Crossfit does it again! It takes a concept that has been around for pretty much for as long as training has been a thing (timed work and rest) slap a catchy phrase on it (EMOM) and bob’s your uncle and fannies your aunt. Continuous 60-second intervals are now CrossFit. Just like doing a rep out is not an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) and is crossfit I don’t know why the fuck we got rid of rep out it’s much easier to say and less mouthy. Digressions aside there is nothing wrong with either of these as training tools.
Why are you using 60-second continuous intervals?
First of all we need to be able to justify this pretty simple question if you can’t answer this in a simple, rational and factual manner then you probably need to have a look at your training program because you probably are just doing EMOMs because they are a current fitness meme.
How you chunk up work to rest should be based on the following considerations
- Energy systems you want to train
- The outcome you want from the training (what are you training for)
- The goal of the training session in the wider context of the above.
We obviously have a pretty strong resistance training bias on this blog since it is literally what I do for a living and as a hobby but the same rationale can be taken for conditioning work the only real differences will be the physical qualities we are looking to target.
Intensity, volume, and training outcomes
First of all we need to determine what it is we are looking to achieve from our use of an EMOM set up. If we want to achieve a strength-based outcome then we are looking to use percentages of 80-100% which using EMOMs is pretty fucking stupid and dangerous depending on the amount of work I get through during those 60 seconds. Let’s say I am doing the following.
80% x 2 x 10 – EMOM
Physiologically what is happening during these sets?
Before I get into laying out practically what is happening from a physiological standpoint during a workout like this I need to make sure we have some common understanding. 80% x 2 should represent a very low RPE effort. 80% is around your 7 rep max using the Brycki formula which I find pretty reliable. 80%x2 should leave you at an RPE of 5 so very easy and not a very stimulating effort however when we start to bring ATP into the picture then it starts to change a bit.
So let’s say if you are doing 2 reps out of a possible 7 then you have 5 reps worth of ATP left in your muscle. Now let’s say it takes you 15-20 seconds to perform 2 reps @ 80% of your max. Leaving you 40 seconds to replenish your ATP stores before going again. Some rough math
2/7 = 28.6% of ATP depleted leaving you with 71.4% of your stores.
You have 40 seconds to replenish those stores meaning you get back 60% of those you have lost (+17.16%) leaving you with 71.4 + 17.16% for a total of 88.56%.
Now, lets move to rep 2 we have 88.56% remaining ATP stores. Due to fatigue these 2 reps now pose a higher RPE each rep takes up roughly 14% of our available RPE assuming 80% is a 7 rep max. 80% now represents about a 6 rep max.
Set 2 will now be 80%x2 @ RPE 6 I will continue this to its the logical conclusion in a table below.
By set 7 80%x2 is now a maximal effort and you will start failing reps. Of course, this is just a thought experiment and not 100% reflective of reality but it is reflective of the reality of physiology.
We set out with the goal of training strength and I plucked the % and sets/reps out of my arse from what I thought would be reasonable. Then I used the above thought process to reason out what would likely happen if you were to perform this workout.
Now if you were to train like this more often you would, of course, get better at it and be able to get through more work in the same setting. But what you are doing is getting fitter at doing EMOMs which is a pretty fucking stupid way to train if you are trying to get stronger. Your body will be more efficient at replenishing ATP in the muscles and time frames you are using which is useful for event-specific training (if your event is 80%x2 EMOM on an exercise) but for a physiological outcome, it’s a hodgepodge fucking mess.
You need to look at your training structurally
- What is the primary outcome I desire?
- What are my time frames?
- How can I best drive adaptation in training?
- What are the recovery demands and how do I plan for them?
- What other considerations should I be looking at in my planning?
By asking these questions in the context of you or your athlete’s goals and current situation you can come with a framework. Then when you are going through the process of training day to day, week to week you can make it best fit the person and scenario. Then you can adapt and create a fruitful and effective training process.
You can just slap a heavy set into the session and some back off EMOM’s “for volume” or “for technique” because you have another 15 plans to get through and you can’t be fucked giving up any more of your Sunday.
EMOMS huh WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING UH SING IT AGAIN!
When your training outcomes align with either wanting to increase training density or look at a cardiac response (getting fitter) then EMOMs are a pretty good tool. A lot of people like to use them so they can get more training done in a shorter amount of time and if the goal is general fitness or working out then this is an awesome idea. If you have a performance outcome or you are training for a purpose you need to not use this kind of lazy thinking.
You need to start from first principals and ask yourself why the fuck am I doing this? If you can answer it with clear and concise language you are golden if you have to justify it with long wordy sentences or you can’t justify it then get it to fuck because there is nothing worse than wasted effort.
Short rest periods can be really useful for inducing hypertrophy or skill-based training outcomes since the fatigue of insufficient rest increases the difficulty of each proceeding set. They will also involve strength gain in people with a low training age or ability. But there is fuck all special about doing shit every minute. You should start from the first principle (the quality you are wanting to train) and then from there build your training protocol.
If performing work every minute on the minute meets your training outcomes then, by all means, get fucking EMOMed off your face.