You may or may not have heard the term “AMRAP” workout, but it’s a very effective way of exercising. If you partake in CrossFit or HIIT workouts, then you probably have done one. AMRAP stands for “As Many Reps/Rounds As Possible” – and the workout is exactly as it sounds. You are given a set amount of time (i.e. 20 minutes) and you complete as many rounds or reps of a given workout as possible. There are MANY benefits to this type of workout, and it’s one of my favorite types.
What is it?
Like a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout, in AMRAP workouts you are given a set amount of time for your workout. The only difference is that with AMRAP workouts there’s no allotted “rest” time. You pace yourself and take short breaks when needed, but the primary objective is to push yourself to complete as many reps or rounds of the workout as you can. And, when you perform the workout again, you push yourself to beat your previous completed reps or rounds. CrossFit gyms use these workouts, and it pushes you to get as many or more reps in than your classmates.
Why do it?
One of the biggest benefits of these workouts is time. If you are like me, and can’t spend an hour or 2 at the gym, having a shorter set time to workout makes it easier to fit a workout in. I can break a major sweat with just a 5 minute AMRAP workout, because I’m maximizing the time I have – and usually the shorter amount of time you have, the more you’re able to push yourself. Which brings me to my next point/benefit of these workouts: maximum effort and more motivation.
In essence, you’re training your body to do more work in a set amount of time. It’s also a way to motivate you to progress with each workout. As mentioned before, you push yourself to do better with each workout, so your intensity, strength and endurance builds with each workout. The harder you train, the more fat you burn, and the fitter you get.
Ordinary endurance programs and gym workouts typically incorporate low intensity exercises that, even though performed for longer periods of time, do not put as much stress on the body. In cases of high intensity exercises like AMRAP, when compared to ordinary fitness exercises, the lungs and heart are thus more challenged to meet the demands of the body. This forms the basis of all benefits derived from doing as many reps as possible. Doing as many reps as possible, cause sudden increased demands for oxygen in many tissues of the body, especially the skeletal muscles. In order to meet these demands the whole respiratory system, the lungs in particular, work harder than normal. When continued over a period of time, this type of increased loading causes positive changes in the work capacity of the lungs. For me, this is a huge benefit because I am limited in my cardio activities due to asthma and knee problems. But with AMRAP workouts, I can push but pace myself. Over time my endurance gets stronger, because my lungs are adapting to the demands of these workouts. And studies have shown that increased respiratory capacity not only increases the amount of work one can perform, but also is a great help in certain diseases such as asthma.
The biggest benefit for most people is the decreasing of body fat. When exercising, initially your skeletal muscle uses glycogen stores for energy. But in high intensity exercises, once your skeletal muscle can no longer utilize glycogen to keep up with the energy demand, it uses fat stores. So the harder you push yourself in a short amount of time, the quicker you start burning fat. So by doing short but intense workouts each day you will start to see your body lose fat and become more toned. With this fat burning comes added muscle and muscle strength! High intensity training puts greater loads on the skeletal muscles as compared to conventional training. This results in increases in inherent muscle tone and greater strength the muscle can produce when contracting.
To get an idea of what an AMRAP workout is like, try this one out.
10 minutes AMRAP:
Kettlebell Swings – 20 reps
Burpees – 5 reps (drop down all the way or with push-up)
Front Squats – 5 reps (~75% max weight)