EMOM Training - A smarter way to train

If you’re wondering what the ‘EMOM’ in EMOM Training means, - no, it does not stand for Electronic Mom. It stands for Every Minute On The Minute training - and depending on the context in which it’s used, it might be one of the most time-efficient methods of High Intensity interval training out there.

I first experienced the power of EMOM training from Crossfit. It’s a technique used often and provides some good structure, which is sometimes lacking from Crossfit Programming. Some might say it forms part of functional training, but “functional training” is a term that get’s bandied about far too much these days and hearing it elicits a bit of cringe response.

EMOM training is really just a method of organizing your workload and rest periods into pre-defined intervals, in this case a minute. 

“Every Minute on the minute" is a creative way to end gym boredom and train your entire body, ” says Javier Lee, a performance enhancement specialist and fitness director at UFC Gym in Soho.

In 20 minutes it will allow you to get in a solid amount of work, and if you use this protocol 3-5 times a week you’ll definitely build a leaner, meaner and more muscular frame. It’s perfect for the time crunched.

How do you do EMOM Training?

Essentially, the way an EMOM works is you’ll set a running clock, and at the beginning of the first minute do the specified number of repetitions for the chosen exercise. Once you have completed the reps, you rest the remainder of the minute. 

When minute 2 hits, you do the specified number of reps again and recover the remainder of the minute, continuing in this manner for however long the EMOM is programmed. A 10-minute EMOM would have 10 sets of exercise, a 15-minute EMOM, 15 sets and so on.

You could do it by just doing the same exercise for the entire EMOM, for example 10 push-ups on the minute, every minute for 10-minutes.

…..Or you could add multiple exercises that alternate each minute, for example 2 exercises - every odd minute you do pull-ups and every even minute you do squats. You could even rotate through a series of exercises.

Hint: Instead of just using a running clock, there are several EMOM Training Apps now available that will beep every minute, so that you don’t have to constantly be watching the clock.

EMOM training can be used effectively for fat-loss, conditioning, endurance and even strength-building, you just have to tune some of the parameters depending on your goals.

EMOM Training for Fat-loss:

Your goal here is to burn as many calories as possible and elicit as much of an Afterburn effect as possible (read more about the Afterburn effect here.) You goal is to work hard for 40-45 seconds of the minute, giving yourself 15-20 seconds of recovery before working again. 

The first few rounds might not feel too difficult, but as the fatigue ‘stacks’ it can become hard, very quickly. You’ll want to go at about a 7-8/10 on the intensity scale, if you have to go above that then reduce the number of reps or weight for the exercise, its important to ensure you get that 15-20 seconds of rest each round and that you hit a consistent number of reps each round.

Once you can maintain a consistent number of reps each round, hitting the specified number, you can increase the number the next time you do the workout and work at hitting that new number. You’re now doing more work in less time and your body has to enact changes to make that possible (see where I’m going with this…)

One last point on using EMOM Training for fat-loss – we’re trying to elicit a large metabolic effect, so you’ll want to create the workout using exercises that engage your whole body and large muscle groups.

Burpees, Squats, Power Cleans, Sprints, Mountain climbers etc are your friend. 

Curls, tricep extensions and any other isolation movements are best avoided.

An example of a good EMOM Workout for fat-loss:

Do 2 x 10-minute EMOMs with 90-seconds of rest between.

First EMOM:

Odd Minutes: 14 burpees

Even Minutes: 20 Kettlebell swings

--90s rest

Second EMOM:

Odd Minutes: 14 Push-ups

Even Minutes: 14 Kettlebell thruster (7 each arm)

Scale reps and weight of kettlebell so that you are working for no longer than 45 seconds each round. If you are a beginner, start by halving the reps mentioned here.

EMOM Training for strength:

The first and most important thing when doing any kind of strength training (aside from safety of course) is knowing your 1-Rep maxes and percentages for your various exercises. Without knowing these numbers it is hard to choose the correct weights and reps and ensure linear progression.

If you already know about 1-Rep Maxes then skip this part..

How to Determine your 1 Repetition Maximum (1RM)

Your 1RM is the greatest amount of weight you can lift ONCE for a given exercise, using maximum effort.  

If you are not a very experienced trainer, this can be a little dangerous, so a better way to do it, is to pick a weight you think you can handle for about 8-10 reps (this will require a bit of experimentation and trial and error.)  

When you are fully rested, take that weight and perform as many repetitions as you possibly can, using maximum effort. If it is above 10, select a heavier weight, rest and then repeat again (this test doesn’t work too well with reps higher than 10). 

After you have found the appropriate weight and determined the maximum number of repetitions you can perform with it, you put those values (the weight and repetitions) into the Epley Formula:

1RM = ((w.r)/30) + w

Where w is the weight used and r is the number of repetitions performed.

The formula works best if the reps are close to 10. The margin of error increases the further you move away from 10.

There are other formulas that are perhaps more robust and accurate, but they require a greater degree of mathematical ability, so I will stick to the simplest one. If you would like to make use of other formulas or use a 1 rep max calculator, you can go here.

To provide you with an example, let’s say I could do the bench press with 120lbs for 10 reps.

I’d then put these values into the formula to give:

1RM = ((w.r)/30) + w

1RM = ((120 x 10)/30) + 120

1RM = 160lbs

What that means is that the maximum amount of weight I can use for 1 repetition of the bench press with is 160lbs.

If a workout called for me to use 80% of my 1RM for 6 reps, the math is then rather simple 160lbs x 0.8 = 128lbs.

This approach is far superior to just guessing weights or going with what "feels right" on the day. Long-term progress is made by sticking to your percentages.

Simple EMOM Template for Strength:

There’s a fairly simple template I like to use when doing EMOM workouts for strength. 

It’s three 3-minute rounds, with a 3-minute break in between each round. 

Minutes 1-3 (warm up): Increase weight each round until you work up to 75% of your 1-RM for about.

Minutes 4-7: Remain at 75%, doing 5 reps every minute on the minute

Minutes 8-10: 85% of your 1-RM for 3-reps every minute on the minute.

Once, you’ve established this baseline and are able to consistently hit those percentages for at least 2 workouts in a row, then add another percentage point or two to your loads. Working your way up. Re-test your 1-RM every couple of weeks to establish new percentages and a new baseline.

An example of a good EMOM Workout for Strength:

The template above-can be applied to just about any exercise, but as always it’s best to stick to the big compound lifts if you want the most bang for your buck (Deadlifts, Squats, Rows, Presses.)

The same template can even be modified for bodyweight movements, with the exception that you’ll do those percentages with your max number of reps instead of weight for a given exercise.

This will however only work if your max number for a given exercise is less than 15. So if you can do 50 push-ups in a row, this will not work, you’ll need to apply it to a more difficult version like archer-push-ups or 1-arm push-ups where your max number is below 15 – I’m sure you get the picture.

Here’s an example of me doing an EMOM workout with Shoulder Press.

Implementing EMOM workouts into your training:

It’s my view that every session should ideally have a strength component followed by a conditioning component if you want to be well-rounded. 

If you’re looking to get stronger, add the EMOM strength component to your existing routine. Choose 3-5 core exercises and rotate through them one workout to the next, using the EMOM strength training template.

Or if you’re looking to bump-up your fat-loss and conditioning, add the EMOM for fat-loss and conditioning protocol to the end of your existing workout routine.

The best of all though would be to adopt EMOM training as one of your core training methods. Starting your session off with an EMOM Strength component, then followed by the fat-loss conditioning component.

If you’re smart about it, you could hit both of these hard and be in and out of the gym in around 30-minutes or less. It really is one of the best ways to train for those who are time-crunched.

Final Key Points on EMOM Training:

1.   Always make sure you’re properly warmed up before you begin your main EMOM workout. Get your heart rate up slightly and run through some stretching and mobility drills. You could even design a “warm-up EMOM” to prepare you for your main one.

2.   Never work for more than 45 seconds in a minute. When doing EMOMs for strength, you’ll want even more rest each round.

3.   Stay at about 7-8 out of 10 on the intensity scale, fatigue starts to stack and things get ugly quickly – the first few rounds are supposed to be fairly easy.

4.   Choose big compound moves, that target large muscle groups (Burpees, Squats, Deadlifts, Sprints, Cleans etc.) This is not a very effective protocol if you’re using squirmy little isolation exercises.

PS - if you liked this, be sure to leave your comments below



Article by: Bryan Hamann.

Bryan is a formar personal trainer, certified bootcamp instructor, Ironman Triathlete and author of THE PRISON WORKOUT.

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