Make Every Movement Count: The 20 Minute Workout

Practice + Intensity = Results

There is power in simplicity. If you want to get better at something, sometimes the best thing is to do it and do it often. Increasing volume is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting the repetition and consistency necessary to create improvement.

When you are acquiring a new skill or refining a skill, you need a lot of practice. In the world of human movement, we need to practice proper technique to become efficient with movement and make sure that coordination and control are dialed in. To achieve this sort of result, we need lots of quality reps. Specifically, quality reps without fatigue.

However, that amount of practice is not something that the average fitness client has time for. With a limited amount of time to devote to training, they most likely prefer to work in the world of intensity, where a 20-30 minute all out session will get the most bang for their training buck. So there is a constant back-and-forth compromise between practice and intensity in relation to the time we are willing to commit.

Too much intensity and not enough practice can lead to an overpowered athlete. Think of this athlete as a sports car with V8 Turbo engine with poor steering and wobbly tires– you’re going to wreck. But on the other hand, too much time practicing won’t produce enough stress to create positive adaptation and result in an underpowered athlete. This type of athlete is like having the handling of a Porsche with the engine of a lawnmower. Neither situation is ideal. To create the ideal athlete, we want an efficiently powerful engine with seamless steering and handling.

So how do you become a balanced athlete? The 20 minute Every Minute on the Minute Workout (EMOM). This workout is one of the greatest ways to accomplish both strength (power) and proper technique (great steering).

How to Execute the 20 Minute EMOM:

Here’s a basic rundown of the 20 min EMOM workout:

  1. Pick one exercise – something that is complex, total body, and requires your undivided attention to avoid sloppiness. Great examples can be Cleans, Overhead Squats, Pull-ups, Muscle-ups, Pistols, Presses, Box Jumps, even Burpees.
  2. Pick your total volume – 20, 40, 60, 80, 100 reps. Depends on the exercise you’re performing
  3. Choose a weight or scale that is moderately challenging – something that allows you to perform multiple sets without breaking down in form.
  4. At the top of each minute, perform 1-5 reps of the movement that you’ve chosen. Make sure that finishing the reps doesn’t take more than 15 seconds each minute. If it starts to get longer than that, back off on the weight or the scale. Also dependent on the exercise you’ve chosen.
  5. Rest for the remaining time – or better yet, practice something known in the kettlebell world as “fast and loose.” Continuous movement, shaking out limbs and basically being the opposite of the tension you’re generating during your work periods.
  6. Repeat for a total of 20 minutes!

Benefits of the Workout:

Think about it, all the benefits of practice, with a bit of intensity, and plenty of volume to make improvement in both. Here are some great things about this format:

  • By keeping your workload for each interval at 15 seconds or less, you’re guaranteeing that your rest to work ration is at least 3:1 or better. This recovery allows you to hit the next set without being overly fatigued. By focusing on only one exercise, you can give all of your mental focus to those reps.
  • There’s no wandering off on Rest, no getting distracted by a text message or an extended trip to the drinking fountain. There is accountability to the clock, which pushes the intensity for the cardiovascular system.
  • You can manipulate a few different variables to give you just the right amount of practice and intensity. Bump the reps up or down, or change the load/scale. It’s progressive – you can add load or volume in subsequent sessions as you adapt to the demands of the 20 min session.
  • You’re going to feel it. If you do it right, there’s a good chance you’re going to be feeling it in all the right places in 24-48 hours. You’re done in 20 minutes!

Examples of Workouts

Here are 5 examples of single pattern 20 min EMOM’s to get better at specific movements:

Example 1: 20 min EMOM of: 5 Hang Cleans 100 Hang Cleans!

Example 2: 20 min EMOM of: 4 Pistol Squats (2 each leg – alternating) 40 Pistols each leg!

Example 3: 20 min EMOM of: 1 Strict Press + 1 Push Press + 1 Jerk 60 Shoulder to Overhead with the bar!

Example 4: 20 min EMOM of: 2 Bar Muscle-ups, 40 Bar Muscle-ups!

Example 5: 20 min EMOM of: 1 Turkish Get-up (alternate arms each minute) 20 heavy TGU’s!

Bonus Example: 20 min EMOM of: 5 Burpees (Not for the faint of heart!)

Extra Advice

Here are a couple of words of advice when starting to incorporate 20 min EMOMs into your homework or extra work.

  • Make sure that you build up to the volume you want to ultimately want to achieve. Never done 100 pull-ups before? Start with 2-3 per minute and increase to 4 and 5 over time.
  • Be able to adjust on the fly. Keep an eye on the clock and if you’re pushing past the 15 seconds mark, time to make a quick change that allows you to stay under the time.
  • Work these carefully around your other workout sessions. Be smart about listening to your body and not crushing it when it needs to rest.
  • Avoid overlap in movement patterns. If you just hammered a deadlift session the day before, probably not the best day to do 100 Hang Cleans. Presses would be a better choice.
  • Be creative – there are so many different ways to go if you follow the basic principles above. Turn any weakness into strength!
  • Use the 20 min EMOM to get back to basics. Perform consistent, fatigue free reps and focus on one thing at a time. Let the clock hold you accountable and provide you with some intensity. Train smart!

– Kyle Sottung