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EMOM Workouts: A Fun Way to Activate Your Fat-Burning Potential

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EMOM workouts - Dr. Axe

“What are EMOM workouts?” I shouted to my husband, who was lifting weights with headphones on.

“Huh?” he yelled back.

“An EMOM?”

“Oh. I think it’s a religious leader in a Muslim community,” he answered.

Greg clearly was not hearing hearing me correctly over his heavy metal, but he did accurately define an “imam.”

I gave a little chuckle. As a seasoned fitness trainer of 20-plus years, he certainly knows the definition of an EMOM workout — including EMOM workouts for fat-loss success. And the timing to talk about this couldn’t be better. A March 2021 study suggests that the average American gained a half pound every 10 days over the last year. If you’re one of the many people who gained 20-plus pounds recently, it’s time to turn the tides and focus on sustainable, safe and FUN workouts that target fat. Enter the EMOM … including options for beginners, weightlifters, cyclists, kids, runners and more.

Let’s take a closer look at how this workout style can work for you.

What Is an EMOM Workout?

EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute.” A highly customized interval workout style made popular by CrossFit, the idea is that a person completes a certain amount of reps of a particular exercise within each 60-second period.

It’s important to note, though, that recovery time should be built in to EMOMs, so you shouldn’t be working the full minute. (If you are, that’s a sign your EMOM workout needs to be dialed back a bit.)

“EMOM or every minute on the minute is a form of interval training in which the exerciser performs a task or exercise when the clock starts at the top of each minute,” explains Prentiss Rhodes, a certified personal trainer and master trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

The idea is you complete the exercise in about 45 seconds or so, with at least 15 seconds of rest time before the next minute starts.

These interval workouts can be endurance-based, strength-based or a mix of both. You can incorporate weights or exercise bands or complete an entire EMOM workout using bodyweight exercises.

A more cardio-based EMOM includes very light weights or no weights and higher reps, while a more strength-based EMOM includes heavier weights and fewer reps.

In short, these highly customizable EMOM workouts are a dynamic way to tinker with your work-rest ratio while introducing a fun, time-based twist to freshen up your workout routine and keep you focused.

For example, an EMOM workout could be as simple as this:

  • Hit “Start” on a timer.
  • When the first minute begins, complete a specific, pre-determined number of reps within that minute (for instance, 10 pushups, 12 squats or 10 bent-over rows, etc.).
  • When you complete the prescribed number of reps, you have the rest of the minute “off” to rest.
  • At the top of the next minute, you begin that exercise again, aiming to hit the number of reps and resting for the rest of the minute when you do.

“This type of training can help the exerciser with several different adaptations,” explains Rhodes. “If one does a high-intensity resistance interval from 1 to 5 repetitions EMOM, you could potentially train the body to have a burst of high-end strength over a long period of time while potentially minimizing fatigue.”

Rhodes adds that this is useful for athletes in combat sports, such as MMA, when you may need a burst to secure a takedown, or for gridiron sports like American football and rugby.

Thankfully, the EMOM concept isn’t only for elite athletes.

Because EMOMs combine high-intensity bursts with shorter periods of rest, they prime the body for fat burning that will last even after the workout.

And although the EMOM concept may seem new, Rhodes notes that Gosta Holmer developed a type of interval training in the 1930s, now known as Fartlek training, which was used to concurrently develop both the speed and endurance of Swedish cross-country athletes.

“Researchers such as Dr. Izumi Tabata and Professor Martin Gibala, along with other professors, have extensively researched the benefits of interval training and have written several popular interval training protocols, while groups such as CrossFit really popularized the concept of interval training for the general population since the late 1990s.”

EMOM is a type of high-intensity interval training and puts a fun twist on HIIT workouts. With EMOM workouts for fat loss, endurance and/or strength, you’ll be watching the clock — but not because you’re bored!

Best Candidates

Whether you’re looking for EMOM workouts with no equipment, bodyweight EMOM workouts, full-body EMOM workouts or EMOM workouts with dumbbells and weights, there are a few important things to consider, according to Rhodes. “Interval training may be used for any exerciser, but you want to consider a couple of points…”

  • Make sure you’re healthy; this includes muscle, joint and cardiovascular health.
  • Make sure you understand the exercise technique.
  • Make sure you can perform the exercise under control and with a full, pain-free range of motion. (This means you practice it outside of EMOM sessions to master the movement.)
  • Make sure you’re hitting the appropriate volume and intensity. Hiring a certified trainer or taking classes with a certified trainer makes this part easier.
  • Don’t overcomplicate it. “The name of the game should be success for the trainee, and it should be fun,” Rhodes adds.
  • Keep the repetitions, exercise progressions and the duration of the EMOM workout manageable so the trainee can complete the workout.

Benefits

  • Highly customizable
  • Affordable — no equipment or gym membership or subscription necessary
  • Generally shorter workouts between 10 and 20 minutes (they can be even shorter!)
  • Induces body’s fat-burning capacity

How to Build Your Own

What I love about EMOM workouts is the flexibility in building a training session. An EMOM can be squeezed into any part of your day, and you can constantly switch it up so you remain excited about your workouts.

Remove the guesswork. 

So how many reps should you plan for each minute? Well, it depends.

If you can easily do 30 pushups in a minute (hello, overachiever!) you’d want to knock that down to maybe 7 or 8 for an easier EMOM interval that would last less than 15 seconds).

“Now, when you train, it is your goal to do 7 to 8 reps every minute on the minute for the desired time, in this case, 12 minutes,” Rhodes says.

Note: If you hit failure, knock a couple of reps off of your cadence and resume with the new number on the following workout, Rhodes suggests.

Adjust for heavier weights. 

Remember, you can do resistance training in EMOM format, too. If you’re doing exercises with a barbell or heavy kettlebells, pick a weight you cold do for 10 to 12 reps, but start out with a single rep every minute minute on the minute for 10 to 12 minutes. (Note: Heavier weights are for people who have already been weight training for some time.)

Get on board with customization. 

Here are some ways you can customize an EMOM:

  • Instead of reps, you can also work timed EMOMs into the mix. For instance, 20 seconds of mountain climbers or jumping jacks on odd minutes, with a 40-second recovery. Exercises like jump rope and farmer’s walks also work well using timing instead of reps. “These would be time-based activities to 10- to 45-second EMOM sets,” Rhodes says.
  • You can do one specific exercise every minute on the minute, or mix it up into more of a circuit. Example: Minute 1: Pushups; Minute 2: Bent-over rows; Minute 3: 20-second wall squat or 10 squats (And repeat this three times.)
  • Regardless of the EMOM mashup you create, make sure that you’re getting at least 15 seconds of recovery each minute.

Keep it simple.

Avoid the temptation to add a bunch of exercises to your workout. If you’ve got 15 minutes, focus on a 3-exercise circuit to repeat 5 times.

EMOM workouts are often about 10 or 15 minutes. But you can even try mini EMOM sessions throughout the day to trigger your body’s fat-burning potential and improve your mobility.

For instance, when I work with middle school kids in an after-school program focused on gardening, we always start with a 3-minute EMOM just to get the blood pumping and our bodies warmed up.

The first time I walked through the doors and told them we’d be doing a mini workout, I was greeted with a lot of whines and sad faces. Now, though, they actually ask for an EMOM and even bring their own ideas.

Here is an example of a super quick, 3-minute EMOM for students, desk workers or anyone who wants to sneak in quick bursts of fitness throughout the day:

  • Minute 1: 15 jumping jacks
  • Minute 2: 10 standing crunches
  • Minute 3: 20 air punches or air shoulder presses (AKA “raise the roofs”)

For a More Cardiovascular Effect…

Alternatively, you can do exercises for a longer time or for more repetitions every minute on the minute and create a cardiovascular exercise-type effect, Rhodes notes.

Here’s an example of this type of EMOM workout to perform for 12 to 20 minutes:

  • Odd minutes: 20 seconds of mountain climbers
  • Even minutes: 5 pushups

EMOM Workouts

If your’e taking in this info and now wondering, “How do I make an EMOM workout,” have no fear. We’re here to help.

#1. Beginner-Friendly, Circuit-Style EMOM

This is one example, but it’s highly customizable to your current fitness and mobility needs. Swap exercises, and use modifications as needed to make it work for you.

  • Minute 1: 10 squats
  • Minute 2: 7 pushups (you can do push ups on a wall or on the floor with your knees down as modifications)
  • Minute 3: 15 seconds mountain climbers (modify by doing standing mountain climbers or mountain climbers with your hands on an elevated surface)

Continue for the desired time and number of sets.

#2. Kettlebell Swing + Pushup Workout

This one (and No. 3 below) are a bit more advanced for folks who are already working with weightlifting and kettlebells.

  • Odd minutes – 10 kettlebells swings
  • Even minutes – 10 pushups
  • Hard day: 30 minutes
  • Medium day: 20 minutes
  • Easy day: 12 minutes

#3. Barbell Complex Workout – EMOM

Perform one clean and press, one front squat and one row every minute on the minute.

  • Hard day: 20 minutes
  • Medium day: 12 minutes
  • Easy day: 8 minutes

#4. Varied Intensity Interval – EMOM

  • Minute 1: Renegade Row, 3 per side
  • Minute 2: Mountain Climber x 20 seconds
  • Minute 3: Kettlebell Clean and Press x 5 reps
  • Minute 4: Mountain Climber x 10 seconds (at a bit of a harder pace than minute 2)
  • Minute 5: Air Squats x 20

Rest 2 minutes then repeat 2 to 3 sets.

#5. Running or Cycling EMOM

Step 1: Do your warm-up, mobility and light core exercises.

Step 2: Take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up in zone 1 (you should be able to talk).

Step 3: Take another 5 minutes and increase the intensity to zone 2 (talking should be difficult).

Step 4: EMOM for 10 minutes – pick your variables.

This can be time (for instance, 10-20 seconds), incline, resistance level or speed); aim for vigorous activity here that leaves you short of breath, but you can still get a sentence out.

Go for your desired variable (for instance, 15 secs at 200 RPM while cycling or a certain speed if running on a treadmill); recover for 45 seconds at a very easy pace.

Step 5: 5-minute cool down at an easy pace.

Final Thoughts

  • EMOM stands for every minute on the minute, and it’s a highly customizable, interval-style workout that fuels fat burn.
  • It’s an interval-style of training made popular by CrossFit.
  • An EMOM involves starting a timer and performing a predetermined number of reps of a particular exercise before the minute ends. Whatever time you have left is your rest period.
  • Aim to get at least 15 seconds of rest within every minute.
  • You can focus on endurance, strength or both when creating an EMOM workout.
  • Before starting an EMOM workout, make sure you can correctly perform the included exercises in a full, pain-free range of motion.
Josh Axe

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