If you’ve ever attended a CrossFit workout or have buddies who are die-hard CrossFit enthusiasts, you may already be well aware of this seemingly secret society ripe with its own culture and lingo, from a strong emphasis on the paleo diet to WODs and MetCon. Another term spawned in CrossFit gyms is AMRAP, which stands for “as many reps as possible.” This challenging style of workout quickly became a favorite workout of CrossFitters and permeated the rest of the fitness market outside CrossFit boxes where it now is prescribed by personal trainers around the country and has taken on all sorts of iterations and structures.
The best AMRAP workouts get your heart pounding, lungs burning, and muscles quivering. Like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, AMRAP workouts have metabolic, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal benefits and they can even be fun. Tackling an AMRAP workout may be a one-stop solution if you’re looking to boost your fitness, shake up your workout routine, and test your mental and physical limits. If you’re not sure how to get started with AMRAP workouts and what exercises to do, keep reading for our guide to the best AMRAP workouts and get ready to sweat.
As mentioned, AMRAP is an acronym that stands for “as many reps as possible.” AMRAP workouts consist of anywhere from two or three to a dozen or more exercises typically completed in circuit fashion with little to no rest between exercises. Each exercise is usually performed for a set amount of time (such as 30 seconds or one minute) with the goal of completing as many reps as possible during that time. AMRAP workouts are metabolically-demanding, high-intensity workouts with many of the same benefits as HIIT workouts. Accordingly, they usually last anywhere from three to 20 minutes, though advanced athletes may push through a grueling hour. Since intensity is key, however, it’s usually better to keep the time shorter and really push your speed and power.
The specific benefits of AMRAP workouts depend somewhat on the exercises performed in the workout. For example, if the AMRAP workout consists of continuous rounds of pull-ups, push-ups, and burpees, the workout will strengthen and condition your upper body, back, and chest more than an AMRAP workout cycling between squats, lunges, and box jumps wherein the emphasis is on the lower body. That said, the following are general benefits of most AMRAP workouts:
- Boosting metabolic rate and increasing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption
- Burning calories in an efficient manner
- Strengthening muscles
- Increasing muscular endurance
- Improving cardiovascular fitness
- Increasing speed
- Increasing power
- Reducing body fat
- Serving as benchmarks for monitoring progress
- Pushing mental limits
- Maximizing time
While there are no absolute rules when it comes to selecting exercises for an AMRAP workout, as a general rule of thumb, the best exercises for AMRAP workouts are those that you can perform safely with good form and where speed does not impact the effectiveness of the exercise. Bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, squats, burpees, jumping jacks, and high-knees sprinting in place work really well because equipment isn’t necessary (save for a pull-up bar) so the exercises can be transitioned quickly and can be performed anywhere, even without a gym. Like exercises used in HIIT workouts, it’s also best to choose total-body exercises or ones that involve a cardio component to help keep intensity high. Plyometrics like squat jumps and depth jumps are also great because they spike your heart rate, require no equipment, and emphasize force generation, power, and speed.
Plenty of effective AMRAP workouts do rely on resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, or other weights. So long as you can use this equipment safely, it’s perfectly acceptable to use it. However, particularly when using weights in an AMRAP workout, be sure not to wildly swing the weights or otherwise rely on momentum and gravity to do the work. Doing so can increase the risk of injury and will limit the effectiveness of the exercise. It’s also advisable to string together exercises using the same equipment if you’re going to use equipment. For example, if you decide you want to use a kettlebell, build kettlebell AMRAP workouts with rounds of kettlebell swings, kettlebell sumo squats, and kettlebell bent-over rows so that you can efficiently move from one exercise to the next.
Though far from an exhaustive list, below we share some of the best exercises for AMRAP workouts:
- Jumping jacks
- High knees sprinting in place
- Air squats
- Mountain climbers
- Jump squats
- Jump lunges
- Pistol squats
- Bench dips
- Side lunges
- Plank jacks
- Curtesy lunges
- Pike push-ups
- Diamond push-ups
- V sits
- Calf raises
- Tuck jumps
- Box jumps
- Kettlebell swings
- Squat thrusts
- Split squats
- Figure 8’s
- Bent-over rows
- Goblet squats
- Turkish get ups
Medicine Ball Exercises
- Russian Twist
- Weighted V sits
- Medicine ball slams
Other Exercises for AMRAP workouts
- TRX suspended rows
- Chest press
- Wood chop lunges
- Tire slams
- Be sure to select exercises you can perform with proper form even when moving quickly. Form trumps speed, so it behooves you to slow down a little if necessary to maintain good form. If you tire before the timed interval is over, stop and rest rather than push through with sloppy form.
- If you’re new to AMRAP workouts, start small. Try a 5 to 10-minute workout and build up gradually over time.
- Record your results so that you can monitor your fitness improvements over time.
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