Whether you’re a CrossFitter or not, there are certain CrossFit techniques that anyone interested in getting functionally strong and insanely fit should be doing at least occasionally. One such protocol is the EMOM — short for “every minute on the minute.”

With minimal equipment, you can get a lot done in very little time with this training tool. Case in point: the below 20-minute EMOM workout, which requires nothing more than a pair of dumbbells, designed by former competitive CrossFitter Nathan Pontious.

“EMOM sets are a novel and challenging way to train,” says Pontious, who’s the founder of the HomeBodies fitness program and an ambassador for the The After Bar. “In my opinion, they offer several advantages and benefits over less structured training methods. EMOM workouts are ideal for those who need an extra push of motivation, where the length of your rest period is determined in relation to your energy output.”

How to do an EMOM

The acronym pretty much tells you what to do. Each minute on the minute, you do a set of an exercise for a prescribed number of reps; when you finish those reps, you rest the remainder of the minute. At the top of the next minute, you do your next set of reps.

For example, if the EMOM calls for six reps, and it takes you 20 seconds to do those reps, you’ll rest for the remaining 40 seconds.

Some EMOMs have you doing the same exercise for all minutes. These tend to be your shorter workout — ie, a four- or five-minute EMOM. Other EMOMs (like the one provided by Pontious) have you cycling through multiple exercises. In this case, you’re still doing just one exercise per minute, then moving onto the next exercise at the top of the next minute.

The benefits of EMOM Training

Pontious loves programming EMOMs for several reasons — time efficiency being one of them. Another benefit he cites is increased work capacity.

“Your work capacity is your ability to exercise and recover,” he says. “EMOM training forces you to start your next set sooner than you otherwise might. This all but forces you to get fitter, and faster. Increased work capacity will have a big knock-on effect to other aspects of your workouts, allowing you to train harder for longer.”

The EMOM format is also great for predetermining work and rest periods, as well as for adjusting intensity on the fly.

“EMOMs remove much of the thinking and decision making from a workout,” says Pontious. “The clock decides when you’ll be working and when you’ll be resting. Every minute, you’ll also be able to see if you’ve done the prescribed work at a faster or slower pace. If it takes you 35 seconds the first minute and 50 seconds the second minute, you can clearly see that you’ve come out of the gate hot and fallen off pace. Subsequently, you can make the necessary adjustments to find a cruising pace instead of toeing your red-line for the entire workout.”

The “Devil’s in the Details” Workout Overview

Pontious’ “Devil’s in the Details” routine is a 20-minute EMOM in which each of five exercises is performed for four sets each.

Collectively, these five moves will train the majority of your big muscle groups. The double jack burpees and devil’s presses are full-body moves that also hit the chest and shoulders; the dumbbell Russian swing is a great posterior-chain exercise (hamstrings, glutes, lower back); the alternating reverse lunge is a classic leg movement; and the V situp torches the core. And, of course, all five moves done in EMOM fashion will provide a great high-intensity cardio stimulus.

“This is a nasty little piece from my HomeBodies programming that will really get the heart rate cranking,” Pontious says of the routine. “The beauty in this workout is in the compounding effect that the burpees and the devil’s press will start to have in the final minutes.”

Devil’s in the Details 20-Minute EMOM Workout

Female on a boardwalk performing v-sit exercise performing a EMOM workout

Before starting this EMOM routine, perform a thorough warmup consisting of light cardio and full-body dynamic stretching.

You’ll need a pair of dumbbells to do the workout as written. Pontious recommends 30- to 40-pound dumbbells for guys and anywhere from 15- to 30-pound dumbbells for women, but when in doubt, feel free to go adjust accordingly.

At the start of each minute, perform the exercise and reps listed below in sequence. For example, the first exercise (double jack burpees) will be performed at the top of minutes 1, 6, 11, and 16; the second exercise (double dumbbell Russian swing) will be done at the top of minutes 2, 7, 12, and 17; and so on.

  1. Double Jack Burpees x 6 (+1 rep after each completed round*)
  2. Double Dumbbell Russian Swing x 16
  3. Double Dumbbell Alternating Reverse Lunge x 16
  4. V Situp x 16
  5. Dumbbell Devil’s Press x 6 (+1 rep after each completed round*)

*6 reps the first time through, then 7, 8, and 9 reps on subsequent rounds.

Exercise Descriptions

  • Double Jack Burpee: This is very similar to a standard burpee. Just one difference: Instead of a vertical jump at the top of each rep, you do two jumping jacks.
  • Double Dumbbell Russian Swing: Swings are usually done with kettlebells. Here, the exercise is done with a pair of dumbbells. Place your feet wide enough on the floor so that the dumbbells can travel between your legs at the bottom of each rep, and keep your grip neutral (palms and forearms facing each other throughout). With Russian swings, the weights are pulled to right around shoulder height (whereas with American swings the weights go overhead).
  • Double Dumbbell Alternating Reverse Lunge: Stand with your feet together, holding dumbbells at your sides like suitcases. Step one foot back and drop that knee to the floor in a lunge, then push off that leg to return to the start position. Repeat with the opposite leg, alternating sides every other rep. Do 8 reps on each side for 16 total reps.
  • V Situp: Lie faceup on the floor with your arms extended overhead and legs straight. Contract your core muscles to bring your hands and feet together above your hips, keeping both your arms and legs extended throughout.
  • Dumbbell Devil’s press: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with your feet fairly wide apart (around shoulder-width). Lower the dumbbells down to the floor between your feet, kick your feet back behind you as you would with a burpee, and perform a push-up with your hands still holding the dumbbell handles (hex-shaped dumbbells are recommended to minimize rolling). After the pushup, pull your feet back underneath you and immediately go into a double dumbbell snatch, finishing with the dumbbells overhead and your arms extended. That’s one rep.

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