If you only have 15 minutes to get a sweat going, it may hardly seem worth it. How much good can you really do for your body in just a quarter of an hour? Well, if you’re doing an AMRAP workout, you can do a hell of a lot — and you’ll feel it, too.
Although AMRAP is a type of circuit workout where you try to perform “as many reps as possible”, in a given amount of time. While it has its origins in CrossFit, the principle of max reps in minimum time has long been a training tool and seen as an excellent short-on-time-big-on-results option. “AMRAPs are great when you have a very short amount of time to work out,” says Raphael Konforti, senior director of fitness at YouFit Gyms in San Diego, CA.
If you’re resting between each set like a normal workout, you may only exercise for five minutes out of the total 15-minute timespan.
To do an AMRAP workout, you choose about four or five exercises, and how many reps you want to do for each exercise in a round. For instance, you could choose 15 minutes with 15 reps per exercise in a round. Then you work through the exercises, getting through as many reps as possible within the 15-minute time limit. This, per Konforti, forces yu t get a high volume of work done in a short amount of time.
The beauty of AMRAPs is that if you only have 15 minutes to exercise, you’ll be breaking a sweat nearly the whole time. “Whereas if you’re resting between each set like a normal workout, you may only exercise for five minutes out of the total 15-minute timespan,” he says.
When you’re doing so much work in a concentrated period of time, it raises your heart rate, turning a strength workout into a cardiovascular one, too.
The downside of AMRAP workouts? It’s easy to start using bad form as you fatigue, which can lead to injury or simply not getting the full benefit to the muscles you’re working. The goal, then, is to try and focus on both quality and quantity.
Incorporating AMRAPs Into Your Fitness Routine
Performing as many reps as you can in as little time as possible has major fitness benefits, but it shouldn’t completely replace traditional strength training in your workout rotation.
“AMRAPs are much more beneficial as a form of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise and for building muscular endurance,” Konforti says. “But traditional strength training is by far the best method to build stronger and bigger muscles.”
The reason: With traditional strength training, you’re maxing out your muscle load capacity (how much work a muscle can handle) in 10 reps or less. So the limiting factor is your muscle strength.
“With AMRAPs, you’re hitting failure because of overall fatigue, not localized muscle failure,” says Konforti. “It still builds muscle, but not quite as efficiently.”
Basically, for muscle mass, traditional weightlifting is still your best bet. For muscle strength plus aerobic growth, AMRAPs are your go-to. To give it a try, check out one of the two workouts here — or mix and match moves from each list to create your own sequence of 4-5 exercises.
AMRAP Workout Instructions
Start your timer. Do each move 15 times, then transition directly into the next move without taking a break. Once you’ve gone through all the moves, that’s one round. Go back to the first move and begin again. Your goal is to get through as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes. Each time you do an AMRAP workout, try to beat how many rounds you did last time.
AMRAP Workout #1
Hanging Leg Raises
Hang from a pull-up bar, palms facing you, arms and legs extended. Place hands just wider that shoulder-width apart. Inhale, then exhale and engage your core as you raise your legs to 90 degrees. Inhale and lower legs back to the start.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by your sides. Bend knees and sink hips back as you lower into a squat. As you squat, raise your arms in front of you to chest height. Lower until quads are parallel to the floor, then push through your heels and explode upward, dropping arms to your sides. Land softly, bend your knees, and repeat.
Stand with feet together and take a wide step to the right with your right foot. Shift your weight to the right as you bend your right knee and lower until right quad is parallel to the floor, knee over toes. Keep left leg straight and hips facing forward. Engage your core and push off the ground with your right foot, shifting your weight back to center as you come back to standing. Repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
Push-Ups With Arm Reaches
Start in an extended push-up position — arms and legs straight, back flat, hands below shoulders. Bend elbows and lower your body until your chest is about two inches off the floor. Raise yourself back up. When arms are straight, shift your weight slightly to the left and raise your right arm directly in front of you. Lower arm, shift weight back to center, and repeat the push-up. Straighten and lift left arm directly in front of you. Lower your arm. That’s one rep.
AMRAP Workout #2
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend knees and lower your chest and head over the ground in front of you as you swing your arms behind you. In one explosive movement, push through the ground, swing arms forward, and jump as far horizontally forward as you can. Land with soft knees. If space is limited, turn around for the next rep.
Lie on the ground, legs extended in front of you, arms by your sides. Engage your core and raise your torso off the ground up to a seated position, keeping legs straight and reaching arms in front of you at chest height. Roll back down.
Start with legs hip-width apart, arms out to the sides, knees slightly bent. Press through your feet and jump in the air, twisting your lower body to the right to make a half-rotation, jumping laterally. Repeat, twisting to the left. That’s one rep. As you twist and jump, aim to travel in a single direction across the room. Can be done with an agility ladder.
Bent-Arm Mountain Climbers
Start in an extended plank position. Bend elbows about 30 degrees. Lift one foot off the floor, bending your knee and hiking the bent leg toward your chest. As you return that leg to the start position, jump your other leg forward in the same bent-knee style. That’s one rep. Jog your legs back and forth as quickly as possible.
Start on hands and knees, hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Keeping your spine a neutral position, rise up onto your toes and lift knees a few inches off the floor. Step right hand and left foot forward in unison by about a foot, maintaining equal space between your arm and leg. Repeat with left hand and right foot. That’s one rep.