With its quasi-religious devotees, training facilities called “boxes,” and workouts everyone knows on a first-name basis, CrossFit may feel like another world to an outsider looking in. “Do this exercise AMRAP, that one EMOM!” WTH?
Here is a handy CrossFit-to-English translation of those two terms, which really just boil down to simple, high-intensity techniques that can be used by anyone — yes, anyone — to squeeze maximum endurance-building, calorie-burning results out of a workout.
This acronym stands for “as many reps (or rounds) as possible” — meaning either that you go until you cannot eke out another rep without compromising your form, or you perform as many rounds of a move sequence as possible within an allotted timeframe. It’s popular in CrossFit ranks thanks to its brutal efficiency, according to Heather Farmer, a New York–based personal trainer, fitness coach, CrossFit group class instructor and national Olympic weightlifting competitor (63-kilogram women’s class).
“When I first started CrossFit, I’d been training at my college gym for hours each day, doing a mix of cardio and bodybuilding,” Farmer recalls. “Then I tried a CrossFit workout. I got my ass kicked on day one by a 10-minute AMRAP of rows, burpees and box jumps. Then I knew I’d never be satisfied dredging through another globo gym routine again.”
There are a number of physical and mental benefits of tackling an exercise AMRAP-style, most notably fat burning. “From a maximal exertion standpoint, there is a productive overload effect on the body versus doing standard sets of a specific number of reps at a relaxed pace,” says Farmer. “AMRAP also helps develop your tenacity: Once you feel your mental ‘switch’ flip about a third of the way through, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Doing an AMRAP allows you to redline, pushing yourself to your limits.”
AMRAP As a Benchmark
Want to gauge your fitness progress? AMRAP is a great method. “Although typically AMRAP is viewed as being more endurance-based, it can be a good tracking test for a single exercise,” says Farmer. “For example, see how many push-ups or back squats you can do in one minute, or how many calories you can row. Keep track and see how those numbers rise over time.”
It also makes for a useful strength endurance test. “In CrossFit, the name of the game is being able to maintain a high, consistent work output over time,” says Farmer. “As a broad example, if Person A has a 5:50-mile time and Person B 6:30, yet Person B can hold a 6:50 pace over five miles and Person A falls to an average pace of 7:00 after mile one, B is the winner.”
This acronym, short for “every minute on the minute,” is an interval-style conditioning approach in which you begin an exercise or sequence of exercises at the top of every minute, and repeat that pattern for a given amount of time. For instance, a 10-minute 20 push-up EMOM: You’d do 20 push-ups starting at the top of the first minute, then rest upon completion of that 20th rep for the remaining time, then at the top of the next minute you’d again do 20 push-ups and so on for total of 10 minutes. This technique makes a workout more intense by squeezing more work into less time while also removing any possibility of dilly-dallying between sets.
“An EMOM helps increase your overall muscular endurance by establishing a stable work pace with a moderately challenging load,” Farmer says. “You develop the power of quick recovery, and even a 10- or 20-second break to breathe helps you recover a lot of energy.”
Ultimately, EMOMs are great training for determination and drive. “When you’re on round six of 10 and don’t think you’ll possibly be able to get through the next four rounds, suddenly the timer dings and you just keep going,” says Farmer. “Soon, you realize, ‘Hey, I can do this.’”
Combine and Conquer
AMRAP and EMOM protocols can be used with any type of workout and are compatible with both resistance and bodyweight exercises. Position them in the heart of a routine or at the end as an effective finisher, but fair warning: You may never go back to the straight-and-narrow style of traditional training.
Full-Body Calorie Meltdown
This advanced workout, designed by trainer and Olympic lifting competitor Heather Farmer, combines the benefits of AMRAP and EMOM with a range of heavy-duty functional movements. After completing your warm-up, do the 10-minute barbell EMOM, followed by a superset of squats and pull-ups, then to wrap things up, do a seven-minute AMRAP. All told, you should be done — mentally and physically — in about 20 to 25 minutes.