If you are like I was two years ago, you are probably wondering what the heck is an EMOM. I remember walking into my first functional fitness class and standing at the board in a gaze, attempting to figure out what EMOM meant. It did not take me long to learn while I was huffing and puffing trying to finish the work in a minute before starting the next round at the top of the minute that EMOM meant I needed to complete a challenging amount of work every-minute-on-the-minute. Now, because of its benefits, I often program EMOMs or its variations into my training.
What are the Benefits of an EMOM
Work to Rest Ratio
An adequately designed EMOM will balance the appropriate amount of effort against the correct amount of rest, allowing for a sufficient amount of recovery to push through the next bout. This on and off again cycle trains the body to refuel the muscles energy stores quickly, which mimics the majority of functional activity we perform such as carrying groceries in from the car or playing a pick-up game of basketball.
Stay on Schedule
Before incorporating more CrossFit®, functional fitness, type of workouts into my training, the majority of my strength training centered around powerlifting. In powerlifting, you perform an exercise, like squats, across several sets consisting of a few reps. A long rest period of up to several minutes is programmed between the sets to maximize recovery. A single exercise can take upwards of thirty minutes to complete. With the natural pacing of an EMOM, it pushes you to work efficiently, allowing you to stay on schedule.
I often schedule a twenty-minute EMOM type strength piece into the beginning of my training session that focuses on one or two exercises. The running clock keeps me efficient and on schedule.
EMOM is a Form of HIIT
Performing a high-intensity routine every-minute-on-the-minute is a form of High-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT style workouts have shown to lower insulin resistance, boost metabolism, improve fat oxidation, increase cardiovascular disease, and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Many studies show HIIT as being a superior training method compared to long-distance cardio sessions, such as running.
I don’t know about you, but I am all for pushing hard for 10 minutes over running for hours.
EMOMs Allow for Skill Training
Is there a movement that you feel you need to improve upon your technique or increase your capacity? EMOMs are an excellent way to get in the number of repetitions that will make you a master at any movement. When you do five or ten perfect repetitions every-minute-on-the-minute, you can rack up a lot of work quickly. They are also an excellent method to build up your work capacity of a particular movement such as squat cleans. You can monitor your progress by adding repetitions within the minute. As an example, you can start with three reps every-minute-on-the-minute this week and increase it to four next week and so on. This will improve your work capacity over time.
There are Different Types of EMOMs
EMOM Variations (E2MOM, E3MOM, E4MOM, …)
With pacing being the primary purpose of an EMOM, variations are created by adjusting the number of reps for a given exercise or adjusting the time provided to complete a set amount of work.
When the amount of time is adjusted, it is usually noted by the second character, so that an E2MOM is equivalent to every-2-minutes-on-the minute and E3MOM is the same as every-3-minutes-on-the-minute. The workload needs to be designed to occupy enough of the time to elicit the desired effect while giving you enough time to recover to perform the next set.
The EMOM should be designed according to the desired training outcome by adjusting the work-to-rest ratio. The following examples demonstrate how to program an EMOM for the desired result, and a web search will result in many different EMOMs workouts.
Alactic System (power and explosiveness)
Reps: 1 to 2
Work-to-Rest: 1:50 – 1:100
% of Max Intensity: 95 to 100%
1 x 98% Squat Clean and Jerk
The purpose of this workout is to expend the immediate stores of energy in the muscles by performing a near max lift while giving enough time for the muscles to fully recover with close to a 1 to 50 work-rest-ratio.
Lactic System (power short)
Reps: 6 to 10 res
Work-to-Rest: 1:5 – 1:20
% of Max Intensity: 80 to 100%
3 x 90% Power Cleans
3 x Box Jumps 30″/24″
The purpose of this workout is to train the lactic power system by increasing the number of reps and shortening the rest duration to an approximate 1 to 5 work-rest-ratio across two exercises.
Work-to-Rest: 1:0.3 – 1:1
% of Max Intensity: 80 to 90%
30 x Air Squats
The purpose of this workout is to improve your body’s ability to cope with lactic acid, the pain that you feel during an exercise that makes you want to stop, by decreasing the amount of recovery time with an approximate 30-second rest period.
Just like all other EMOMs, the alternating EMOM incorporates a period of work with a period of rest, but the alternating EMOM does this by changing exercises within each work period. This allows for extra recovery time for the muscles used during one task.
An example of an alternating EMOM would be:
20 x Air Squats on the even Minutes
10 x Push-ups on the odd minutes
In this workout, each movement utilizes distinct muscle groups, allowing for recovery while keeping your heart rate high.
Death by Cardio
Death by Cardio is a specific alternating EMOM that we do a couple of times a year to test our anaerobic threshold. The workout is designed in such a way that it moves from positive work-to-rest ratio to a negative by increasing the workload in each round.
Reps: start at 10 calories and increase by 1 calorie per round on each exercise until you reach 20 calories.
1st Minute: Assault Bike
2nd MInute: C2 Rower
3rd Minute: Air Runner or Ski Erg
4th Minute: Rest
This is an 11 round workout and takes 43 minutes to complete. If you cannot sustain the calories on a particular exercise, reduce your last successful calorie count by two and hold for the remaining rounds.
If the calories are too high or too low, you can change the starting calorie count.
As you can tell, the EMOM method of training is an effective way to design a workout. It can be incorporated for strength training as well as for cardio conditioning. It helps you stay on schedule, improve your skill level at specific movements, and helps set a pace to achieve the proper work-to-rest ratios. Because of these benefits, I often program EMOMs into my daily workouts.
I'm a has-been high school athlete who now enjoys CrossFit, baseball, and other athletic activities. As a profession, I design software, and I create the majority of I.M.s content. I do it for the fun of it, but I hope it helps others pursue fitness.