Unless you have spent much time at a CrossFit gym or have a bunch of friends who are avid CrossFitters, there’s a bunch of workout terminology that you might be entirely unfamiliar with.
From WODs to MetCon workouts and a heck of a lot of detailed discussions about the ins and outs of the paleo diet and macros, the CrossFit culture has its own unique language.
Another term popular in CrossFit gyms is AMRAP, which stands for “as many reps as possible.”
This challenging workout style quickly became a crowd favorite and permeated the rest of the fitness industry outside of CrossFit boxes.
AMRAP workouts are engaging, easy to modify, and can be quite effective.
As such, AMRAP workouts are now prescribed by personal trainers and fitness coaches around the country and have taken on all sorts of iterations and structures.
If you’re not sure how to get started with AMRAP workouts and what exercises work well for AMRAPs, keep reading for our complete guide to AMRAP workouts and get ready to sweat.
We will cover:
- What Is AMRAP?
- Benefits of AMRAP Workouts
- What Are the Best Exercises for AMRAP Workouts?
- 4 Tips for AMRAP Workouts
Let’s jump in!
What Is AMRAP?
AMRAP is an acronym that stands for “as many reps as possible” and is a concept used to structure the volume of an exercise in a workout.
For example, rather than a workout prescribing 15 squats or 10 push-ups, it would be AMRAP squats or AMRAP push-ups.
Then, either you would literally perform as many reps as possible until exhaustion for each exercise or perform as many reps as possible if each exercise is within a given amount of time, such as 30 seconds or one minute, depending on the structure of the workout.
AMRAP workouts typically consist of anywhere from 2-3 to a dozen or more exercises that are usually completed in a circuit fashion with little to no rest in between exercises.
Each exercise is usually performed for a specific amount of time (such as 30 seconds or one minute) with the goal of completing as many reps as possible during that time, although, as mentioned, sometimes the time is open-ended, and you truly complete as many reps as possible until you cannot go on.
AMRAP workouts are metabolically-demanding, high-intensity workouts that share many of the same benefits as HIIT workouts.
Therefore, like HIIT, AMRAP workouts are usually short, typically lasting anywhere from 3-20 minutes long.
However, advanced athletes may push through a grueling hour.
With that said, the primary goal is usually to focus on high intensity, so it tends to be better to keep the time shorter and really push your speed and power.
The exception here will be if you want to train for muscular endurance and select lower-intensity exercises with no time limit on the AMRAP exercises.
Benefits of AMRAP Workouts
The specific benefits of AMRAP workouts depend somewhat on the exercises you choose to perform in the workout and the intensity in which you tackle them.
For example, if the AMRAP workout consists of continuous rounds of cycling between squats, lunges, and box jumps, the emphasis will be on strengthening the lower body, whereas an AMRAP workout with pull-ups, push-ups, and burpees will strengthen and condition your upper body, back, and chest.
As another example, an AMRAP workout that involves resistance training exercises performed at 60-70% of your 1RM for each exercise will increase muscular strength and size more than an AMRAP workout with lower-intensity bodyweight exercises like bicycle crunches, pushups, and leg lifts.
With that said, the following are typical benefits of AMRAP workouts:
- Increasing muscular endurance
- Improving cardiovascular fitness
- Boosting metabolic rate and increasing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption
- Burning calories in an efficient manner
- Increasing power
- Increasing speed
- Helping provide a benchmark for monitoring progress
- Pushing mental limits
- Being enjoyable and engaging
- Saving time and passing quickly
As can be seen, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, AMRAP workouts have metabolic, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal benefits, and they can even be fun.
What Are the Best Exercises for AMRAP Workouts?
There are no absolute rules when it comes to selecting exercises for an AMRAP workout.
However, as a general rule of thumb, the best exercises for AMRAP workouts are those that you can perform safely with good form and where speed does not impact the effectiveness of the exercise.
This is because the best AMRAP workouts get your heart pounding, lungs burning, and muscles quivering, so you want to be able to kick up the intensity without compromising your form.
For this reason, bodyweight exercises like squats, burpees, pull-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, jump squats, and jumping rope work really well because they don’t require equipment (aside from a pull-up bar), so you can quickly transition from one exercise to the next, and you can do the AMRAP workout anywhere, even without a gym.
It’s also easy to monitor your progress over time because you can come back to these same bodyweight exercises easily without having to remember what kind of weights you used for each resistance training exercise, such as for bicep curls or leg presses.
As with choosing exercises for HIIT workouts, it’s great to choose exercises for AMRAP workouts that involve a cardio component to help keep intensity high.
One of the best ways to do this is by selecting plyometric exercises, such as squat jumps, burpees, box jumps, and depth jumps.
These types of intense bodyweight exercises spike your heart rate, don’t require equipment, and improve force generation, power, and explosive speed.
All this is to say that while bodyweight exercises and dynamic, total-body plyometrics and cardio exercises work well for AMRAP workouts, plenty of effective AMRAP workouts also include exercises that require resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, or other weights.
Using resistance with AMRAP exercises is fine as long as you can use the weights or other equipment safely or slow your pace to prioritize your safety.
You should never prioritize speed or eking out more reps at the expense of proper form, whether you’re doing a bodyweight AMRAP exercise or using dumbbells, bands, or otherwise.
Furthermore, when using weights in an AMRAP workout, resist the urge to wildly swing the weights or rely on momentum and gravity to do the work of lifting and lowering the weight.
Doing so both increases the risk of injury and reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.
While this is far from an exhaustive list, some of the best exercises for AMRAP workouts include the following:
Bodyweight AMRAP Exercises
- High knees sprinting in place (count your foot falls)
- Air squats
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Side-to-side hops
- Jump squats
- Jump lunges
- Pistol squats
- Depth jumps
- Single-leg hops
- Curtsy lunges
- Jumping lunges
- Up-down plank
- Bench dips
- Side lunges
- Plank jacks
- Pike push-ups
- Kipping pull-ups
- Diamond push-ups
- Calf raises
- Tuck jumps
- Box jumps
- Bicycle crunches
- Reverse crunches
- Leg lifts
Medicine Ball AMRAP Exercises
- Rebounder slams
- Rebounder medicine ball crunches
- Russian twist
- Mountain climbers, with your hands on the ball
- Medicine ball push-ups with one or both hands on the ball
- Lunges with rotation
- Lateral lunges
- Weighted V-ups
- Alternating toe tap jumps, landing one foot on top of the medicine ball
- Medicine ball slams
Kettlebell AMRAP Exercises
- Kettlebell swings (single arm or both arms)
- Bent-over rows
- Goblet squats
- Turkish get-ups
- Squat thrusts
- Split squats
- Figure 8 weaves
Other Exercises for AMRAP Workouts
- High knees on a rebounder
- TRX suspended rows
- Chest press
- Bicep curls
- Overhead presses
- Woodchop lunges
- Chest fly
- Tire slams
4 Tips for AMRAP Workouts
Here are some AMRAP workout tips for beginners:
#1: Choose AMRAP Exercises Wisely
Remember, the best AMRAP exercises are those that you can perform with proper form, even when you’re moving quickly.
Exercise technique always trumps speed, so it is better to slow down a little if necessary if it ensures you can maintain proper form.
If you find that you reach exhaustion before the timed interval is over, it’s better to stop and rest rather than try to push through using sloppy form.
#2: Start Small
If you’re an AMRAP beginner, start small.
Don’t jump in with a 30-minute, advanced AMRAP workout.
Try a 5-10 minute workout and gradually build up your AMRAP workout length over time.
#3: Group Exercises Together That Use Equipment
If you’re doing AMRAP exercises that rely on equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells, it’s a good idea to sequence exercises back to back that use the same equipment.
For example, if you want to do a AMRAP workout with kettlebells and medicine balls, perform the kettlebell swings, kettlebell sumo squats, and kettlebell single-leg Romanian deadlifts back to back before you move on to medicine ball slams, medicine ball chops, and medicine ball V-ups.
Sequencing the exercises that utilize the same equipment together will allow you to move from one to the next more efficiently, keeping your heart rate elevated throughout the duration of the workout.
#4: Track Your Progress
One of the benefits of AMRAP workouts is that you can keep coming back to them and seeing how you have improved.
Track your PRs for each workout to monitor your fitness gains over time.
For many people, tackling an AMRAP workout can be an effective, approachable solution if you’re looking to boost your fitness, shake up your workout routine, and test your mental and physical limits.
If you are looking for some intense running workouts, check out our HIIT workouts for runners.