Updated: Nov 14, 2020
EMOM, if you didn’t already know, is an abbreviation for the training methodology of completing a specific number of exercise repetitions Every Minute On the Minute. Though it is a very simple form of training, deceptively so, it is extremely effective for a number of reasons.
By way of example, EMOM, because it is fiercely time constrained, will bring some serious military-style discipline to your sessions. When you set that timer – to count either up or down – it’s like having a drill sergeant in the room; and woe betide the weakling who fails to initiate the next set the moment the second’s hand strikes :59!
Also, EMOM massively improves training efficiency (so long as you stick to timings of course). Why? After you’ve completed your set number of repetitions, say 10 barbell thrusters, there is usually only just enough time on the clock to recover before the minute elapses thus triggering the next set. During an EMOM session there’s no time to update your social media account or flirt with your reflection.
Furthermore, when EMOMing you can shift a shit ton of weight – even over relatively short sessions. Let’s say that you’re time strapped and you can only squeeze in a 20 minute sesh. So you decide to complete 10 thrusters with a 40kg barbell on the minute for 20 continuous minutes. If you did so you’d not only bank some quality cardio but you’d also shift a combined weight of 8,000kgs! (10 X 40kg = 400kg x 10 = 4,000kg x 2 = 8,000kg (or 8 metric ton)).
That’s some going in 20 minutes.
Are EMOM workouts effective?
In a word, Yes! EMOM training is very effective because of the productive impetus it elicits. As identified above that ticking timer acts like a drill sergeant which instils a military mindset. Thus when that minute is about to elapse you feel compelled – nay! coerced – into completing your next set. This bizarre quality of EMOM training is extremely effective at maximising productive outputs (and inducing a state of nervous anxiety).
Can EMOM build strength?
Yes, of course it can. But only if you select the right exercise(s), weight and reps. If your EMOM session consists of, say, deadlifts, squats, snatches and the like, and the loads selected are 50-plus percent of your body weight, and the per minute rep range is low (between 1 and 6), if you tailored your EMOM workout to fit that prescriptive outline, then you will almost certainly experience strength gains over time. (See EMOM Session 3 below.)
What are EMOM good for?
EMOM training is excellent for pretty much any and all fitness/exercise occasions. It could be included into a circuit, either as a specific element or the circuit in its entirety could just be one long EMOM. Alternatively, there’s always the option of making EMOM the main session. After a good 15-minute warm-up 10 sets of EMOM Session 4 (see below) would make for a perfect whole-body workout. Also, don’t forget that a 10-minute EMOM is a brilliant way to conclude a run or row.
How 2 EMOM
To devise an EMOM training session you need only two things.
Thing 1) a timer (see product links below)
Thing 2) an exercise (want to expand your exercise repertoire?)
So you’ve procured a timer (and it could be a grandfather clock so long as it’s got a second’s hand) and you’ve selected an exercise, now what?
Now decide how many minutes you want to go for ensuring to set a repetition range. This is where EMOM get’s interesting. You could, if you so choose, stick to a specific number of reps, say 10, for the duration of the session. Or, if you’re feeling somewhat adventurous, you could ascend or descend a repetition pyramid. Here’s what this might look like:
EMOM Session: 20-minute thruster (40kg)
M1: 1 rep
M2: 2 reps
M3: 3 reps
[. . .]
M20: 20 reps
One could well question if any mortal man or woman could complete 20 thrusters in a minute after having just performed nearly 200. However, the example is only supposed to serve an illustrative purpose. From here on out it’s up to you, dear reader, to explore and experiment with EMOM.
But before you do there are a few points to consider
If you plan to stick to a specific rep count for the duration of the session ensure that, once the reps have been completed, there is sufficient time on the clock to recover before entering into the next minute. By selecting too high a rep count you will likely fatigue before you get out of the first five minutes. It’s best to stick to a 50/50 work rate to rest ratio; that is: 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
There is absolutely no harm or shame in changing the exercises throughout the session. For example, you could select 10 different exercises – perhaps all calisthenics, perhaps all resistance, perhaps a mixture – and perform one on each minute for 10 minutes. On conclusion of the cycle either call it a day or repeat X number of times.
Don’t forget that EMOM works perfectly well for cardio exercises – especially rowing. Cardio EMOMing essentially works the same as with resistance exercises but the focus, of course, is on metres travelled as opposed to reps performed.
5 EMOM Sessions
EMOM 1: 20-minute kettlebell single-arm clean to press cycle
M1 to M5: 4reps each arm
M6 to M10: 6 reps each arm
M11 to M15: 8 reps each arm
M16 to M20: 10 reps each arm
There’s no denying it, that last 5 minutes is going to induce a nasty burn both in the lungs and deltoids. Also, you’ll be left with very little rest time between sets. But it’s always best, I believe, to conclude your EMOM with a bang.
You can approach this session in one of two ways. Way 1: complete all the reps on one arm before changing. Way 2: change arms on conclusion of each rep.
Personally, I prefer Way 2. However, when changing between each successive rep one tends to incur a minor time penalty as you are forced to linger for a split second at the lowest position to swop hands. This won’t be a problem from M1 through to M10. But when you hit those big rep sets it’s going to eat into your rest. Food for thought.
EMOM 2: 12-minute alternate dumbbell thruster to double-unders . . . x 2!
M1: 10 reps DB thruster
M2: 20 double-unders
Repeat until you conclude M12: 20 double-unders. Before initiating the second set of 12 minutes complete 2000m on the ergo rower. (Note: if you can’t do double-unders then skip really fast. If you can’t skip follow this link, teach yourself, then come back when you can!)
This EMOM is a near perfect unification of resistance and cardio; and as a consequence is pretty much a complete session. Dumbbell thrusters – superior to their barbell kin – stimulate about 85% of our musculature. Skipping, if not the best form of cardio exercise, is certainly situated somewhere at the top (supposing a hierarchy of cardio superiority). Combined these two exercises make for a fabulous fitness duo.
EMOM 3: 5/10/15/20/25 or 30min whole-body strength
M1: 6 reps military press
M2: 6 reps bench press
M3: 6 bent-over rows
M4: 6 reps dead lifts
M5: 6 reps squat
Firstly, before starting this session, you need to determine suitable weights for each exercise. You could always make life easy for yourself and settle for a % of your overall body weight – 50%, 60%, 70%, etc. However, the only drawback with this approach is that for certain exercises – deads & squats – your strength won’t be adequately tested. I’ll leave this conundrum for you to ponder.
The way I approach this session is by using an Olympic barbell with a 20kg disc either side and I don’t stop the clock until I’ve completed 6 continuous cycles. I stick to 60kg because a) it more than adequately challenges my physicality across the range of exercises depicted above; b) I like to use the same bar because, to get it in position for the military press and squats, I am required to complete a full clean and press, which exacerbates the strenuousness of the session; and c) I can’t be doing with faffing over changing up and down weights.
For tutorials of all of the featured strength exercises follow the link: Build Superior Strength with these 5 Brilliant Exercises.
EMOM 4: 3/6/9/12/15/18/21/24/27 or 30min clean and press pyramid
M1: 6 reps deadlifts
M2: 6 reps hang-cleans
M3: 6 push press
The perceptive reader, or CrossFit/Olympic lifting enthusiast, will notice that the three individual exercises that form this EMOM, when pieced together, comprise the clean & press. By breaking down a complex movement we are afforded with the opportunity to perfect (or improve) each individual phase whilst also getting a damn good workout in the process.
Variations of this system abound. For example, you could cut the reps right back and complete 2 or 3 of each isolated phase in the same minute. Or you could perform, say, 2 full cleans into 2 front squats into 2 push presses. Rest then repeat for X number of minutes. To see this in action follow the link.
EMOM 5: 20 min of pure calisthenics
M1: 20 reps press-ups
M2: 6 reps pull-ups
M3: 10 reps full-weight dips
M4: 10 hanging leg raises
M5: 10 reps burpees
Repeat four more times.
This EMOM has got a military flavour to it – which accounts for why it tastes a bit bland. But that’s not a bad thing. After all, the military produce some of the fittest people in the world. Also, what this session will show you, if you bother to do it, is that you really don’t need much equipment or a fancy gym to keep in shape. Those five exercises will work every inch of your physicality. Seriously, no myofibril will be left unmolested – for good or bad.
Now, depending on your current muscular strength, you might either want to decrease or increase the rep ranges assigned to each exercise. I leave that decision to the discretion of the discerning reader.
In my experience as a fitness trainer a substantial percentage of people (north of 90%) have problems performing pull-ups. Basically, few people possess the requisite strength to heave their corporal mass through a full concentric contraction of the arms.
If you are not yet strong enough to perform pull-ups, don’t fret! Simply change the exercise or, if you can find a bar about waist height, do inverted or modified pull-ups instead.
At this point of the article you should be clued-up on three things.
Thing 1: You should now know what EMOM stands for. Can you remember? Good!
Thing 2: You should be able to list at least two benefits of EMOM training. Give me two benefits then.
Thing 3: You should know how to devise your own EMOM session. Off you go!
If you can answer yes to all three things then this article has succeeded. If not please comment your queries/questions/confusions below.