Short on time but big on muscles? Consider an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) workout to get the most out of your sweat sesh. We break down the meaning of AMRAP and how it works here.

Another day, another few dozen fitness acronyms to learn. When did workout lingo get so corporate? We digress.

AMRAP literally means “as many reps as possible,” which is just as badass (and low-key intimidating) as it sounds.

This type of high-intensity workout has plenty of benefits to consider and may help those who are particularly low on time. We chatted with a personal training coach to learn more.

Let’s get into the gritty details, shall we?

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Legend has it that AMRAP got its name thanks to CrossFit. Thankfully, the instructions for this workout are pretty much in the name — you perform as many repetitions as possible.

But it can’t be that simple, can it?

We spoke with Jakob Roze, founder of a Hudson-Valley-based personal training practice RozeFit.

Roze explains this workout is, OFC, a high-intensity type that takes each set to failure, meaning you perform your specific exercise until you physically can’t anymore for your given period of time, all while keeping proper form and safety in mind. The focus here is no or very little rest between movements. So no, not exactly *easy*.

As you can probably guess, this isn’t a great choice for those completely new to working out. Nice and easy is best practice for beginners (and there are plenty of beginner workouts to try at home!).

For those with some experience, Roze says you can feel free to do AMRAP workouts almost anywhere (any safe place, that is!). “You can do AMRAP sets with any workout,” Roze says. “Using just body weight, or with weights.”

Roze adds that AMRAP is usually performed with weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells.

Is AMRAP the same as cardio?

“If you are using AMRAP sets with weights, it is most certainly not the same as cardio,” Roze tells us.

“Cardio is an aerobically-based exercise that primarily utilizes fat as fuel (especially low-intensity, long-duration cardio) and stimulates your cardiorespiratory system,” he explains.

Though AMRAP workouts stimulate your cardiovascular system, Roze says they are not ideal for improving your aerobic capacity.

“AMRAP training with weights places a large stimulus on your muscular-skeletal system and therefore is better suited for enhancing your strength and lean muscle tissue.”

Suppose you were to perform an AMRAP set with an exercise like burpees then Roze says the AMRAP set would emphasize your aerobic system more. “It really comes down to whether or not an external load is involved, making it more or less strength oriented.” Makes sense to us!

We don’t blame you if you signed up for an AMRAP workout and wonder what you’re in for.

Roze says a fitness class that uses AMRAP sets will most likely perform various exercises with lighter weights and shorter rest periods between sets.

“Of course, it completely depends on the instructor,” he adds. There may be NO rest, too, remember.

Since AMRAP sets are more fatiguing than regular sets, Roze says the workout will likely be shorter.

If you’re new to AMRAP, hopefully, you’ll start with just 5 to 10 minutes, but those with experience and comfort with it can go up to 30 minutes.

The benefits from AMRAP workouts, according to Roze, come down to increasing your workload tolerance, AKA pushing your ass to its limits.

“In other words, as an adaptation, it increases the total amount of reps and sets you can do. It also increases your tolerance for working at high intensities, which can be uncomfortable for untrained individuals.”

Plus, since it can be performed with or without weights, it’s customizable as heck.

Can AMRAP help you lose weight?

Yes, the rumors are true.

Roze explains that AMRAP sets contribute to weight loss by stimulating lean muscle tissue growth.

He also points out that they are higher intensity, making them a high-calorie-burning form of exercise.

Odds are you’ve heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

HIIT workouts call for intense exercise in short bursts. A key difference here is that HIIT also uses rest periods, which are usually quick.

Like Roze explains, HIIT is performed by doing multiple intervals of intense exercise (think sprints).

“You could incorporate AMRAP sets into a HIIT workout if you wanted to,” he says. “The difference really comes down to the successive nature of HIIT. As the name suggests — high-intensity interval training — is multiple intervals of high-intensity work.”

P.S. HIIT can be done at home too.

Ultimately, the specific exercise you choose and the time limit are up to you.

Roze shares an example below, so you get the idea and can customize your AMRAP plan from here (it doesn’t hurt to chat with a trainer about the best options for you and your experience level too).

  • Take a set of dumbbells at a given weight, say 20 lbs.
  • Now, perform as many reps as possible of an exercise, like a bench press.
  • Roze says you can perform AMRAP sets with more or less weight. “The more weight you use, the fewer reps you can do. Which is completely fine,” he says.

Pro Tip: According to Roze, it all comes down to intensity and what type of adaptations you are trying to make.

“If you want to get as strong as possible, do AMRAP sets with heavier weights,” he says. “Just be careful and make sure your form is perfect.”

Every form of exercise comes with a risk of injury, of course. This is especially true with challenging workouts like AMRAP.

Roze points out that anyone recovering from an injury should absolutely not do AMRAP sets. “I would also say to avoid doing AMRAP sets if you are completely new to working out.”

His advice is to listen to your body and take things slowly.

“When you feel ready and confident, you can try some AMRAP sets,” he says. “But use lighter weights when you first try AMRAP sets — the risk of injury is lower.”

Roze says he’s hesitant to incorporate AMRAP workouts all the time with his clients because taking reps to failure holds a higher injury risk.

“That being said,” he adds, “AMRAP can be a great modality for increasing someone’s workout capacity and teaching them how to really push it.”

As with any workout, make sure your form is fantastic, and your muscles are warmed up before getting into it. A good stretch beforehand may help prevent injury too!

Remember, though AMRAP workouts are about no or little rest between reps, that doesn’t mean your muscles don’t need rest after your workout. Rest days are essential for recovery.

AMRAP means performing “as many reps as possible,” which can be challenging. This workout is best suited for those with exercise experience and those who know that proper form and warmups are essential.

These exercises are similar to HIIT but involve no or just a teeny second of rest, whereas HIIT usually incorporates some rest.

AMRAP can be done with multiple exercises and focuses on strength training or cardio, whichever works best for your abilities and workout goals.