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An AMRAP workout means a workout in which you perform as many rounds (or reps) as possible. It can be used for strength training, or for cardio, or for a mix of both. 

I will say that doing an entire strength training workout routine with just AMRAP sets really is for a specific 1% of the population. Mike Mentzer, Dorian Yates, and Dante Trudel (DoggCrapp) helped bring high-intensity bodybuilding workouts out into the open. 

Most people will find AMRAPs a great way to get a good workout into a short amount of time. Here, we’ll dive into what they are and why you should add them to your routine.

What Are AMRAP Workouts? 

AMRAP workouts (As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible) are a means of getting in a lot of work in a little time (a concept similarly used in Tabata protocols and other HIIT concepts).

For Rounds

If the workout is for as many rounds as possible, you are usually given a time domain with a circuit of sorts to work through. For example, you may see a workout written like this:

AMRAP 20:

5 squats
10 push-ups
20 sit-ups

This means that for 20 minutes, you work through as many rounds as possible of 5 squats, 10 push-ups, and 20 sit-ups.

For Reps

Another way to do an AMRAP is for as many reps as possible. In Tabata exercise, for example, you do as many reps as possible of a movement in 20 seconds, and then rest 10 seconds. You may also have a strength workout that calls for AMRAP thrusters at a certain weight; that would mean that you load your barbell with a certain amount of weight, and do as many reps as possible before you have to stop or put the bar down.

Woman doing sit-ups

Types of Equipment in AMRAPs

While an effective AMRAP workout can use any kind of weight or motion, bodyweight AMRAPs tend to be easier on beginners and intermediates. This is a means of getting in a pretty sick loaded cardiovascular workout with no equipment (and some muscular benefits as well1).

However, because an AMRAP is simply a style of workout, the way an EMOM workout or tempo training is, you can literally apply it to just about any movement with any equipment.  

AMRAP Workout Benefits 

Working in an intense zone has many mental and physical benefits2. The greatest benefits may be alleviation of boredom from doing 3 sets of 12 for everything, along with the time saving element gained by cramming all the reps into a small window.

Save Time

Let’s face it: CrossFit burst on the scene and popularized HIIT training, thrusting AMRAPs and EMOMs and rounds-for-time workouts into the general population. Fortunately, you don’t need to go to a “box” or complete a hero WOD to benefit from compressing part of your workout into an AMRAP set. Putting a muscle, or even your full body, under extreme tension for a short amount of time may even produce better results than doing a dozen sets with rest in between.

Because of their high intensity, AMRAPS tend to be shorter (like 30 minutes or less), which is appealing to those tight on time.

RELATED: The Best 15-Minute Workouts

High Intensity, High Output

As a certified personal trainer, I know that one of the hardest things to teach is intensity. Using an AMRAP solves that problem.

Even the least competitive person in the gym will want to push themselves to see how many sit-ups they can do in 2 minutes. Then, the next week, they will want to see if they can beat their previous benchmark.

woman doing a dumbbell shoulder workout

AMRAP vs EMOM

There is a distinction between these two workouts. Both have been proving to help people meet their fitness goals3. Sometimes choosing one is as simple as taking a Cosmo quiz and figuring out which fits your personality better. (I kid.)

Max Effort Done Differently

While both styles of workout promote muscular endurance and allow you to squeeze in a high-intensity workout in a small amount of time, As-Many-Reps-As-Possible differs from Every-Minute-On-The Minute in just the way it sounds.

With an AMRAP set, you are just trying to get as many rounds or reps as possible; time, pain, that person eyeballing you wanting to use the squat rack, none of it matters.

In an EMOM, you are performing one exercise for one minute, then moving on to another one in the next. EMOMs can have AMRAPs; for example, doing as many push-ups as you can in one minute and then doing as many cleans as you can in the next. Or, EMOMS may be designed with built-in rest, such as doing 20 push-ups in one minute and 30 squats in the next, resting the remainder of the time.

Punching the Clock

With an EMOM workout, you are setting a clock and (typically) doing a prescribed number of reps every time the big hand touches the 12. After you’ve done your reps, you get to rest for the remainder of the minute.

WIth EMOMs I like to set the repetitions up so I finish my first few sets in around 20 seconds, finish the middle set in around 30 seconds, and finish my last couple sets in around 40 seconds.

Sweat-Inducing AMRAP Workouts to Try

These are all HIIT cardio workouts you can use as standalone workouts or finishers at the end of a strength training day. Each will progress into the next into a 9-week cycle if you so choose.

Beginner AMRAP Workout 

beginner amrap workout

I remember being a skinny unathletic college freshman and being really into pro wrestling, so I Googled something about how to train to get ready to be a pro wrestler. It was really similar to what follows.

Don’t underestimate how hard it is to work for 30 seconds straight with bodyweight exercise. If you really push hard, you’ll be breathing hard about 20 seconds in. Each set is done AMRAP.

4 Rounds: 

30 seconds of push-ups
Rest 1 minute
30 seconds of air squats
Rest 1 minute
30 seconds of crunches
Rest 1 minute

One round is four and a half minutes long. Doing this four times through takes 20 minutes. This might not make you the Ultimate Warrior, but it will give you a quick and intense full-body workout.

push up demo gif

RELATED: The Best Full-Body Workout Machines

Intermediate AMRAP Workout 

intermediate amrap workout

This routine is really similar to what we did in my fire academy. For a firefighter, being able to get on the ground then get off the ground can be a life-saving skill. Actually, what is important is being able to do all this when you are completely exhausted. Despite this workout being 90% mental, you will need to have total-body control to get through it.

One Round

2 minutes of jumping jacks 
Rest 30 seconds
1 minute of mountain climbers
Rest 30 seconds
2 minutes of jumping jacks 
Rest 30 seconds
1 minute of mountain climbers
Rest 30 seconds
2 minutes of jumping jacks 
Rest 30 seconds
2 minutes of burpees

Feel free to substitute using the best jump rope for the jumping jacks if you prefer. Really go hard on the burpees. You’re only doing this one time through, so finish strong.

Burpees

Advanced AMRAP Workout

advanced amrap workout

For the advanced workout, we are going to incorporate some weight. I’d advice doing some bodyweight movements in a warm-up before you dive into this. 

Note: If you don’t have a good kettlebell to use, you can also use dumbbells for this.

5 Rounds:

30 seconds of kettlebell swings
30 seconds of goblet squats
30 seconds of reverse lunges (either hold the kettlebell or do it without the weight)
30 second of squat jumps 
Rest 1 minute

I find 15 minutes of this to be more than enough to make me question my life choices. If you can keep the reps on the last set close to the reps on the first set consider using a heavier weight or switch to a box jump onto a plyo box at an uncomfortable (but safe) height.

kettlebell goblet squat

Running AMRAP Workout

Running AMRAP workout

You can use this AMRAP workout with any movement (I’ve had success with Strongman log presses, deadlifts, and getting up and down off the ground). Mainly, I use it with pull-ups. 

In 8 minutes:

Run 800 m 
AMRAP pull-ups

You’ll start a clock, run 800 meters, and when you get back, you’ll use the rest of the time to do pull-ups (or high knees, push-ups, power cleans — whatever you want!).

You can play with the time frame and the running distance on this one as well. If you’re a more advanced exerciser, maybe you make it a 10-minute time domain and run a mile. You can also keep the time the same week to week and see how you progress on both the cardio (running the distance faster) and the strength movement (getting more reps).

pull up

AMRAP Workout: FAQ

What does 3 sets AMRAP mean?

It means that you will be doing 3 total sets (let’s say dumbbell bench press), and in each set, you don’t have a prescribed number of repetitions you need to hit, you just do as many as possible.

The number of reps you get will almost certainly drop with each set, but do make sure you take some kind of rest period between each set, otherwise it becomes one long AMRAP set you are arbitrarily dividing into three.

Is AMRAP good for fat loss?

High-intensity-interval-training routines (HIIT workouts) have been shown to be effective for fat loss4. Especially if you have no equipment, really grinding out as much as you can (with good form!) is a great way to get your heart rate up into the upper ranges quickly. As always, the best exercise is the exercise you are going to do.

If you tell me I have to do AMRAP snatches and burpees every day (while intermittent fasting), I’m probably just going to eat Cheetos and play video games instead.

Enjoying a movement allows you to dig deeper on it, and that hard work is going to be what allows you to burn more fat.

How long should an AMRAP workout be?

The length will actually dictate the intensity, not vice versa. In the 30 minute AMRAP workout above, the time is long enough, and the movement difficult enough for the fitness level of the population, that the intensity is inherently lower.

If we’re doing something like a 5 minute AMRAP workout with burpees, the intensity will be incredibly high, since we know you can always get down and the ground and back up one more time if you really want to.

Further still, if we do an AMRAP burnout set on the bench press with 30% of your max with no time limit, we will hit that high-intensity zone in a hurry (and stay there).

How many reps should I do in AMRAP?

As many reps as possible! Total muscular failure is really not a good idea if we’re using free weights, so it’s a good idea to know your body well enough to keep half a rep to a full rep in the tank. At the point you only have one rep in the tank your technique will likely have degraded anyway and we always forget the acronym should really be AMRAPWPF (with proper form).

Whether you’re doing a strength training workout or bodyweight cardio, the point is to push yourself with these sets. Leaving too much in the tank or “pacing yourself” through the time limit is usually a poor use of this concept.

References

1. Callahan MJ, Parr EB, Hawley JA, Camera DM. Can High-Intensity Interval Training Promote Skeletal Muscle Anabolism? Sports Med. 2021 Mar;51(3):405-421. doi: 10.1007/s40279-020-01397-3. PMID: 33512698.

2. Martland R, Mondelli V, Gaughran F, Stubbs B. Can high intensity interval training improve health outcomes among people with mental illness? A systematic review and preliminary meta-analysis of intervention studies across a range of mental illnesses. J Affect Disord. 2020 Feb 15;263:629-660. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.11.039. Epub 2019 Nov 12. PMID: 31780128.

3. de-Oliveira LA, Heredia-Elvar JR, Maté-Muñoz JL, García-Manso JM, Aragão-Santos JC, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Analysis of Pacing Strategies in AMRAP, EMOM, and FOR TIME Training Models during “Cross” Modalities. Sports (Basel). 2021 Oct 20;9(11):144. doi: 10.3390/sports9110144. PMID: 34822344; PMCID: PMC8624389.

4. Viana RB, Naves JPA, Coswig VS, de Lira CAB, Steele J, Fisher JP, Gentil P. Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Br J Sports Med. 2019 May;53(10):655-664. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099928. Epub 2019 Feb 14. PMID: 30765340.

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