep your reps to 15 per minute, starting with 14 push-ups, running 20 meters to the jump squat line, performing one jump squat, and resting for the rest of the minute. Your partner, who will begin with 14 jump squats and one push-up, will cross paths with you while you’re both running your 20 meters to the opposite line. At the start of each minute, you’ll decrease your number of push-ups by one and increase your number of jump squats by one — you’ll still be performing 15 reps per minute, but adjusting your activity during each minute. You will repeat this until you are doing 14 jump squats and one push-up, with your 20 meter run included during each minute, and your partner will end with 14 push-ups and one jump squat.

Using partner drills can be motivating, fun, and competitive — based on your skills, you can push each other to perform more reps in your set. Or, if you decide to pursue exercises that involve a weighted element and less cardio activity, you can push each other to increase that weight, or you can spot-check each other’s form.

deadlift

A man lifting weights | iStock.com

If solo exercising is more up your alley, Men’s Health outlines some great ways to get started performing EMOM exercises for both strength and cardio. Try performing dead lifts and front squats for 3 to 5 reps per minute with a heavy weight — this amount of time allows you to execute the exercise properly and still have some time left in your minute to relax and prepare for your next set. Or you can lighten up the weight and try performing sets of 2 to 3 reps (6 to 8 reps total) within your minute  — these sets will give you more opportunity to perform more reps in that minute with less time to rest, and you’ll gain strength over a longer period of time.

You can even try switching up your exercises every minute — try doing bicep curls on the odd minutes and squats with dumbbells on the evens. This will vary your EMOM routine and keep your heart rate high through your training. Or push it a bit further and circuit train — at the start of every minute, do a different exercise for 10 to 30 minutes with a few seconds of rest at the end of each minute to get a full-body workout that will both increase muscle mass and burn calories more effectively than other classic cardio routines.