It’s good to have a routine. It means you can never skip the gym just because you don’t have time to decide on or find an appropriate workout. Something like this straightforward, but progressive gym routine for beginners will suffice for months, but after a while you may feel things getting a bit stale. Maybe you stop working out as much because the thrill is gone.
Well, if it’s a muscle-shaking, heart-pounding, sweat-pouring thrill you want, then you want an AMRAP workout. The “as many rounds as possible” format scores high on the rate of perceived exertion scale because the whole idea is to you push yourself until the timer goes. This makes these workouts great for burning calories and improving muscular endurance.
Not only that, they’re quick by necessity—as a non-stop workout it wouldn’t safe to sustain it for too long—so if you’re after a “get in and get out” session, AMRAPs should be your go-to. Make sure you give yourself time to properly warm-up though, going from zero to 100mph is a surefire way to do yourself a mischief.
Finally, AMRAPs are a great way to put a marker down. Try the same session again in a month or two and see if you can beat your score from last time.
We have a number of workouts for you to try, but first, for more information on AMRAP workouts we spoke to someone who’s no stranger to them: CrossFit Games athlete Alexis Raptis, who is an ambassador for sportswear brand TYR.
What are AMRAP workouts?
“AMRAP stands for ‘as many rounds as possible’,” says Raptis. “It could be five minutes long, it could be an hour long, the idea is that you’re getting as many rounds of a certain workout as you can in a certain amount of time. So you just continuously move through rounds, or whatever the workout is, until the time is up.
“The first CrossFit Open workout was an AMRAP. It was a 60-calorie row, 50 toes-to-bars, 40 wall balls, 30 cleans and 20 ring muscle-ups, and the time was 14 minutes. You get as far as you can in that time and if you make it through, then you start back up at the top until the time is up.”
Is AMRAP the same as HIIT?
“It depends on the session. If it’s a shorter workout, it could be high intensity, just like HIIT is,” says Raptis. “But it can also be a long 60-minute AMRAP, where your heart rate isn’t super-high, which I wouldn’t consider a HIIT workout.”
How often do you use AMRAP workouts in your training?
“I do AMRAPs probably three times a week, at least,” says Raptis. “In all different forms. I think they’re a really good way to train.”
How long should an AMRAP workout be?
AMRAP workouts can be any length, but your intensity and the benefits of them will change with different lengths.
“With a longer one, that’s when you’re probably burning a little bit more fat—it’s a zone 2 heart rate workout,” says Raptis. “There are shorter ones where your heart rate is through the roof. Or it could be with a heavy barbell, which would be more of a strength training AMRAP.”
How do you maintain good technique when working flat out?
It’s easy to get carried away when pushing against the clock, but you have to keep your form in mind, especially if you’ve only recently started training.
“Your form is going to suffer a little bit when you’re trying to go as fast as you can and you’re racing,” says Raptis. “If you’re a new person or in a class, form is more important. But I think if you’re training regularly, it’s not going to be anything that’s going to hurt you, because you’re used to doing it.”
Are AMRAP workouts good for building muscle? Or would traditional strength training be more effective?
“You can build muscle with AMRAP, but traditional strength training delivers more bang for your buck,” says Raptis. If building muscles is your goal, familiarize yourself with the principles of hypertrophy training first.
Do you have a favorite AMRAP workout?
“Something that’s really tough is a workout where it starts with movements of something, like kettlebell swings, and then in the remaining time, you have to hit a calorie target on the rower, or calories on an air bike where you’re having to really work for it,” Raptis says. “Let’s say it’s three minutes, and you get a minute’s worth of kettlebell swings, and the rest of the time you’re on that rower or the bike, trying to burn calories. That’s a really tough way to end a workout.”
7 Challenging AMRAP Workouts
1 Barbell fives
Time 15min Equipment Barbell (we recommend loading it up with one third of your weight)
2 Catch your breath
Time 20min Equipment Treadmill (ideally a self-powered one if your gym has one) or 400m track
3 Up and down
Time 15min Equipment Pull-up bar, workout bench or raised platform
4 Bodyweight bomb
Time 15min Equipment None
5 Life (AKA pulling your weight and cleaning)
6 Bar to floor
Time 10min Equipment Pull-up bar
7 Kettlebell flow
Time 10min Equipment Kettlebell
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
- Jake StonesContributor