Updated: Feb 18
AMRAP, if you didn’t already know, is an abbreviation for the training methodology of completing As Many Repetitions As Possible in a given time period. Of all the training methodologies available to us – EMOM, HIIT, Tabata, etc., etc. – AMRAP is by far the simplest.
However, don’t let its low IQ dampen your desire to get more AMRAP in your regime. For what it lacks in sophistication it more than makes up in physical might.
So what is it?
If you’re still left scratching your head after that rather ambiguous introduction, AMRAP, at its essence, is where we attempt to complete as many reps as physically possible within a pre-specified time period.
So, after participating in a whole-body cardiovascular-based warm-up, you would select an exercise (need exercise ideas?), set a countdown timer (see products below) and away you go how many reps you achieve nobody knows!
Why should I do it?
Because AMRAPing is the ultimate in overload, and because it’s all about volume, it maximises muscular stimulation. This form of high intensity training, assuming that you adequately rest and replenish post session, is a fast track to physiological adaptation which ultimately results in hypertrophy – aka: gains!
Another reason why you should make room in your regime for AMRAP sessions is because they send productivity skyrocketing. Seriously, if you’re one of those ‘fitness enthusiasts’ who thinks that a couple sets of biceps and triceps constitutes as fitness training, you’ll quickly realise after one AMRAP session that you’ve not only been wasting your time all these years but also missing out on some quality keep fit.
In short, when AMRAPing you get a lot done in a short space of time.
How long should an AMRAP session last?
How long’s a piece of string? Yeah, right back at you!
Listen, you can AMRAP for as little as minute or you can do a Forest Gump and keep going until you’ve got a toe-touching Socratic beard and a herd of mindless minions treading your every footstep. ‘Ok smartarse,’ you’re probably thinking (if you’re still with me), ‘I’ll rephrase my question. Is there a standard length of time trainers usually AMRAP for?’
Not that I’m aware of. However, 10 minutes seems to be a ubiquitously used temporal parameter across which trainers test their muscular endurance and mental determination. In a bid to substantiate that suggested duration, 10 minutes is the standard time used in kettlebell competitions.
Can AMRAP develop fitness?
Yes, and in abundance. But then that should not come as a surprise. After all, AMRAPing is the ultimate in volume and overload training. And it’s long since been understood that overloading the muscles triggers that much coveted physiological response called hypertrophy – known more colloquially as ‘Gettin hench!’ Anyway, if it’s improved muscular endurance you seek, start AMRAPing ASAP.
But don’t forget, AMRAP can work perfectly well with cardiovascular exercises. Pop on the rower, runner, or bike, set 10 minutes, and see how many metres you can cover.
Can AMRAP build strength?
Depends. Typically strength is developed by combining maximal loads with prolonged periods of rest. Obviously if you plan to complete as many repetitions as possible of an exercise over 10 minutes then the load must, by dint of necessity, be sub-maximal. If it isn’t you’ll blow up (figuratively speaking) before you get out of the first minute. In saying that though, you could still adopt the strength protocol and for 10 minutes attempt to accrue a collection of quality lifts. If you decide to do this ensure that you maintain a mind-set appropriate to that of someone who is going to execute a heavy lift: quality over quantity!
How 2 Guide
Right then, roll your sleeves up and get ready to underpin the theory with a bit of practical. At this stage in the article you should possess a descent understanding of both the benefits of and what constitutes as AMRAP training. Now we’re going to take a look at how to put an AMRAP session together. You’ll be relieved to know that to do so is phenomenally simple.
First things first, select an exercise or range of exercises that you would like to pit your physicality against. The exercise(s) could be resistance or calisthenics, complex or simple, compound or isolation. If you select a resistance exercise – say the kettlebell jerk, an AMRAP exercise par excellence – you need now only concern yourself with the weight.
If you’re new to AMRAP training I suggest starting with a light weight and seeing how many reps you can bank in 5 or 10 minutes. Use this as a start point from which to develop and improve. I say this only because, if you acquiesce to enthusiasm, and chose too heavy a weight, you’ll wind up DNFing before you get out of the first 59 seconds.
So, to recap, when devising an AMRAP session consider the following protocol:
Select an exercise or exercises
Decide on the time duration of your AMRAP – 1/2/3/4/5/etc., etc. minutes
Select a weight that is commensurate with your current strength; the weight should embody Baby Bear’s porridge – that is: not too heavy, not too light, but just right so that it poses a challenge
Participate in a thorough, whole-body warm-up that includes a cardiovascular element – such a rowing – and a series of resistance exercises (probably those that are to feature in your AMRAP)
Set the time, prepare yourself mentally, and away you go . . .
5 AMRAP sessions to try
Ok, now we dispense with the theory and get physical, fh-fh-physical.
AMRAP 1: 10-minute kettlebell clean to press alternating cycle
The C&P (for syntactical efficiency) is a thoroughbred exercise which sees the trainer cycle the bell from the lowest to the uppermost position. The initial phase of the movement is kettlebell training’s answer to the Olympic ‘clean’ where with one smooth crisp pull the bell is brought into the nook of the arm. From here we execute a perfect jerk pausing momentarily in the topmost position before retracing our steps.
The single arm C&P is the ultimate full-body movement and after you master the technical application and get a spot of practice under your belt you’ll be able to perform alternating arm cycles until the Cossacks come home.
For this AMRAP you are to execute the C&P continuously for 10 minutes ensuring to change hands after each rep; hence ‘alternating cycle’. The aim of the game, besides completing as many reps as possible, is to maintain consistent tempo – so between 10 and 12 reps per minute. A fast tempo is one that exceeds 12 reps per minute. If you crunch the numbers, maintaining a reasonably pedestrian pace of 10RPM, with a 24kg KB, will see you net not only 100reps in 10mins but also lift and shift 2400kg – or 2.4 ton.
Not bad going after 10 minutes of graft.
AMRAP 2: 3 minutes maximum effort
1. 3min row
2. 3min press-ups
3. 3min pull-ups
4. 3min squats (no weight)
5. 3min burpees
6. 3min kettlebell swings (16/24/32kg)
Here’s how this horrible little number works. You have three minutes on each exercise to cover as much distance (I wasn’t lying when I said AMRAPs can include cardio) and complete as many repetitions as possible. In-between each exercise you are entitled to a 1 minute 30 second rest – but this must not be exceeded. You are to work through the exercises in the number ordering depicted. After finishing each exercise write down the distance/reps you managed to achieve so that you have a milestone to compete against if you dare do it again.
AMRAP 3: 30 minutes deadlift/hang clean/push press
10min AMRAP: Deadlifts
3 minutes rest
10min AMRAP: Hang cleans
3 minutes rest
10min AMRAP: Push press
There’s no avoiding the white elephant in the room, this is one sadomasochistic session suitable only for those with a screw (or two) loose. My only bit of advice here is a) ensure that your will is settled; b) warm-up thoroughly before you even think about starting this session.
So what we’re looking at here is a dissected clean & press where, for 10 minutes, we attempt to accrue as many reps as possible on each individual segment. If you’re in to Olympic lifting or CrossFit this is a good way to isolate and focus on developing each phase of what is a complex movement. Also, thanks to that 3 minute rest between each AMRAP, you have the option of changing down the weights as you progress through the session. Of course, the weight selected for the deadlifts should be considerably heavier than for the succeeding exercises.
If you dare attempt this AMRAP I suggest using an Olympic bar (a hex for the deads if you have the luxury of one) and gathering together the various weighted discs so as to improve efficiency between changes. And finally, the bar should always be taken from the floor when manoeuvring it into position for the hang clean and push press.
AMRAP 4: 30-minute Swing, Row, Repeat!
25 kettlebell swings
Repeat as many times as possible in 30 minutes
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. On conclusion of a good warm-up, set a 30-minute countdown timer and then complete the 250m row promptly followed by the 25 kettlebell swings. The aim of this game, of course, is to bag as many row/swing sets as possible in the allotted time.
To make your life a little easier – when it comes to keeping your accounts in order – I advise making a note of each completed pair as you progress through the AMRAP. This way you will accurately record your achievement which will give you something to compete against next time you have a bash.
AMRAP 5: 10 X 5-minute (Pick ‘n Mix)
1: 5min kettlebell swings (16/24/32kg)
2: 5min box jump (2 foot box minimum)
3: 5min press-ups
4: 5min medicine ball slams (10kg MB)
5: 5min plank (as many seconds as possible)
6: 5min pull-ups
7: 5min deadlift (80% of bodyweight)
8: 5min burpees
9: 5min skipping (as many skips as possible)
10: 5min ergo row (as many metres as possible)
Yeah, I won’t lie, I fabricated the above list on the fly. But, irrespective of the absence of creative consideration, who could deny that that is one harsh whole-body AMRAP? Exactly!
So how does it work?
After a good warm-up, set a 5-minute countdown timer and, starting at the first exercise (obviously), proceed to perform as many repetitions as you possible can. Make a note of each achievement so that you have a target to aim for next time.
Between each individual 5-minute AMRAP you should take a two-minute rest.
Because this is a substantial session, by anyone’s standards, you are going to have to approach it tactically. By that I mean, if you go hell for leather for the first couple of exercises, you’ll bankrupt your physicality before your finish the box jumps.
So, with that in mind, work hard . . . but not too hard.
AMRAP is a highly effective exercise method of turbocharging training productivity. In just a short AMRAP – 10 minutes – you could quite easily exceed the overall volume of a typical gym session that is three-plus times as long.
And because of the inherent flexibility of the AMRAP protocol – chose an exercise, set a timer, go for it! – they can be applied to most forms of physical training.