EMOM, an acronym for "every minute on the minute" is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that has you pounding out the reps to a different exercise at the start of each minute. So if you finish the required reps in 40 seconds, those 20 remaining precious seconds are all yours to catch a breath.
"With higher-intensity-style EMOMs, the work and rest times are both inside the minute, so the faster you complete your reps, the more rest you have before the next minute starts," explains certified personal trainer Evan Williams.
Typically, EMOMs are performed in a class environment, which allows those in the class to feed off one another's energy. But ultimately, this workout is designed to push your body hard with limited recovery time. EMOMs are also ideal for those who are crunched for time yet want to reach a higher heart rate training zone, meaning you will also reap the benefits after the workout when your body is recovering.
Keep reading to learn more about these powerful workouts, straight from Williams and personal trainers Missy Berkowitz and Pete McCall.
Meet the Expert
Type of Class: HIIT-Style
"Though the history of EMOMs aren’t exactly clear, the origin of interval-style training can be traced back to around the early 1900s, when the more commonly used and familiar form of HIIT known as Tabata was introduced by Izumi Tabata in 1996, allowing different variations of HIIT to soon follow," outlines Williams.
The Tabata protocol is similar to the structure of an EMOM class in that you have a set amount of time to work at maximum effort and with limited rest. Typically, Tabata is performed in four-minute increments of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds rest. In short, both workout styles require you to go "all out."
Like many forms of HIIT, the popularity of EMOMs piqued as the industry introduced more forms of the adaptable workout to class schedules. Whether it's access to equipment, time limitations, or to reach a higher heart rate training zone in a shorter spell and still reap the benefits post-exercise, EMOMs provide it all.
Best for: High Calorie Burn and Muscular Endurance
Research shows that HIIT classes are best for improving blood sugar levels and the amount of fat found in the liver, as well as cardiorespiratory fitness with Type 2 diabetes adults and boosting heart function and anterior health.
To put it simply, EMOMs are an excellent workout to shed calories fast whilst building up your muscle endurance. "They can be part of a strength-training, HIIT, or metabolic conditioning class, whereby you focus only on EMOMs, or feature them as a component of the workout," says Pete McCall, CSCS and experienced master trainer. "You can use heavier weights with lower reps for strength-training purposes, or incorporate more reps to result in greater muscular endurance and calorie burning."
Benefits of an EMOM Class
- Tough workout in half the time: "From a time management perspective, EMOMs are great for pushing yourself in whatever block of time you have," Berkowitz says.
- You control your rest period: Once the timer starts, you decide how hard to push in order to maximize your rest time. "If it takes 30 seconds to complete 20 reps, then you have 30 seconds of a rest break, whereas using up 40–45 seconds leaves you barely enough time to catch your breath before the next set starts," explains McCall.
- Efficient structure: The class is actually designed to encourage you to bank additional rest time. "If you take too much rest time in a workout, EMOMs will force you to work more efficiently," points out Berkowitz. And this structure can be used for multiple workouts. "For instance, if you tend to rest too much between strength sets, such as back squats, try an EMOM for five squats each round."
- High calorie burner: When the rest intervals are short, muscles use more oxygen, which results in greater caloric expenditure. So in the case of an EMOM, "muscles will keep working, so that the body will burn around five calories to consume one liter of oxygen, used to help produce energy for muscle contractions," McCall explains.
- Can promote weight loss: On the same thread, as HIIT-style training helps to burn calories efficiently, this type of workout elevates your heart rate with bouts of high-intensity movements and short rest. Therefore your cardiovascular system is constantly working at a high level, which can result in weight loss.
- More anabolic hormones: Depleting energy stores in muscle cells is known as metallic overload, which, according to McCall, occurs when you work to the point of fatigue. "It results in the production of human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin-like growth factor, two hormones that promote tissue repair and muscle growth," he says. HGH is known for increasing muscle protein synthesis for muscle growth, while insulin-like growth factor supports the function of HGH to mend protein that's damaged through exercise.
- Builds muscle and strength endurance: "You can make great strength and muscular endurance gains from EMOM workouts," shares Williams. This is partly due to the high intensity of the exercise coupled with the short rest time that often results in an increased hormonal response to the muscle area worked.
- Increases overall work capacity: "When you perform reps and sets at a high volume and with reduced rest time, it increases your ability to perform at a higher work rate when working out with more rest time," clarifies Williams. As a consequence, this will also increase overall cardiovascular output and, as previously outlined, muscular endurance.
EMOM Workouts to Try
Below, Berkowitz breaks down three EMOM classes using the same exercises set up in a different structure, each for a quick and effective sweat session. The exercises are:
- With your feet shoulder-width apart and your spine long, reach both arms straight out in front at shoulder height
- Brace your core as you push your glutes back at an angle and sink down by flexing both knees
- Lower yourself as far as you can with proper control, making sure the knees don't come over the toes, before pressing through your heels and squeezing your glutes to return to standing
- Lie face-down with your hands shoulder-width apart and legs straight behind you
- Squeeze your glutes and press your hands firmly into the ground, as if you are pushing the floor away from you (the harder you press your hands down, the more you will activate your core muscles)
- With your core braced, bend your elbows out at a 45-degree angle and lower yourself toward the ground, pausing for a second at the bottom
- Push the ground away from you to return to the starting position
Push-ups can also be performed on your knees following the above steps above, making sure your core is engaged and midsection doesn't collapse.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet placed hip-width apart on the floor
- Place your hands behind your neck with the elbows falling to each side
- Look straight ahead and pull from your abdominal muscles to raise your head and chest of the ground, making sure your chin remains off the chest
- Lower back down to the starting position with control
Perform the following exercise and repetitions for six rounds for a total of six minutes.
- 10 air squats and 5 push-ups and sit-ups with the remaining time
Repeat from the top of a new minute.
- Minute one: 10 air squats
- Minute two: 15 sit-ups
- Minute three: 10 push-ups
Repeat for five rounds for a 15-minute workout.
- Odd minutes: 10 sit-ups, 5 push-ups, and max-effort air squats with the remaining time
- Even minutes: Rest
The goal here is to power through the sit-ups and push-ups at speed in order to dedicate the remainder of time to maxing out on air squats, says Berkowitz.
EMOM vs. HIIT Circuits
"EMOMs have a different structure to other (circuit) classes, the biggest difference being the variability of rest time," says Williams. "Most HIIT classes have a set work/rest time, yet with general circuits you can personally dictate how much rest time you have in between exercises, as opposed to EMOMs where reps remain the same."
However, your specific rest time may decrease depending on your energy levels as the workout progresses. This arguably makes for a tougher yet more effective workout. Also, whereas a general circuit class typically has people working and resting at the same time intervals, if set up in rep style, you may finish ahead of others in the class.
"Although EMOMs can essentially be performed as a general circuit class, it really depends on what the EMOM workout is," adds Berkowitz. "Maybe it's an EMOM for 10 minutes, where the odd minutes are for working and the even minutes are rest, which is a great way to work in high-intensity movements and equal rest."
What to Wear to an EMOM Class
You should be spaced out in a class environment to allow you to move at speed and in various directions without bumping into your neighbor. There may also be a timer for reference or an instructor to count down the seconds to the next minute. Some classes will also incorporate other workout elements (like abs drills or weights), so you will want to be prepared for all eventualities.
With this in mind, you will want to dress appropriately for comfort, with quality footwear that supports your feet and ankles, alongside moisture-wicking clothing.
"You are very likely to sweat a good amount during these classes, so it helps to have this type of apparel to keep you dry," stresses Williams. However, if the class is outdoors, you will need to be prepared for other conditions. "In hotter outdoor temperatures, I would suggest heat-resistant clothing that’s both breathable and sweat-wicking, he says. "Although in cooler temperatures, go for cold-resistant workout clothes that are sweat-wicking and easy to move around in."
The Final Takeaway
EMOMs are a fast and efficient workout to burn calories and build on your muscle endurance in a short burst of time. Each exercise is performed on the minute and usually with a set number of reps, with the remainder of time allocated for rest. The same as the benefits of a HIIT class, EMOMs work you fast and hard to bring about maximum results with intense spells of exercise.
Although they are suitable for most, the intense nature of the class can be taxing on the body, so you should avoid such a workout if you have any chronic aches or injuries. Those who suffer with breathing issues likes asthma should ensure they take their inhaler prior to class.
The flexibility of an EMOM workout allows instructors or the individual to play around with timing, structure, and what equipment is used. This is why EMOMS are so efficient at slotting into any time of day and from any location that has a solid, supportive surface.
Be sure to dress appropriately for the elements, whether the class is in or outdoors, with sweat-wicking materials in hotter weather and breathable, cold-resistant clothing for colder conditions.
American College of Sports Medicine. High-Intensity Interval Training. Published 2014.
American College of Sports Medicine. High-Intensity Interval Training. Published 2014.
Science Daily. Keeping fit with HIIT really does work. Published April 15, 2021.
American Council On Exercise. Exercise and Hormones: 8 Hormones Invoiced in Exercise. Published August 10, 2015