The Best AMRAP Workouts to Get (and Stay) Fit in Less Time

Jennifer E. Engen

Strength training can certainly tick a lot of boxes. From getting stronger, building muscle, improving joint health and stability, there aren’t a whole lot of gaps that a good weight training program can’t help fill. But alas — that set of eight squats may have you winded, but it just doesn’t hack it as a full cardio routine.

When you want to build strength and muscle, you may neglect your cardiovascular fitness. You might worry that strict cardiovascular training will negatively impact strength or muscle-related goals. And if you associate cardio only with steady-state work that you find boring compared to catching a sweet pump, you’re likely to choose lifting over cardio every time.

Credit: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

What if the two could be combined? If you want to boost your cardiovascular fitness without losing the fun or gains of weight training, look no further than AMRAP workouts. They’re quick and dirty, asking you to perform as many rounds (or reps) as possible in a given time frame to get you stronger and more cardiovascularly fit at the same time.

Best AMRAP Workouts

What Is An AMRAP Workout?

An AMRAP (or “as many rounds [or reps] as possible”), is a workout designed around completing the maximum number of circuits within a set time frame. Basically, AMRAP workouts come with a prescribed amount of time (often between five and 30 minutes). In that frame, you’ll try to get as much work done — with excellent form — as possible. 

These sessions can be grueling. To maximize how much energy you spend in a small time period, they’ll typically target your major muscle groups. You’ll perform higher repetitions with limited rest between rounds to really test your mental and physical durability. 

A person exerts a lot of effort performing battle rope waves.
Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

You can scale AMRAP workouts depending on your training environment or available equipment. Try integrating barbells, dumbbells, functional implements, or even just your bodyweight. Given your focus on performance and minimal rest, you’ll be using exercises you normally use to build muscle or strength to fast track your cardiovascular fitness.

Best Dumbbell AMRAP Workout

The main purpose of an AMRAP workout is to boost your heart rate with each circuit. To do this, you’ll want to recruit as much muscle mass as possible. You’ll also move quickly between exercises in order to keep your heart rate elevated. 

When you use dumbbells, you’ll take advantage of training unilaterally to get the biggest result. You’ll double your repetitions per exercise because you’re keeping it even on both sides. You’re also demanding extra core engagement. This core involvement will really crank up the difficulty over time.

The Workout

A great way to spike your heart rate is to alternate between upper and lower body exercises with your dumbbells. This way, each move will start with relatively fresh muscles to help you stay moving at high intensity. Combined with the unilateral challenge of dumbbells, you should be cooked after 20 or 30 minutes. Prepare ahead of time by having dumbbells scaled for each exercise at the ready.

As many rounds as possible within 30 minutes:

Best Barbell AMRAP Workout

The barbell is a tried and tested piece of equipment that harnesses as much muscle mass as possible. Full body compound exercises chained together in a flowing series can be one of the most demanding forms of AMRAP workouts. Be sure to scale the weight and lift significantly lower than you would for normal sets of five and 10 reps. The aim is not to hit muscular failure. Instead, you want to keep your heart rate high while keeping safe and excellent form.

The Workout

There are numerous well-known barbell complexes, many of which appear in CrossFit as benchmark workouts. For the purpose of an AMRAP with higher repetitions, selecting safe and synergistic exercises is key. Barbell exercises involving your legs, back, and core bracing will be sure to keep your heart rate high for the entire workout.

As many rounds as possible within 20 minutes:

Coaching Tip: Scale the bar weight to be reflective of your weakest link. For example, if your weakest lift here is the overhead press, that lift will determine your weight selection. 

Best Bodyweight AMRAP Workout

Bodyweight AMRAP workouts can help out athletes at any level. Your body comes with you everywhere, which means the ability to hit a solid AMRAP workout does, too. When strapped for time or stuck without a gym, use these to peak your heart rate with no equipment. As with all AMRAPs, you want to find synergistic movements with a ton of full-body involvement.

The Workout

Calisthenics with high repetitions are easy to organize into a brutal cardiovascular challenge. Toss in some well-timed core work to continue keeping your heart rate up even on the ground. Spike your heart rate early with full body movements, then integrate challenging core exercises to up the ante.

As many rounds as possible within 30 minutes:

Best Specialized Equipment AMRAP Workout

Functional equipment like kettlebells, turf areas, sleds, and battle ropes can be great AMRAP additions. Many gym setups have a combination of machines, free weights, and at least some specialty equipment. So, finding a place to perform some fun, cardiovascularly-intense training shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Workout

Weighted cardio with a variety of training implements lets you really overload your system. Especially if you’re in a crunch for time, this type of workout is both taxing and effective. All of the exercises are scalable. So if the workout doesn’t feel hard enough, you can safely add more weight pretty much everywhere.

As many rounds as possible within 30 minutes:

Best Partner AMRAP Workout

Finding a training partner to experience your AMRAP workout with is another fantastic way to boost intensity through friendly competition. There’s also someone there to help pull you out of the sweat pile at the end. Coordinate exercises such that one partner acts as the progression gatekeeper. For example, you’re performing burpees until your partner completes a total of 20 push-ups. So, no pressure, but… pressure.

The Workout

Be sure to select exercises that both partners can complete. Scale the weight for each exercise so that you both can continue relatively uninterrupted until the prescribed set is over. Perform the workout in order as written, with partner one and partner two completing mirrored exercise orders. Pro tip: try not to make your partner suffer too much.

As many rounds as possible within 30 minutes::

Partner 1:

  • Battle Rope: AMRAP until partner 2 completes push-ups.
  • Burpee: AMRAP until partner 2 completes kettlebell swings.
  • Front Plank: 30 seconds.
  • Kettlebell Swing: 1×30
  • Push-Up: 1×20

Partner 2:

  • Push-Up: 1×20
  • Kettlebell Swing: 1×30
  • Front Plank: 30 seconds.
  • Burpee: AMRAP until partner 1 completes kettlebell swings.
  • Battle Rope: AMRAP until partner 1 completes push-ups.

AMRAP Tips and Tricks

Creating an effective AMRAP workout comes down to knowing how to overload your body in a safe and effective manner. Otherwise, you’ll just be performing an enormous amount of repetitions with little to no return on investment.

Making sure your workouts allow for quick and easy transitions between exercises, using and responsibly overloading your energy systems, and utilizing full-body movements are the keys to a successful AMRAP.

Easy Transitions

The goal of an AMRAP workout is to peak your heart rate and keep it elevated for as long as possible. You’re going to be condensing an entire workout into 20 to 30 minutes. Slow or sloppy transitions between exercises will decrease your workout efficiency. So, you probably don’t want to program battle rope waves and treadmill sprints in the same AMRAP unless you can perform them next to each other. Even if the walk would be a welcome breath of easy air, you might not spend AMRAP time traveling all the way across the gym (and taking up multiple pieces of equipment).

That said, you do want some movements to be relatively less intense than others so you can recover enough to maintain good form.

Three people perform lunges in unison.
Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Since AMRAPs are essentially sprints, every second counts. Design your workouts with your equipment and exercise selection in mind such that you can chain together the exercises in a smooth, efficient way.

Know Your Energy Systems

One thing that separates an AMRAP workout from steady-state cardiovascular training is loading up weights. Using the right amount of weight, repetitions, and minimal rest will demand that your body uses non-aerobic energy systems. You primarily use these anaerobic systems during strength training.

The buildup of lactate (that all too familiar muscle burn) is a good indicator that you’ve hit the sweet spot. AMRAP workouts tap into the same energy systems as lifting weights at a high intensity. This helps your body get used to the kind of intense, quick moves you need for strength training.

Two gym partners rest after performing box jumps.
Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Since your AMRAP workout taps into anaerobic energy, you may need to avoid higher intensity lifting the next day. So a hardcore AMRAP workout might not be the best right before heavy deadlifting, for example. Program it so you have enough time and space to recover between sessions.

Utilize Full Body Movements

Selecting big, full-body exercises is a quick ticket to an elevated heart rate. Each muscle involved needs blood to function. Because of this, your heart will work overtime to make sure everything is accommodated.

Transitioning from standing to prone positions on the ground takes an enormous amount of energy as well (think burpees). Spiking the heart rate with these high-value exercises can be helpful to constantly challenge yourself.

Wrap-Up

The days of being confined to long, slow-plodding treadmill workouts as your only form of cardio are gone. A well-designed AMRAP workout is the perfect marriage of timely efficiency, full-body challenge, and intense cardiovascular training that is sure to improve your fitness.

Putting together large muscle groups, low rest, and high repetitions make AMRAP workouts extremely effective. From bodyweight, to barbells, to a little light partner warfare, try an AMRAP workout to supercharge your fitness without ever having to leave the weight room.

Featured Image: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

https://barbend.com/best-amrap-workouts/

Next Post

Pandemic Medical Innovations Leave Behind People With Disabilities

Lauren Weber Divya Goel, a 35-year-old deaf-blind woman in Orlando, Florida, has had two telemedicine doctors’ appointments during the pandemic. Each time, she was denied an interpreter. Her doctors told her she would have to get insurance to pay for an interpreter, which is incorrect: Under federal law, it is […]
Pandemic Medical Innovations Leave Behind People With Disabilities