You don’t have to be on the leaderboard of your local CrossFit box to integrate AMRAP workouts into your program. This increasingly popular training model — which stands for “as many rounds (or reps) as possible” — is an extremely efficient way to maximize your workload in a short amount of time.
Whether you’re a CrossFitter, strength athlete, or regular gym-goer, you may find that AMRAP workouts are a powerful addition to your training. They help build strength, power, endurance, and conditioning. These types of workouts can also help bolster your mental focus and health. AMRAP workouts help you get to know yourself better as a person and an athlete — and that knowledge can translate into impressive PRs down the line.
What is an AMRAP Workout?
Performing as many rounds (or reps) as possible is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You have a predesigned set of exercises and reps that you will continue to repeat until the allotted amount of time is up. This method is often found in CrossFit workouts, but any kind of athlete can use AMRAP workouts. They can range anywhere from 60 seconds to 60 minutes, but popular AMRAPS range between five to 20 minutes.
The goal of the AMRAP is to get as many rounds or reps as possible so that you’re maximizing the amount of work done in a short period of time. Categorized as a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, this type of training model can help increase efficiency, stamina, and overall health.
That said, a huge key to AMRAP workouts is the quality of your movement. Accomplishing a certain amount of reps matters less when your form falls apart halfway through. You don’t want to proceed with bad form and set yourself up for potential injury. So, it’s helpful to think about AMRAP workouts as requiring you to move as fast as you can with the best form you can muster.
Who Should Do AMRAP Workouts?
AMRAPs can be beneficial for different types of athletes, no matter what fitness level. They can be adjusted for time and effort.
If you go to a CrossFit gym, chances are you already do AMRAPs, but maybe you tend to skip the days that have them programmed. Moving quickly through a circuit of exercises can help build strength and conditioning, and if the AMRAP includes moves like cleans or deadlifts, it can help you focus on technique while under stress.
Whether you’re a long-distance runner or sprinter, power, speed, and stamina are important. AMRAPs can help runners become stronger and more efficient by understanding how to pace through different values of time. Studies suggest that runners who incorporated HIIT workouts into their training experienced similar improvements in V02 max and 5k times to that of an only running program. (9)
You don’t need to be an athlete or have a coach to do an AMRAP. These workouts can help improve your cardiovascular and mental health and are a great way to lose weight and burn fat. They can be easily accessible and adjustable, by just doing bodyweight exercises, just using a barbell, and anything in between.
How to Program AMRAP Workouts
Coaches or athletes alike can program AMRAP workouts, but don’t throw random exercises together. Since you’re going for as many rounds as possible, you should be picking exercises that don’t require too much rest time in between. For example, you wouldn’t program a one-rep max (1RM) deadlift into an AMRAP because you’d need at least 90 seconds to recover.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use deadlifts, but program it so you’re using a lighter load to be able to bust them out quickly. If you’re incorporating more than one barbell exercise, make sure the load is the same for each, so you’re not wasting time putting on and pulling off weight plates. For example, push press for 10 reps could pair well with hang cleans for five reps. Also, note that your weakest lift will be the limiting factor when selecting a weight. For example, you can probably hang clean more than you can push press, so you’ll want to pick a weight you can feasibly press overhead with tight form.
Whether you’re using your body weight, weights, or both, taxing the same muscle group can be a mistake to avoid. For example, air squats and lunges back to back could require more recovery and prevent you from getting the most rounds possible. Instead, pairing air squats with pull-ups will ensure you’re getting in quality work without over-working on particular muscle.
Lastly, you want to think about how long each exercise might take. This can help you determine the time frame. Exercise like burpees and toes-to-bar can typically be done pretty quickly and can tire you out fast, so an AMRAP with these may be shorter between five to seven minutes. Whereas, if you include deadlifts and sit-ups, moves that aren’t as high intensity, the workout can be closer to 15-30 minutes.
Sample AMRAP Workouts to Try
So you’re ready to take on the AMRAP, but you don’t know where to start. Below are just a few sample AMRAPs that can be great for anyone to try.
For this AMRAP, it’s a short five minute workout, so it can be great for someone on a time constraint. Notice the air squats in between the exercises to help break up the muscle groups being targeted.
- 10 burpees
- 5 air squats
- 10 push-ups
- 5 air squats
With a little bit of a longer AMRAP, you can afford a higher rep count. The first two exercises are more strength-focused with different muscle groups, and the last one is more cardio-focused.
- 20 walking lunges
- 20 sit-ups
- 50 double unders/100 singles
Fifteen minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but when you’re constantly moving, it can feel like hours. For longer periods of time, you’ll want more variety of moves and muscle groups, so you’re not burning out in the first five minutes.
- 10 pull-ups
- 15 box jump-overs
- 5 deadlifts
- 20 V-ups
This type of AMRAP with a decreasing rep count is commonly referred to as a “chipper” since you’re chipping away at the reps. For the higher reps of 30 +, make sure they’re exercises that can be done fairly quickly.
- 50 jumping jacks
- 40 sit-ups
- 30 step-ups
- 20 push-ups
- 10 pull-ups
Benefits of an AMRAP Workout
- Measurable Results
- Increased Work Capacity
- Body Composition
- Better Heart Health
- Time Efficient
- Improved Mental Health
- Better Understanding of Pace
AMRAPs offer a standardized, repeatable measure of progress. These benchmark workouts are great for helping compare previous efforts with future efforts. In other words, maybe you only completed three rounds of a particular AMRAP last month. But the next time you scheduled it into your program, you were able to get four rounds in cleanly. You’ll be able to tell that you’ve improved, even if you’re working with just your bodyweight or you don’t have access to heavier weights.
In doing so, you are able to not only gauge your level of progress. You can also use these benchmark workouts as testing protocols throughout a training cycle, comparing your current performances to your past efforts.
The AMRAP can deliver high amounts of training volume in short amounts of time. But you won’t be sacrificing training intensity to do it. Because you’ll be minimizing your rest periods, this type of workout can test your muscular endurance as well as your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. When done consistently, studies suggest that AMRAPs can help increase anaerobic capacity. (1) Increased anaerobic capacity can be important for boosting speed and power, which are crucial for CrossFit athletes and other sport activities.
Although changing your body composition doesn’t have to be a part of your training goals, it is for some people. A high-intensity interval training workout like an AMRAP can be beneficial for losing body fat while building muscle. Studies suggest that HIIT training can help reduce visceral body fat, which is the fat that is around your abdominal area. (This happens to be the results of a study. Overall, spot-reducing specific areas of your body is not possible.) (2)
For some, the stomach is a stubborn area to get rid of fat because it can rely a lot on nutrition, but research shows that HIIT training can also help reduce insulin resistance. (3)
Better Heart Health
Since you’re performing as much work as possible in a short amount of time, an AMRAP is guaranteed to get your heart pumping. It can help increase your aerobic capacity, and studies suggest your peak oxygen consumption can be a predictor of cardiovascular health and all-cause mortality. (4)
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. (5) Keeping your heart healthy with workouts like AMRAPs can help reduce your risk of developing a heart disease-related illness.
You could be spending hours in the gym, or you could do a three-minute AMRAP. Three minutes may not seem like enough time, but it’s important to understand how the quality and intensity of your workout is more important than the quantity.
AMRAPs can range anywhere from three minutes to typically 30 minutes or less. This training model can help you put as much work in as possible in a shorter amount of time. So, if your work schedule is demanding, or you just want to squeeze a quick workout in, an AMRAP is a great choice.
Improved Mental Health
A decline in mental health has become a public health concern, and studies suggest that since the COVID-19 pandemic, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and stress have increased significantly. (6)
Exercise has been long said to help not only physical but mental health as well. Research shows HIIT can help reduce symptoms such as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and it can help increase self-esteem and resilience. (7) AMRAPs are often done in CrossFit workouts, and CrossFit itself has been linked to a greater satisfaction and motivation. (8)
Better Understanding of Pace
The last thing you want to have happen in a competition is to burn out in the first two minutes. For athletes like CrossFitters or runners, stamina and pacing is essential for success. An AMRAP workout can help you better understand pacing while helping to improve your endurance. A 20-minute AMRAP will require a steadier pace than a shorter seven-minute AMRAP, and this can help train your body for pace and continued movement.
Doing the same thing over and over again in the gym can make you lose motivation and results. Incorporating AMRAPs into your workout routine can help you get the most out of your time and can be beneficial for your overall health. They’re easily adjustable and accessible, meaning just about anyone can program and perform them. If you’re looking for a different way to measure your results besides the scale, an AMRAP can help you track your progress and stay competitive with other athletes and, more importantly, yourself.
- Turker, Ali, Yuksel, Oguzhan. Investigation of the Effect of Amrap and Classic Crossfit Trainings in Wrestlers on Anaerobic Power. International Journal of Applied Exercise Physiology. 2020; 9(9).
- Zhang, Haifeng, Tong, Tom K., & Qiu, Weifeng. Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women. Journal of Diabetes Research. 2017. doi: 10.1155/2017/5071740
- De Souza, Jorge F. T., Dattilo, Murilo, & De Mello, Marco T. High-Intensity Interval Training Attenuates Insulin Resistance Induced by Sleep Deprivation in Healthy Males. Frontiers in Physiology. 2017; 8. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00992
- Ito, Shigenori. High-intensity interval training for health benefits and care of cardiac diseases – The key to an efficient exercise protocol. World Journal of Cardiology. 2019; 11(7). doi: 10.4330/wjc.v11.i7.171
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Feb. 2022. Heart Disease Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
- Xiong, Jiaqi, Lipsitz, Orly, & Nasri, Flora. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2020; 277. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.08.001
- Borrega-Mouquinho, Yolanda, Sánchez-Gómez, Jesus, & Pedro Fuentes-García, Juan. Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Moderate-Intensity Training on Stress, Depression, Anxiety, and Resilience in Healthy Adults During Coronavirus Disease 2019 Confinement: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Physiology. 2021; 24. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.643069
- Gustavo Claudino, João, Gabbett, Tim J., & Bourgeois, Frank. CrossFit Overview: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Medicine-Open. 2018; 11. doi: 10.1186/s40798-018-0124-5
- Carnes, Andrew J., Mahoney, Sara E. Polarized Versus High-Intensity Multimodal Training in Recreational Runners. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2019; 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2018-0040
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