Everything You Need to Know About AMRAP Workouts

Circuit Training To Complete As Many Rounds or Reps As Possible

renegade row
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AMRAP is an acronym popularized by CrossFit that stands for "As Many Rounds As Possible" or "As Many Reps As Possible," depending on the structure of the workout. AMRAP training protocols live and die on the basis of time—it's you against the clock, working to complete as many repetitions or rounds of exercises as possible within a set timeframe. As such, workout possibilities are practically endless, given that exercises and the time allotted can be manipulated and changed depending on your workout goals. But given that AMRAP workouts are almost always based on some form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or high-intensity circuit training (HICT), there are a few things you should consider before starting a routine of your own.

The Difference Between Reps and Rounds

AMRAP workouts can be set up in two different ways: Focused on rounds of exercises set up as circuits, or focused on repetitions of a single exercise, set up as an interval.

When the Focus Is On Reps, Expect:

  • Shorter timeframes. For instance, if you're performing only burpees during your pre-set time period, your body is going to tire out more quickly than if it were alternating between burpees, squats, and shoulder presses. Generally speaking, when focused on repetitions, you can expect the timeframe to last up to about 120 seconds, although it may be as little as 10 or 20 seconds.
  • Interval training protocols. A Tabata interval is the perfect example of an AMRAP protocol based on repetitions. During a Tabata, you complete eight total intervals, each consisting of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest. During each work interval, you complete as many reps as possible of the exercise in question. You can perform a single exercise for the entire Tabata, or you can switch exercises each work interval. The point, though, is to push yourself as hard as you can during each work period to complete as many repetitions as possible. This same concept can apply to other interval training protocols. You can change the length of the work and rest periods and the number of intervals, but if the goal is to complete as many repetitions as possible during each work period, then you're performing a form of AMRAP.

    When the Focus Is On Rounds, Expect:

    • Circuit training protocols. When the focus is on rounds, the goal is generally to complete as many rounds of several exercises as possible in a set period of time. This means you'll be performing several exercises back-to-back with as little rest as possible between exercises and rounds. In other words, the AMRAP is set up as a circuit workout. For instance, you might perform air squats, push-ups, single-leg deadlifts, and renegade rows as part of a single AMRAP.
    • A set number of repetitions per exercise. Unlike AMRAPs focused on repetitions, when you focus AMRAPs on rounds, you're not performing each exercise for a certain length of time, you're performing the entire circuit for a certain length of time. This means you have to pre-determine the number of repetitions you'll perform per exercise. For instance, if your circuit includes squats, push-ups, single-leg deadlifts, and renegade rows, you might perform 15 squats, 10 push-ups, 8 single-leg deadlifts per leg, and 8 renegade rows per arm to complete a single round. Then you'd repeat that entire circuit as many times as possible within the total time allotted.
    • Longer timeframes. Because you're performing rounds of exercises rather than a single exercise, it takes longer to complete a single round, so by default, the timeframe provided to complete the workout is typically longer—usually at least five minutes, and often 10, 15, or even 20 minutes. The goal is to continue cycling through the circuit as many times as you can, whether that's just once or multiple times.

    Form Is More Important Than Speed

    Even though the goal is to complete as many rounds or repetitions as possible, this isn't a situation where speed trumps form. Rounds and reps only count if they're performed with perfect form, so it's better to slow down and get the movements right than to compromise form and end up injured. This is particularly true given the high-intensity nature of AMRAP workouts. Your body is going to get tired. Your muscles are going to burn. If you compromise form when your body is tired, that's when injuries are most likely to occur.

    Rest As Needed

    Whether you're focusing on repetitions or rounds, you're in complete control of determining when your body needs to rest. Sure, by adding rest into your workout you'll perhaps forfeit a few reps or a round toward your total, but you'll also be able to maintain better form. If, during a 90-second burpee AMRAP, you need to take a break after performing five burpees, go ahead and take a break. Just keep it as short as possible so you can continue the workout before time runs out.

    Keep Exercises Simple

    During AMRAPs you'll be taxing your muscles and wearing yourself out. It's best to keep exercises simple and straightforward, rather than complex, in order to maintain proper form and reduce the likelihood of injury. This is especially true if you're adding weight to each exercise. For instance, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, lunges, shoulder presses, and deadlifts are all good options, whereas single-arm dumbbell snatches or clean and jerks aren't as ideal. If you do decide to use more complex exercises or plyometric movements during your AMRAP, pay special attention to form and slow your pace as needed. It's better to be safe and slow than to end up injured.

    Record Results

    If the goal is to maximize reps or rounds, it's important to keep track of how many reps or rounds you complete in a given workout. If you don't, you'll have no way to monitor or track your changes and improvements over time.

    You're Competing Against Yourself

    AMRAP workouts are a good way to monitor changes in your own fitness level. If you perform an AMRAP workout today and you're able to complete four rounds of exercises in a 10-minute timeframe, you can try the same workout a month from now and try to accumulate five rounds of exercises in the same timeframe. If you reach your goal, you know your fitness level has improved.

    The important thing to remember is that you're competing against yourself, not against anyone else. Yes, it can be helpful to see where your performance places you in relation to your peers, but ultimately it's your workout. If you push yourself and do your best, it doesn't matter whether you complete a single round or 10 rounds in a given period, or 10 repetitions or 50 repetitions in a given time period. It's you against you, and your goal should be to beat your own scores down the line, rather than worrying about anyone else's scores.

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