17 Mar 2015 – Why you should love an EMOM

EMOMs... we love 'em!

For us as coaches, they provide a versatile training tool that allows us to to program workouts which work towards certain adaptations...

But before we get into the nitty gritty, let's take a look at what they are. You can see EMOM-style workouts written in a number of ways – EMOM (every minute, on the minute), OTM (on the minute), Alt EMOM (alternating every minute, on the minute) – but they are all essentially the same thing.

In an EMOM, you are given a prescribed set of work to complete at the start of each minute and you have the whole minute to get the work finished before you start again. If you finish in 30 seconds, you get 30 seconds rest until the start of the following minute. Here is a simple example:

EMOM x 8 minutes: 3 Power cleans @ 75% 1RM

In an Alt EMOM, you switch between two different sets of work, one on the even minute and one on the odd minute. For example:

Alt EMOM x 12:
Even minute: 30 Double unders
Odd minute: 3 Power cleans @ 75% 1RM + 6 burpees

So, why do we love EMOMs so much?

Reason #1 - Training Energy Systems

EMOMs, along with their movement selection and rep ranges, allow us to train any aspect of our energy systems. We could programme a 7 minute EMOM of 3 back squats at 80-85% of our 1 rep max. This would allow us to focus on the ATP-PC system through a short burst of heavy lifting, followed by a period of rest.

On the flip side, we could do an EMOM that consists of longer periods of work and shorter rest (lets say 40 Double unders & 10 KB Swings) which would focus on the body's aerobic energy systems.

Reason #2 - Skill work

We can also use EMOMs to hone in on some skill work (as you've seen in the past few Sunday Open Skills Prep sessions). For example:

Alt EMOM x 10 minutes: Muscle-up Progressions
Minute 1: MU transition x 5-8 reps
Minute 2: Kipping transition x5-8 reps

Reason #3 - More work in less time

If I told you that today's workout involved 10 sets of 2 power cleans, how much time would you take? After the warm-up, mobility and skill work, you are probably looking at a good 20-30 minutes to get through 10 sets. However, if we gave a 10 minute EMOM of 2 power cleans, we know it's going to take exactly 10 minutes.

In EMOMs such as this, you are probably not going to be able to lift quite as heavy as if you had 30 minutes to get through your 10 sets because rest is limited to about 50 seconds, but this is not a bad thing! It's just different. Not every training session should be about lifting maximal loads or running yourself into the ground and ending up in the fetal position at the end of the workout. Some training sessions should be at a sub-maximal effort where you are nicely simmering towards an all-out effort.

Reason #4 - EMOMs are more specific to CrossFit

EMOMs can be heavy, technical, gassy or a mixture of all three. In CrossFit (especially competitions), you need to be able to handle all of these elements at once. EMOMs give us the opportunity to provide a controlled stimulus or training environment i.e. can you lift heavy weight for multiple reps when you are a little breathless? This allows the coach in particular to have more control of this element of training (work : rest ratios). Let's look at an example...

Alt EMOM x 12 minutes:
Minute 1: 6 Power cleans (70/45 kg) + 9 Burpees
Minute 2: 12 Wall balls (9/6 kg) + 15 Double unders

Here we have a controlled rest period, which the coach could increase/decrease by changing the work, depending on the level of athlete. If we compare this to a traditional CrossFit workout with the same movements/load/total reps etc:

6 rounds for time:
6 Power cleans (80/55 kg)
9 Burpees
12 Wall balls (9/6 kg)
15 Double unders

In the latter format, the workout is left to the athlete's own choices of how to tackle the movement. The less experienced may get the pacing wrong and go too hard, too soon, or on the flip side hold too much back, thus not getting the desired stimulus of the session.

Reason #6 - Versatility

Who ever said that an EMOM has to be every minute?! Well yes, the title 'Every Minute...' kind of implies that... but we can change the time domains, again based on training adaptations we are trying to achieve and the variables we wish to control. We could go every 30 seconds, every 90 seconds etc.

Reason #7 - Testing

EMOMs can provide a very valuable testing tool for coaches. Here is one such (horrible, horrible) conditioning test from Coach Ben Bergeron:

EMOM, for as long as possible:
7 Thrusters (35/25 kg)
7 Pull-ups
7 Burpees

Now, that will take you to a very, very dark place!

In Ben's own words: "...a test for pure conditioning, not skill and not strength. This test makes it easy to compare athletes across a spectrum of sizes, locations, and irregardless of skill or equipment.  In other words, size, strength, or skill doesn't play a huge role (muscle ups and oly lifting would favour the skilled, heavier weights the strong, and rowing and airdyne favours those with mass).  Nor does the running route, height of the wall ball target, or the model of airdyne matter.  Some might argue that it favours lighter athletes, but the thruster weight equalises this more than you might think.  Now no test is perfect, and if there is any bias it would be to shorter athletes.  This is also an incredible test of mental toughness, as it is very easy to give up on this workout mentally before your body actually reaches failure." 

It's safe to say that we do love an EMOM. As a coach, it's an invaluable training tool that I can use with my athletes. As an athlete, they can be great fun too...


A) Beginner
A1) Bench press: 6 x 3 *Add load as technique allows
A2) Pistols

A) Intermediate & Advanced
A1) Bench press: 1-3 reps @ 85-95%, totalling 12-18 reps
A2) Pistols

B) All Athletes
Alternating EMOM x 12:
Minute 1: 5 Push press + 10 Kettlebell swings (Heavy as form allows)
Minute 2: 10 Ring rows + 10 Push-ups (Add load, deficit etc as needed)
Minute 3: Rest