Something happens after high school to most of us. Slowly, more and more of the things mom and dad used to do for us are now heaped on our shoulders; food doesn’t make itself anymore, the electricity will go off if you don’t answer those red envelopes every once in a while, and you find out really quick that your boss isn’t as eager to keep you in the building as your teachers were. In short, we get responsibilities, and they take up time in days that seem to get shorter and shorter.
In addition to keeping up with appointments and remembering to pick up the kids from baseball practice, at some point we should all find time to work out, spending 2 hours a day, 6 days a week at the gym may be a realistic option for some people, but most grown-ups count themselves lucky to find a half hour here and there. So how is one supposed to get an effective workout in such a short time frame? Enter EMOM training.
What is EMOM?
EMOM stand for Every Minute On the Minute, and it is a fantastic addition to your fitness repertoire, useful for nearly every fitness level and goal out there. The setup is extremely simple: at the top of every minute, do an exercise for a certain number of reps, and then rest for the rest of the minute. Repeat for as long as you have time. Training like this takes the guesswork out of rest periods, gives you an incentive to work hard (more rest when you finish sooner) and lets you know exactly how long your workout will take while keeping the workload steady. You can work for 5 minutes or 20, depending on how much time you have in the gym, and still expect a decent workout.
This can work with a fancy tabata timer like this one (set for 60 seconds of work, 0 seconds of rest) or simply by watching the second hand on a clock, if your gym is old-fashioned enough to have one.
The best part is, EMOM works for strength training, cardio, fat loss, and flexibility equally well. Here’s how to structure your new favorite workout mode.
When you’re going for time efficiency and fitness efficacy, few options can beat EMOM for strength training. It’s simply one of the best ways to safely get in a lot of quality reps with a heavy weight. At the top of every minute, do somewhere between 2 and 5 reps of a big, basic compound exercise. The secret, here, is never to approach fatigue or burn during your sets; leave one or two good reps in the tank every set. Additionally, each set shouldn’t take longer than 10 or so seconds to complete, leaving you plenty of time to rest.
The following exercises work very well
- Barbell Front Squat
- Barbell Back Squat
- Goblet Squat
- Deadlift or Rack Pull
- Trap Bar Deadlift
- Chin Up
- Barbell Bench Press (any angle)
- Barbell Overhead Press
Do 2-5 reps with a heavy weight every time the timer goes off. Again, never push to failure, and keep pristine form. 6 sets (that is to say, 6 minutes) is a good number to start with, though you can certainly go higher.
Alternatively, for a bit more variety, you can alternate between 2 of these exercises (one upper body and one lower body works best) for 5 rounds apiece.
While strength training the EMOM way can certainly get your heart rate up, the method can be further tuned specifically to target the old ticker. Here, the reps are higher, the weights much lower, and ideally you should be working as long or longer than you are resting
Body weight exercises work well here, as do low-weight versions of big compound weighted exercises. To avoid burning out the muscles before your heart gets its due, it’s best to pick 2 exercises and alternate between them, with the best options being one upper body and one lower body exercise. Some ideas are listed below; just pick one from column A and one from Column B.
| A || B |
| Pushup || Squats or jump squats |
| Medicine ball slam || Split squats or jumping split squats |
| Battle ropes || Kettlebell swings |
| Pullups or inverted rows || Step ups |
| Dumbbell clean and press || Lateral shuffle between cones |
10 minutes (5 rounds per exercise) is probably as short as you should go here, but that’s still way more efficient than pounding away on the treadmill for 30 minutes. You could also simply add more rounds, or even add a third exercise and fill up an entire lunch break without ever losing track of time.
Mobility and Flexibility
Right around the time you start having more responsibilities than time, you also start noticing some pain and stiffness that weren’t there before. Whether correlative or causative, you can still get in a good mobility routine in a time crunch with the EMOM method, and you don’t need any equipment (other than maybe a mat or knee pad) and minimal space to get it done.
Here’s “Justin’s Feel-Good Mobility” circuit, done in the same EMOM fashion as the strength and cardio sections above, except now you’ll be working for the duration of the rounds. Set the timer for 10 one-minute rounds, and prepare to feel better.
- 1.Crocodile breathing –lay on your belly, put your forehead on your stacked hands, and take big, slow belly breaths. You should feel your stomach push into the ground with each inhale. 3 seconds in, 3 seconds out should net you about 10 breaths.
- Dead bugs – exhale fully on every rep, not letting your back arch off the floor. You don’t get points for doing as many reps as possible, so take it slow.
- Spidermans – alternate reps, taking your time to sink down to the bottom of each one.
- Pigeons – again, alternate and take your time.
- Adductor rock-back – You may need a pad for you knee for this one: get on all fours, kick one leg straight out to the side. Keeping your spine straight and not rounded, rock your hips back until you feel a stretch. The inside of the leg out to the side is where you want to feel the stretch. You’ll need to keep an eye on the timer and switch halfway through this one.
- Side lying windmills, left side – this one feels so good, you’ll want to spend a minute on both sides. That, and, it’s a bit cumbersome to get into. You can keep you knee on a foam roller or med ball like in the video, or you can simply stack your knees on top of one another in front of you. Rotate through the upper back, feeling a stretch in the chest and shoulder. As you finish the rotation, exhale fully; you’ll be amazed at how much further you can sink into the stretch.
- Side lying windmills, right side
- Straight leg lower – this one’s a twofer: stretch your hamstrings and work your core at the same time. The hard part here is keeping the top leg straight at the ceiling –or as close as you can get it- as you lower the other almost to the ground. Alternate reps and go slow.
- Fire hydrants – this one is about controlled mobility rather than a stretch, so go slow and aim for big circles. Don’t let you hips tilt away from the side you’re working, and switch halfway through.
- If you sit at a desk all day and have a rounded posture, do this one:
10b. If you have a more extended posture, or you’re not yet to the point in your life where you appreciate dad jokes, this one might work better for you:
Child’s Pose – Yes, the one from yoga. Get on all fours, pointing your toes back behind you, and rock your hips back onto your feet. It’s okay if your spine rounds, just don’t force yourself into position. Let your arms extend in front of you or place them at your sides, whichever feels better to you.
And there you have it: one method, three applications, and hopefully a few new ideas. Treat your adulthood and all the responsibilities it brings like the privilege it is, and don’t fret over not being able to work out for 2 hours a day anymore.