Testing a new workout for the very first time can leave you feeling like a fish out of water. If you're in a class filled with pros or a crowded gym where everyone seems to be staring at you, your mind might race with anxiety-inducing thoughts such as, "I'm totally doing this exercise wrong" or "I'm moving much slower than the person next to me."
And all those feelings can most definitely pop up when you’re dipping your toes into AMRAP workouts — a timed style of training that can focus on any type of exercise or a combination of a few, such as both cardio and strength, and helps improve endurance.
To help you test the AMRAP-workout waters without feeling overwhelmed, Shape tapped two fitness pros to break down how to slowly incorporate the training style into your fitness program. Once you're ready to give it a shot, try the accompanying bodyweight AMRAP workout that's ideal for beginners and can be done from the comfort of your home.
The Complete Guide to AMRAP Workouts
How to Add AMRAP Workouts to Your Fitness Routine
Reminder: AMRAP can either stand for “as many reps as possible” or “as many rounds as possible,” depending on the workout. For the former, you’ll complete as many reps of a given exercise as you can within a specific, often short time frame. And for the latter, you’ll perform a specific number of reps for a handful of exercises, then power through as many rounds of those moves as you can within a set time period. Most often, though, you’ll see the round-style AMRAP workouts used in fitness classes and online workouts, says Nikki Elliott, a fitness instructor at Equinox and co-founder of ELAVI, a protein snack company.
Regardless of the type of AMRAP workout you're introducing into your routine, there are a few keys to success you'll want to keep in mind.
Start off slow.
Despite their simplicity, AMRAP workouts put your mental and physical stamina to the test. And diving straight into 20-minute, cardio-heavy AMRAP training sessions might be too taxing on your body. That’s why Elliott recommends sticking with short AMRAP workouts that feel a bit too easy, allowing you to perfect your form and get acquainted with the format when you first start mixing them into your regimen. “Then, whether it be the next day or next week, try to really continue increasing the challenge of the exercises themselves, the number of reps you’re going to do [in total], or the number of reps in a round,” she explains. “Continue to push yourself forward to build strength and endurance and increase the amount of time it takes to get to the point of failure.” (BTW, this concept is essentially progressive overload training.)
Go in with a plan.
In order to get the most out of these timed workouts, you’ll need to create a plan before you start sweating. Consider the muscle groups you want to target, if you want to focus on cardio or strength (or a mix of both), and the equipment you want to use, says Elliott. Then, if you’re trying a round-style AMRAP workout, choose four to six exercises that fit the bill and the time limit you want to give yourself, depending on your fitness level and the time you have available, says Melissa Kendter, an ACE-certified trainer, functional training specialist, and EvolveYou coach.
When deciding which moves to include, consider focusing on opposing muscle groups, suggests Kendter. For a full-body AMRAP workout, you might choose a “push” exercise, such as a shoulder press, and a “pull” exercise, such as a row, to work the upper body. Then, you might include a quad move, such as a squat, and a hamstring move, such as a deadlift, to train the lower body, she says. “Alternating between opposing muscle groups is great so you can sustain energy to go through rounds without burning out too quick,” she explains.
Of course, plans can change, and there’s no shame in modifying an exercise in the middle of your AMRAP workout to meet your needs. For instance, if you set out to complete 12 jump lunges but your legs are toast by the eighth rep, complete the remaining reps by doing forward lunges or another variation instead, says Elliott. Then, take note of the number of reps you’re able to do without modifications every time you tackle the workout so you can see how your fitness is progressing over time, she says.
Maintain good form.
Even though the goal of AMRAP workouts is to power through as many rounds or reps as possible, you shouldn't let your form fall to the wayside. "You don't want to go sloppily through the exercises and repetitions," says Kendter. "It's not a situation where speed trumps your form — you want to reap the benefits of having good form."
For example, if the weights you’re using begin to feel so heavy that you need to use momentum — not your muscular strength — to complete the rep, it may be time to take a short break or modify the move, says Kendter. “If I think the weights are pulling me — I’m not controlling the momentum of the weight — that to me is a sign I need to take a break because I’m going to injure myself by letting dumbbells fly around without my muscles controlling their direction,” adds Elliott. You may also want to slow down, take a breather, or adjust the move if you’re feeling breathless, your lower back begins to ache (a sign your core isn’t fully engaged), or your grip strength is failing, says Elliott.
Make sure it's not your only workout.
As with any type of training, AMRAP workouts generally shouldn’t be tackled every single day, says Kendter. “They usually are pretty intense, so I would suggest alternating between days of doing it just to allow your body to rest and recover,” she explains. By limiting yourself to AMRAP workouts just two to three days a week and mixing in other styles of training (think: yoga, cycling, weight lifting, Pilates), you’ll give your body the R&R it needs and reduce your risk of injury. (P.S., that’s not the only benefit cross-training has to offer.)
Low-Impact Bodyweight AMRAP Workout for Beginners
To get a taste of the training style, try Elliott's bodyweight AMRAP workout, which requires just eight minutes of free time and is perfect for beginners. Since it's free of jumps and other plyometric moves, the bodyweight AMRAP workout is also easy on your joints.
How it works: Set a timer for 8 minutes, then complete as many rounds as possible of the five exercises in that time frame, performing each move for the suggested number of reps.
What you'll need: an exercise mat (optional)
Squat with Heel Lift to Reverse Lunge
A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly outward and hands clasped in front of chest. Brace abdominal muscles to engage core.
B. Keeping chest proud and core engaged, lower into a squat, pushing hips back and down as if sitting into a chair. Thighs should be parallel to the floor. This is the starting position.
C. Press through feet to straighten legs and return to standing, simultaneously lowering hands down to sides and back behind body. Squeeze glutes and drive hips forward while rolling onto tip-toes and lifting heels.
D. Bring hands back in front of chest and lower into a squat, pushing hips back and down as if sitting into a chair. Thighs should be parallel to the floor.
E. Take a big step backward with right foot, keeping hips square to the front and pelvis neutral. Lower until both legs are bent at 90-degree angles, keeping chest tall and core engaged.
F. Press into mid-foot and heel of left foot to step right foot up to meet left, staying in a low squat, to return to the starting position. That's one rep.
Do 10 reps, alternating sides.
Inchworm to Plank Up-Down
A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands at sides. Hinge at the hips to fold forward, reaching palms to the floor (bending knees if necessary).
B. Keeping core tight and legs straight, walk hands forward to come to a high plank position.
C. Gently lower knees to the floor, keeping a straight line from crown of head to tailbone. Keeping hips square, lower right elbow to the floor, then left elbow, to come into a forearm plank. Place right hand under right shoulder, then left hand under left shoulder to return to a high plank.
D. Repeat the plank-up down with the left side leading, lowering left elbow to the floor, then right elbow, to come into a forearm plank. Place left hand under left shoulder, then right hand under right shoulder to return to a high plank.
E. Press through palms to lift knees off the floor. Roll back onto toes and bend knees while walking hands back towards the feet. Roll up one vertebra at a time to return to the starting position. That's one rep.
Do 5 reps.
Lateral Lunge to Hip Circle
A. Stand with feet together, toes pointing forward, and hands clasped in front of chest.
B. Take a large step out to the right, feeling a stretch in inner thighs. Immediately lower into a lunge, sinking hips back and bending right knee to track directly in line with right foot. Keep left leg straight but not locked, with both feet pointing forward.
C. Push off the right foot to straighten right leg and bring it back up to meet the left, simultaneously lowering hands down to sides. Without touching right foot to the floor, drive right knee up and across body, moving knee as if you're drawing a big circle. Return right foot to the floor. That's one rep.
Do 10 reps, alternating sides.
Plié Squat Reach to Standing Reach
A. Stand with feet together, toes turned slightly out, and arms at sides. Take a big step toward the left and quickly lower into a squat, pushing hips back and down as if sitting into a chair. Thighs should be parallel to the floor. Simultaneously lower arms and reach fingertips toward the floor.
B. Press through feet to straighten legs, bringing left leg back to meet the right, extending torso upward, and raising arms over head, to return to standing. That's one rep.
Do 10 reps, alternating sides.
Sit-Up with Reach-Back
A. Lie faceup with knees slightly bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms raised toward the ceiling, palms facing toward one another. Roll hips under to press lower back into the floor and engage the core.
B. Tuck chin and begin lifting head, neck, and shoulders off the floor until chest reaches knees, fingertips reaching for the point where the wall and the ceiling meet.
C. While holding the sit-up, extend right arm back and behind body and touch right fingers to floor, keeping gaze on right hand. Return right arm to front of body.
D. Repeat the movement on the opposite side, extending left arm back and behind body and touch left fingers to floor, keeping gaze on left hand. Return left arm to front of body.
E. With both arms extended in front of chest, slowly lower torso back down to the floor to return to the starting position. That's one rep.
Do 10 reps.