EMOMs for Time-Efficient Training (Plus 8 Workouts Under 20 Minutes)

Tom MacCormick
Written By: Tom MacCormick
September 30th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
7.3K Reads
Shirtless muscular man doing TRX pushups.
EMOMs - perfect for the CrossFit athlete or average gym-goer. Learn how to build the perfect EMOM for you and why EMOMs should be in your workout routine.

Whether you’re looking for a quick at-home workout or you need to be in and out of the gym in less than 30 minutes, EMOMs are a fantastic, versatile tool to include in your workout routine. EMOMs can be tailored to your specific goals, the equipment you have on hand, and any time restraints you may have.

What Does EMOM Mean?

EMOM stands for Every Minute On the Minute and requires you to perform a given number of reps of an exercise in under a minute. The remaining time within the minute is your rest period. At the end of the minute, you perform another set and repeat sets at the start of every minute for a set period of time. EMOMs can last for different durations, usually ranging from 10 to 30 minutes.

EMOMs are generally thought of as a conditioning tool, and they certainly can provide a unique version of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT has had loads of positive PR over the last decade and can be one of the most efficient ways to increase fitness, improve conditioning, and burn fat. Similarly, EMOMs are an increasingly common training method.

EMOMs are actually highly customizable and can be tailored to your specific goal and programmed to train different strength qualities and energy systems. You can perform EMOMs using minimal equipment or in a fully stocked gym. They can be a short, sharp, time-efficient routine or part of a longer workout.

Related: CrossFit vs Weight Training - Which Gives Better Results?

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Time-Efficient Training

If you have a hectic schedule, a time-capped workout can be extremely beneficial.

During lockdown, I found EMOMs extremely useful. Motivation to train is not normally an issue for me, but in lockdown, this changed. Often, I didn’t feel like performing a home workout. On multiple occasions, I found it was suddenly the early evening, I was tired, hungry, and irritable after trying to home school the kids and not having eaten anything in hours. I felt lethargic and more interested in the sofa than squats. Knowing I only had to knuckle down for a 20-minute EMOM rather than grind out the normal 60-90mins session was enough to get the workout done. If I’d insisted on 60-minutes or nothing I’m afraid it would have been nothing more often than I care to admit.

A 20-minute workout can be effective. It is certainly a whole lot more effective than no workout!

Related: EMOM Training: Workouts that Maximize Your Gym Time

Endurance EMOMs vs Strength EMOMs

When determining which energy system you want to train, your work-to-rest ratio must be considered. Make this decision based on your goal not what you saw your favorite influencer doing in their own training.

By manipulating rep ranges and your work-to-rest ratio, EMOMs can be strength focused or endurance focused. Endurance focused EMOM workouts usually utilize higher rep ranges than strength EMOMs.  Performing more reps obviously takes more time and allows less rest before the next minute rolls around and you have to perform another set. Consequently, you’ll have to handle sub-maximal weights and the greatest challenge is to your cardiovascular system.

If your goal is more strength-focused, then utilizing heavier weights and performing fewer reps is the way to go. When training for strength you need to train closer to your maximum weights and you need adequate recovery to maintain a high force production and quality of work.

Whether your goal is strength, endurance or something in-between EMOMs can get the job done. The key is to remember your goal and to work efficiently towards achieving this. Quality is vital for training to be productive. Don’t chase fatigue, chase progress!

Related: The Tactical Physique: A Functional Strength Training & Conditioning Workout

Choosing Weights for EMOMs

It’s vital you sustain good form during an EMOM. Do not let things get sloppy and never sacrifice form for speed. The biggest mistake I see people make with EMOMs is starting out too heavy and trying to rush through them without proper form.

To help you gauge your weights when planning an EMOM, use this simple tip: test how many reps of an exercise you can do in 15 seconds. This will give you a rough estimate of how long each repetition takes to perform in a fresh state. So, if you did 5 reps in 15 seconds, you know each rep takes 3 seconds.

Generally, I like a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio when using EMOMs as a conditioning tool. So, I’ll select a rep range that has athletes working for about 30 seconds. They then get 30 seconds rest before the next set starts. However, when strength is the focus, a 1:3 ratio is my preference. So, 15 seconds of work and 45 seconds of rest.

Let's look back at my earlier example of 5 reps taking 15 seconds. If you wanted to train strength, 5 reps is the perfect rep range on that exercise. However, to challenge the aerobic system, utilizing a 10-rep set on that exercise would take 30 seconds and be a better fit with the desired 1:1 work-to-rest ratio.

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Designing EMOM Workouts

When performing an EMOM you can do just one exercise, pair exercises, or you can sequence multiple exercises. Your creativity is the only real limitation of these workouts. Despite the wide range of exercises you can combine into an EMOM workout, more is not always better. Avoid the temptation to randomly throw more and more into your EMOMs. The key is to create the stimulus you need to elicit the training adaption you desire.

Sidenote. The stimulus you want is not just to end up a sweaty and exhausted mess, crumpled on the floor! Don’t be a stimulus junkie.

Below you'll find 8 example EMOMs, each with a different stimulus focus. 

Bodyweight 18 Minute EMOM:

Repeat 6 times with no rest:

Lower Body Strength Focused 10 Minute EMOM:

  • Squats 2 reps every minute @ 80% 1-rep max

Upper Body Strength Focused 12 Minute EMOM:

Muscle Gain Focused 15 Minute EMOM:

Repeat 5 times with no rest:

Whole Body Strength Endurance 20 Minute EMOM:

Repeat 5 times with no rest:

Upper Body Strength Endurance 20 Minute EMOM:

Repeat 5 times with no rest:

Conditioning Focused 20 Minute EMOM:

Conditioning Focused 12 Minute EMOM:

Repeat 4 times with no rest:

  • Minute 1: 100m Row
  • Minute 2: 10Kcal Ski-Erg
  • Minute 3: 30 sec Sled Push

Tattooed muscular woman in black shorts and sports bra pushing a sled.

Consider the Big Picture

EMOMs are an excellent tool in your training toolbox. It is important, however, to understand that EMOMs are not a program but a component of a well-balanced training routine.

Remember, the point of training is progression. Doing your first EMOM might be a near-death experience and that’s okay. The benefit is not in crushing yourself once. The value comes in achieving progressive overload and revisiting that training weekly, with incremental increases in the load or reps performed and to display performance improvement is the name of the game. So, be sure to monitor your progress and honestly answer the question, is my training improving my performance? Am I getting better at what I want to get better at?