EMOM Workouts Can Really Up Your Training—Here Are 2 Trainer-Approved Routines to Try
EMOM workouts are simple to follow—but they'll still make you sweat.
The fitness world is chock-full of acronyms—from PR (personal record) to AMRAP (as many reps as possible) to WOD (workout of the day)— and if you're not familiar with these terms, a trip to the gym can feel a little (or a lot) like visiting a foreign country.
Fret not, though: We're here to demystify one of those terms with help from the experts. Here, we've got everything you need to know about EMOM, a simple yet effective fitness method that you may just want to add to your routine.
What is an EMOM workout, anyway?
EMOM stands for 'every minute on the minute.' An EMOM workout goes like this: You pick an exercise (or exercises) and perform it for a certain number of reps or period of time that's one minute or less. If you finish your designated exercises before a minute has passed, you simply rest until the next minute rolls around. Then, you repeat that pattern every minute for a specific time, and voila—you've got yourself a workout.
Because EMOM is a pretty open-ended format, there are a lot of different ways it can be wielded. You can use EMOM workouts to build cardio, strength, mobility, or a combination of all three skills. In terms of intensity, EMOMs are typically used in a high-intensity style where the goal is to work as hard as you can before resting for the remainder of the minute. That said, EMOMs don't have to be super challenging. You can also use them for gentle routines, such as a warm-up or cooldown. It all depends on your fitness level and goals.
What are the benefits of an EMOM workout?
There are several big benefits to EMOM workouts. For starters, EMOMs are simple and efficient, making them ideal for those days when you want to get in a good workout but don't have the time or energy for a long, complicated routine. They're also very scalable to different fitness levels—beginners can find an appropriately challenging workout in EMOMs and so can advanced athletes. In fact, most anyone who is safe to exercise can find an EMOM workout that's right for them.
Moreover, if you do EMOMs in a high-intensity style, you'll likely elevate your heart rate quickly and get a really efficient workout. "From a physiological standpoint, the benefits are similar to high-intensity training," exercise physiologist Yuri Feito, PhD, MPH, ACSM-CEP, education and professional development strategist at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), tells Health. (Note: Feito is not an ACSM spokesperson.) These benefits depend on what, exactly, your EMOM workout looks like, but could include improved aerobic capacity, neurological adaptations, increased muscular strength, and better muscular endurance, to name a few.
EMOMs can be great for anyone, so long as they don't have any injuries and are cleared for exercise by their doctor. But athletes, in particular, may benefit from high-intensity style EMOMs, Erin Derrick, ACE-certified personal trainer and founder of iAm Fit in Charlotte, North Carolina, tells Health. That's because the format of performing short bursts of max-effort work interspersed with brief periods of rest can mimic the intensity of sports and thus better prepare athletes for the demands of competition.
All that said, EMOMs are just one style of interval training. And while there are certainly benefits to interval training in general, there's no evidence that says EMOMs are the best type of interval training, Feito points out. So if EMOMs really aren't your jam, that's okay. There are plenty of other styles—like Tabata and AMRAP, for example—that provide similar benefits.
Remember: When it comes to working out, the "best" exercise program for you is the one you're most likely to enjoy and do consistently.
How to do an EMOM workout safely
The open-ended format of EMOMs can be beneficial, but also kind of intimidating. Here are Feito and Derrick's beginner tips for making an EMOM workout both safe and effective.
1. Keep it simple
The beauty of EMOMs is in their simplicity, so don't complicate things by choosing an uber complex series of exercises. "You don't want to have this five-movement curl-press-tricep extension combo and then be so caught up in what's next that you don't even know what rep you're on," says Derrick. Instead, focus on basic movements that you know you can perform well. Squats, lunges, and planks could be a good place to start.
2. Start short
There's no ideal length of time for an EMOM workout—"any time is better than none," says Feito—but 10 minutes can be a good, non-intimidating place to begin that will still give you solid health benefits.
3. Make sure your form is solid
If you're doing EMOMs with a certain number of reps, it can be tempting to tear through them so that you maximize your rest time before the minute is up. But don't let speed get in the way of good technique. "Form always is first," says Derrick. "It is better to slow it down and make sure you're doing it correctly." One wrong tweak of the back could sideline you for weeks with no exercise whatsoever—and no one wants that.
4. Build in rest periods
EMOM newbies should ease into their workouts by making sure they are resting more than they are working, advises Feito. For example, you may do an EMOM where it's 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 40 seconds of rest. Or 15 seconds of planking followed by 45 seconds of rest. This slow-and-steady approach reduces the chances of muscular soreness and decreases injury risk, says Feito. As your fitness improves over time, he adds, you can adjust the work-to-rest ratio so that you are working more than you are resting.
What are some EMOM workout ideas?
Need some EMOM inspo? Try these workouts from Derrick. You can do them at home with just your body weight. First, do a brief three to five-minute warm-up (think: dynamic stretches or jogging in place) so that you don't start with cold muscles.
24-minute core-focused EMOM workout
Do the following circuit of six exercises four times through. Aim to complete the prescribed reps for each exercise within 1 minute. If you finish the designated number of reps before the minute is up, rest for the remainder of the minute. Rest 30 seconds once all exercises have been completed.
- V-up (20 reps): Lay on your back with arms extended overhead, legs extended in front. This is the starting position. Brace your core as you simultaneously raise your torso and legs off the ground (you'll be in the shape of a banana). Reach your arms and legs towards each other, keeping them straight. Pause when your body forms a V, then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep.
- Oblique crunch (30 reps): Lie on your right side with right arm bent, resting underneath your head; and left arm bent, cupping your head from behind. Legs are extended straight with left leg stacked on top of the right. This is the starting position. From here, engage your core to bring your left elbow and knee towards each other. Pause when your elbow and knee touch, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep. Do 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
- Plank front reach (20 reps): Get into a forearm plank with shoulders over elbows, feet hip-width apart, and core, glutes, and quads engaged. Your body should form one long, straight line from your head to your ankles. This is the starting position. From here, reach your right hand forward as far as possible and tap the ground, then return to the starting position. Aim to keep your hips in line with each other and restrict any dipping from side to side as you reach one arm forward. Repeat with your left hand. That's 1 rep.
- Reverse crunches (30 reps): Lie on your back with hands under your butt, core engaged, and legs extended out with feet hovering about a foot above the ground. This is the starting position. Slowly pull your knees into your chest as you crunch your abs. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep.
- Plank seesaw (30 reps): Get into a forearm plank with shoulders over elbows, feet hip-width apart, and core, glutes, and quads engaged. Your body should form one long, straight line from your head to your ankles. From here, press through your forearms to rock your body weight forward several inches, so that your shoulder move in front of your elbows. Pause, then rock your bodyweight backward several inches. That's 1 rep.
- Hollow body rock (20 reps): Sit on your butt with heels on the ground, arms raised overhead. From here, lift your legs off the ground several inches and extend them straight as you lean back and balance on your butt and the small of your back. Brace your core. From here, gently rock your body weight forward and then backward, keeping your arms and legs straight and lifted off the ground. That's 1 rep.
24-minute bodyweight EMOM workout
Do the following circuit of four exercises six times through. Complete the prescribed number of reps within 1 minute. If you finish the designated number of reps before the minute is up, rest for the remainder of the minute. Try not to rest in between rounds (though of course take breaks if you need to).
- Narrow to wide squat (15 reps): Stand tall with your feet less than hip-width apart. Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat; stop lowering when your knees form 90-degree angles. Pause, then press through your heels to return to standing. Then, jump or step your feet wider than hip-distance apart, toes pointed slightly out. Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat; stop lowering when your knees form 90-degree angles. Pause, then press through your heels to return to standing. That's 1 rep.
- Tricep dip (20 reps): Sit on your butt with your knees bent, feet on the ground. Arms are positioned shoulder-width apart several inches behind your butt, fingers are pointing toward your butt, and elbows are bent and pointing behind you. Press through your palms to straighten your arms and lift your butt off the ground. This is the starting position. From here, slowly bend your elbows until your butt is one inch from the ground; pause, then slowly straighten your elbows to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep.
- Curtsy lunge (30 reps): Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, hands clasped in front of your chest. Step your right foot back and across to the left as you bend both knees and sink down into a lunge. Right toes are on the ground, right heel is lifted; pause when your legs form 90 degree angles. Press through your left heel to reverse the movement and return to the starting position. That's 1 rep. Do 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
- Pike push-up (20 reps): Get into a high plank position with shoulders over wrists, feet hip-width apart, and core braced. Press your hips up and back to get into pike position. Heels will be lifted off the ground and shoulders will be several inches behind your wrists. From here, bend your elbows to lower your forehead down to the floor near your fingertips. Stop lowering when your arms form 90 degree angles; pause, then press through your palms to reverse the movement. That's 1 rep.
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