What is the EMOM technique?
EMOM, or Every Minute On the Minute is an intensity technique for conditioning training. This is an interval workout method closely tied to CrossFit and other popular training methods.
- Start the clock or timer
- On the start of the minute, perform the chosen exercise for the specified number of reps
- Rest for the remainder of the minute
- Repeat for as many intervals as required
A simple example: Perform 10 deadlifts with 225 lbs, every minute on the minute for 10 minutes total.
What sort of exercise should I use with EMOM?
What sort of exercises work best with EMOM? Honestly – anything! There are some caveats to using exercises which are too risky to perform in a fatigued state, but with some reasonable care you can really do anything involving body-weight, barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell.
How does the EMOM technique work?
By using a strictly enforced time interval, your body is forced to continue to work as you grow fatigued. Without the enforced time interval, you will tend to rest too much (especially as you grow tired) before starting the next set. This pacing method is a very effective technique for forcing your body to work hard. Secondly, you’re going to keep the pace high as you perform the work, because you are going to want every second available for rest!
The real secret of EMOM is the clock – It forces you to keep the pace up and that’s where the results come from.
For these reasons, we consider EMOM to be primarily a conditioning training method, but it does incorporate elements of strength and skill, depending on your exercise selection.
What equipment do I need for the EMOM technique?
The essential gear is a clock, stopwatch, or timer.
The FitAtMidlife free workout timer is a great choice for EMOM workouts. Simply set the round length setting to 1 minute and the rest length to 0 secs, then click Start. Using our timer is great for group training, hotel workouts when you are traveling, or even in your home.
There’s also a huge variety of timers available on Amazon, and other retailers as well. For smartphone and tablet users, the app stores for both iPhone and Android have a number of good choices. Lastly, if all else fails, use an analog clock with a seconds hand (if you can find one!)
Secondly, you’ll need whatever equipment your choice of exercise requires such as:
- Nothing! – This technique works great with bodyweight exercises.
- Dumbbells – ubiquitous and available in very light weights, this would be a great option for beginners.
- Kettlebell – Kettlebells are available in challenging weights and allows unique movements that are difficult to replicate with other equipment. Great for single arm or single leg training too.
- Barbell – For really big weight, nothing beats the barbell. No other device can accommodate multiples of bodyweight like the barbell can.
EMOM WOD and Workout Ideas
Need some ideas for an EMOM WOD (Workout Of the Day) or workout? Here’s a few you can try. Scale these according to your abilities (for example, if you can barely deadlift your bodyweight for 2 reps, we don’t recommend using this technique as listed below.) These are some of our favorites:
- Deadlift your bodyweight for 5 repetitions – every minute on the minute for 10 minutes.
- Pushups for 10 Reps, Pullups for 10 Reps, Air Squat for 10 Reps – every minute on the minute for 8 minutes – This would be a great “full body” workout you could perform in a small space.
- Kettlebell swings – 30 repetitions – every minute on the minute for 8 minutes
- Front squat (with a barbell or dumbbells) for 20 repetitions – every minute on the minute for 10 minutes. This will be insane intensity with almost any weight on the barbell…
EMOM is a great fit for hypertrophy training, or training muscles to be big rather than just strong. You can accumulate a lot of volume with medium weights and with short rest periods. It just so happens that is the magic formula for hypertrophy training.
Why choose the EMOM technique?
Here’s some great reasons to make the EMOM technique a part of your routine:
- Flexible – Use this method with any exercise.
- Simple – Minimal equipment needs means you can do this anywhere you have a clock or timer
- Measurable – You can measure your progress over time easily
- Great for group training – groups of trainees can use this method easily. You just need space. It’s easy to scale for group workouts – use lighter weights, etc.
- Time efficient – the ironclad work and rest interval of 1 minute ensures your workout is going to take the time allotted, and it’s not going to end sooner or later (well, maybe sooner).
- Creativity and Fun – Really the combinations are infinite – and this means more fun (and effectiveness).
When should you not use the EMOM technique?
- Training for pure strength – the short rest periods and overall long timeframe of this method does not make it an optimal way to train your 1RM (1 Rep Max) strength. Stick to longer rest times of 3-5 minutes (or more) for training pure strength, otherwise you are limiting your ability to generate intensity due to the accumulating fatigue you’ll incur.
- Form Fatigue – Be careful with exercises that require exquisite form. As you grow fatigued and are tempted to “beat the clock”, exercise form will get sloppy.
- Skill Training – We don’t consider this a good method for skill training. There’s simply too much pressure to get back to work, even if you aren’t fully recovered. For pure skill training, it’s really better to go with unlimited rest periods.
How Do I Progress the EMOM technique?
For training to give results, there’s got to be progression. Progress is when you get better – you can lift more, or lift it quicker, or run further, or faster, or both. How do you know you are making progress? Well, firstly you’ve got write it down, compare to a baseline, and strive to do more (or do the same faster). The best exercise methods are ones we can progress with. EMOM is one of these techniques – it’s measurable and it’s infinitely scalable. The timer is a never faltering taskmaster – and it’s not going to let us take it easy.
Another great aspect of EMOM, there are so many ways to progress the exercise over time:
- More reps – Did 10 reps last time? Do 12 this time.
- More intervals – Did 5 minutes total last time? Do 6 this time.
- Complete the work portion quicker – Did your 5 reps in 15 seconds last time? Shoot for 10 seconds this time.
- Increase Weight – Use more weight, or use a variation of your exercise that is more intense (for example, pushups vs. feet elevated pushups).
- Add an Exercise – Are you doing pushups? Add in some pullups immediately afterwards. With this progression method, you’ll be getting more work done in that same minute. When using an antagonistic exercise combo such as this, this is known as Escalating Density Training (EDT).
EMOM Tips for Midlifers
At middle age and beyond, an approach to exercise that leans to the moderate side is beneficial. You don’t have the recovery ability of a youngster, so err on the side of caution. Luckily, with maturity comes wisdom, so apply these tips:
- EMOM what you do well – If you don’t know proper exercise form, such as for the deadlift, squat, etc. do not attempt to EMOM with that exercise. Develop proper, safe form and a reasonable level of work capacity before you go EMOM.
- Be Conservative – Start with about half as many minutes and half as many reps as you think you can do – this is a great progression technique and you run the risk of burning out early if you attempt to start at an advanced level.
- Switch it Up – Middle age is where overuse injuries start to appear (and linger!). Choose complementary (antagonistic) exercises over the long term – for example, today use pushups, tomorrow pullups, etc. Another method is to do a different exercise in every interval – pushups for minute 1, pullups for minute 2, etc. We’re in this for longevity.
- Don’t be afraid to substitute – Found a cool EMOM workout online, but it requires something that causes you pain? Sub that bad exercise out for a good one – for example front squats cause anterior knee pain for a lot of midlife folks. Try low bar back squats instead, which are very knee-friendly.
- Lose the Ego – Scale your workouts to match your abilities. EMOM is not the right method for ego lifting. It’s an injury waiting to happen. The smart approach is to scale up to big weights conservatively.
EMOM – Go Try It!
Here’s our favorite part – go out and try it and let us know what you think. Comment below, or share on your preferred social media platform. We think EMOM is fun, and it’s a real gem of a workout technique, for all the reasons we gave above. We think you’ll agree.
Tim is the founder of FitAtMidlife.com – an avid gym rat for 30+ years, he’s a reviewer of many, many shoes – and founder of the Speed Bag Gathering – the world’s only gathering of speed bag punching enthusiasts. See more gym reviews at Tim’s YouTube channel.