“EMOM” stands for “every minute on the minute” and it’s when you begin a prescribed number of reps of an exercise at the top of a minute and then rest for whatever time you have left until the next top-of-minute. And it’s a powerful way to structure a workout that plays with your work-rest period in a dynamic way. “EMOMs are great because they keep the athlete focused and on track,” says Angela Salveo, personal trainer, CrossFit coach and co-owner of CrossFit Salus in Red Bank, NJ. “The structure also helps with pacing and tracking progress.” Here's everything you need to know about EMOM workouts.
EMOM workouts are usually short.
They're typically between 10 and 20 minutes long (though can be shorter or longer) and should be designed—by type of exercise and reps—to allow for some rest before the clock strikes the next minute. You can either do the same one exercise, which work on specific skills or strength, or alternate so you do one exercise on the odd minutes and another on the even, for conditioning effects.
Pacing is the point.
“It's not necessarily balls-to-the-wall for the entire time,” Salveo says. You want to be able to give your all to the “work” portion, and to do that, you’ll need some rest. What’s nice about the minute aspect is that you can also meter out some of that rest in between reps—particularly when you’re doing relatively few reps of heavy lifts or really involved full-body plyometrics moves—to ensure you’re keeping good form.
You can use EMOM for strength-training goals.
Because of the overall mental focus that EMOM schemes require, it’s particularly good to work on strength, either in one lift or with a few complimentary ones. For example, you could keep it simple and do three deadlifts at 75% of 1RM for 10 minutes. Or with another 10 minutes, do a single power clean + power jerk at 75% of your 1RM.
An EMOM session is a good way to test your strength, too. Try doing one front squat (or any lift you’re working on) at 50% 1RM and increase by 5% EMOM for long as you can with proper form.
Or, piggyback two EMOM sets together for this tough workout that Salveo designed. Do an 8-minute EMOM of 1 squat snatch at 85% 1RM. Rest 2 minutes then do a second 8-minute EMOM of 1 squat clean and jerk at 85% 1RM. You can also do this with back squats and weighted pullups.
EMOM schemes are also good for skill development.
As with heavy lifting, you can concentrate on improving your technique on trickier skills, such as muscle-ups, double-unders, or handstand walks for distance, says Salveo. You can keep it simple with a superset of a more dynamic skill with an isometric hold, like this 20-minute EMOM:
On the odd minutes, do a max-hold L-sit, and on the even minutes, do 40 double-unders.
For a great skills plus core work challenge, do a 20-minute EMOM circuiting four exercises (so you’ll be doing five rounds):
Minute 1, do 30 double unders (or 45 single unders)
Minute 2, do 3 strict muscle-ups (or 6 strict pullups)
Minute 3, do 10 handstand pushups (or 20 pushups)
Minute 4, do 15 toes-to-bar (or 20 knee-ups or straight-leg raises).
Or, target one skill, with the following for kipping pullups in this 12-minute EMOM. Complete your number of kipping pullups based on the max number of these pullups you can do without coming off the bar:
Minute 1 – 40% of max set reps
Minute 2 – 35% of max set reps
Minute 3 – 35% of max set reps
Minute 4 – Rest
You can get metabolic conditioning benefits from EMOM, too.
Like any interval scheme, EMOM workouts have periods of intensity and periods of recovery, making them a good choice to spark that post-exercise calorie burn everyone loves. For example, do a 12-minute EMOM where on the odd minutes, you row (or run or bike) for distance for 30 seconds (record your total meters), then do 15 wall balls on the even minutes.
Another great metabolic effort that mixes up strength and plyometrics. Do a 12-minute EMOM alternating deadlifts with box jumps (20” box): On the odd minutes, do 10 (minute 1) then 8 (minute 3) then 6 (etc.) then 4 then 2 then 1 deadlifts at ~50% of your 1RM. On the even minutes, do 30 seconds of max box jumps and rest 30 seconds.
For a real killer, try this 16-minute EMOM:
Minute 1, do max effort on a stationary bike
Minute 2, do 12 KB swings at 55 pounds
Minute 3, do max pushups
Minute 4, do 6 single-arm KB snatch at 55 pounds
You can use EMOM to track progress.
If you take good notes, basically any EMOM can show you how you’re improving on whatever goal you have. For example, say you’re working on squats. You do a 10-minute EMOM with 8 squats at 50% 1RM. At first, it takes you 45 seconds to complete each effort, leaving you 15 seconds to catch your breath. You do this workout once a week, and soon you’ll see that you finish it faster, or feel you could add more weight for a similar effort level to that first session. Now you can see how your squats are improving in a structured way.