How we love the acronym; it saves time and bother and still communicates our message! And, for similar reasons, we also love condensing our workouts. AMRAP stands for “as many reps (or rounds) as possible”. This HIIT (high intensity interval training) can bring terrific gains and a bit of spice to your training program. But, how often should you be performing this type of workout?
Unless you are under the eye of a good trainer or wholly grasp exercise science, then you should only perform a full AMRAP workout a few times per week, and only incorporate one or two AMRAP sets into your lower-intensity workouts.
In this article, I will discuss what AMRAP is specifically, what to be aware of before performing this type of workout, what the benefits of AMRAP are, and where you can go to get a good AMRAP training session of your own.
What is AMRAP?
AMRAP training can be performing a single exercise as many times as you possibly can within a specific amount of time or performing two or more exercises (for a specific number of reps) as many times as you can within a set amount of time.
Let’s take a look at each approach.
As Many Reps As Possible
AMRAP (as many reps as possible) might consist of a person performing as many push-ups, or squats, or burpees as they can in 1-2 minutes. Then, after a brief rest, they might perform this exact same exercise again for another 1-2 minutes. They can also vary the exercise selection or time, or even opt for the latter style of AMRAP.
As Many Rounds As Possible
When we perform two or more exercises AMRAP-style, then we are performing “as many rounds as possible”. What this might look like is performing rounds of 10 kettlebell swings, 10 push-ups, and 10 lunges as many times as possible (in succession and without pause) for 5 minutes. Then, take a brief break. Following the pause, one could repeat this exact line up again, change the exercises, change the time, or change to an “as many reps as possible” cycle.
The key is to work as hard as you possibly can within a short amount of time (often 20 minutes or less). The great thing about an AMRAP workout is that it can provide significant gains from a small investment of time. The not-so-great thing about AMRAP is that it can also derail your program.
What you should be aware of?
Let’s say you perform 100 push-ups with bad form; this means that you performed zero push-ups. NONE. Form is EVERYTHING when you are training.
Never Sacrifice Form for Speed
Firstly, proper form activates your muscles, tendons, and ligaments in just such a way as to trigger growth, strength, and endurance. Without this activation, you won’t see much improvement. Secondly, proper form protects you from injury; if you use poor form during an AMRAP you WILL be on the path to injury (how significant is the only question). And finally, proper form used in the beginning enables your nervous system to refine performance quickly; this enables you to become efficient at performing perfect and quick movements.
You should always take your time and slowly perform those exercises that are new to you. Only perform AMRAP sets of exercises you are already proficient with. This way, you are securing the benefits of both high intensity and proper muscle activation.
Underlying Health Conditions
As always, if you have an underlying health condition you MUST speak with your doctor before proceeding. The body sometimes functions counterintuitively, and your doctor can help you to safely navigate potential health hazards.
The General Prescription
For the average, relatively fit person, I would advise working out 3-5 times per week, with one or two of those sessions being an AMRAP workout. For the remaining 1-4 workouts, I would recommend a blending of variables.
Variables are: intensity, frequency, tempo, rest intervals, sets, and exercise selection. While your body does need high intensity in order to grow stronger, fitter, and/or larger, it also needs lower intensities for muscle learning and recovery. Moreover, the other five variables do provide enormous benefits and should be integrated. For an example, you cannot build huge muscles solely using AMRAP work, and you cannot build marathon endurance through AMRAP.
The Many Benefits of AMRAP
I have already mentioned some benefits of AMRAP: saving time and greater gains. But there are more wonderful benefits of this type of training.
Training in All Planes of Motion
Too often, training is performed in one plane of motion with frontward and backward movements. We all need to integrate movements involving rotation of the body and side-to-side motion. This helps prevent weaknesses, unbalanced aesthetics, muscle imbalance, and injury.
AMRAP workouts tend to incorporate a number of exercises that are performed in varying planes of motion.
Progression and Regression
The exercises commonly used in AMRAP workouts usually offer a number of progressions and regressions. This makes training more fun and enables the athlete to really experience their growth. For example, a beginner may need to perform very basic burpees (a simple squat step back to a plank), incline push-ups, and negative pull-ups. However, very quickly they will be rewarded for their efforts with the capability to perform more challenging versions of these exercises.
Health Benefits of AMRAP
Most AMRAP workouts are challenging to the core as well as to balance and flexibility, vital exercise components for those over 40. Moreover, AMRAP (and HIIT training in general) is very effective at burning calories, gaining muscle, improving oxygen consumption, reducing heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and reducing blood sugar levels. (Again, always consult your physician before beginning a training program.)
Where Did AMRAP Come From?
AMRAP is a product of HIIT training that was made popular by box gyms and CrossFit junkies.
Therefore, a great place to learn AMRAP (from a certified instructor) is going to be in the box gym. Taking a HIIT class is usually a pretty cost-effective way to gain some exposure. Though the most safe and effective source of AMRAP training and oversight will always be one-on-one training with a certified fitness trainer.
AMRAP Take Away
AMRAP is a great weekly or twice-weekly workout approach. It can also be integrated as one component of an overall less intense workout. For example, you could perform a single set of AMRAP pushups after a longer duration, low-intensity workout.
While there are some athletes out there who can incorporate this type of training into a daily workout regimen, those guys are superstars who really understand all of the nuances of fitness, including periodization and the need to properly rest and recover.
For the rest of us, twice per week is plenty AMRAP training to see the gains in cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and muscular endurance, and that much-needed variation that keeps us coming back for more fitness.