Amrap workouts: What they are, example workouts, and how they’re different from HIIT

amrap battle rope workouts

There’s a good chance you heard about amrap workouts from Crossfit, Bootcamp, or your favorite fitness YouTuber.

Today, I’m breaking down what amrap workouts are, who they’re good for, and why they’re different from HIIT. You’ll also get example amrap workouts and some hilarious jokes from me. 

Let’s do it.

What is an amrap workout?

AMRAP is an acronym for “as many rounds as possible” or “as many reps as possible,” depending on the structure for the workouts. These types of workouts do not have built-in rest and recovery. The idea is to move as quickly as possible from one set or one exercise to the next. Preferably without sacrificing form.

10-minute amrap example:

  • 10 kettlebell swings
  • 10 push-ups

This amrap asks you to set a timer for 10-minutes and complete 10 kettlebell swings immediately followed by 10 push-ups. This is equal to one round. You would then come back to the kettlebell swings and repeat the process. Continue this until the 10 minutes is up and record your total rounds and repetitions (i.e. 6 rounds, 12 reps)

An example of as many reps as possible:

  • Bench press, 3 sets x amrap, rest 2 minutes

This asks you to complete one set of the bench press for as many reps as possible. Rest two minutes and repeat for a total of three sets. Please do not do this without a spotter. The last thing you need is a bar on your neck. 

What is a 20-minute amrap?

It’s the same thing as an amrap except it is more specific about the time frame. 

A 20-minute amrap is a workout where you try and complete as many rounds and reps as possible of a selected number of exercises in 20-minutes. One of the most famous 20-minutes amrap workouts is called “Cindy.”

20-minute amrap:

  • 5 pull-ups
  • 10 push-ups
  • 15 squats

For this workout you would start a 20-minute timer. Complete 5 pull-ups, move directly to 10 push-ups, and then 15 squats. This equals one round. You would continue this pattern until the 20-minutes is up and record your score.

An amrap doesn’t have to be 20-minutes. You can have 1-minute amraps, 5-minute, 12-minutes, 44-minute. Heck, you can have a 12-day amrap if you wanted to.*

* Please do not try this.

Is amrap a HIIT workout?

workout gear

Not really.

AMRAP workouts are often described as HIIT but technically they are not. HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. High-intensity intervals usually combine exercise (cardio or strength) for a short period of time followed by a period of rest. AMRAP workouts do not prescribe any rest periods.

HIIT workout example using a stationary bike:

  • Sprint 20 seconds at 90% effort. Peddle 90 seconds at 50% effort. Repeat for 10 sets

AMRAP workout example using a stationary bike:

  • Ride as far as you can in 20-minutes

HIIT workout example using bodyweight and sprinting:

  • Complete 10 push-ups immediately followed by a 100-meter sprint. Rest 90 seconds and repeat for 5 sets

AMRAP workout example using bodyweight and sprinting:

  • Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 15 minutes of 10 push-ups and a 100-meter sprint.*

* Note, that amrap will be the worst experience of your life. Trust me. 

Instead of HIIT, AMRAP workouts could better be described as high volume intensity training (HVIT). Or as variable intensity interval training (VIIT).

Because of varying skill levels, conditioning, and health. AMRAP workouts will vary greatly in intensity from one person to the next. Someone brand new to exercise may move at a slower pace or need to take more frequent rest periods than someone with more experience, skill, or a higher level of conditioning.

What is an example of an amrap workout?

Well, I’ve given a shit ton of them already by how about another one not called “Cindy” or related to Crossfit? This is an amrap workout I did a few months back at a local park with my bodyweight and a single kettlebell.

15-minute amrap:

For this workout, you would start a 15-minute timer. Complete 10 kettlebell swings, move directly to 8 push-ups,6 pull-ups,  4 front rack reverse lunges, 2 burpees, and finally 1 sprint. This equals one round and also the worst experience of your life. You would continue this pattern until the 15-minutes is up. Record your score if you’d like and try to beat it at a later date.

Another example is a workout called “Lynn.” This workout involves 5 rounds of AMRAP of the bench press at your bodyweight followed by pull-ups.

5 rounds of:

  • Bench press, at bodyweight x amrap
  • Pull-ups, amrap

Because there is no rest given in this workout you can take as little or as long as you’d like between exercises or after each round. I would suggest giving yourself a rest period and sticking to it to keep your results consistent.

Are amrap workouts good for weight loss?

Yes and no. AMRAP workouts are a great way to burn calories, which is one part of the weight-loss equation.

For weight loss, you need to average a consistent calorie deficit over time. Calorie deficits can be created through diet, eating fewer calories than you need. Exercise and movement, burning more calories than you need. Or a combination of both.

I’ve covered setting up your diet in-depth hereGetting Started Diet Guide: Improving Your Nutrition.

Calorie deficit graph

My philosophy is to use your workouts to get stronger and build or maintain muscle, and to use your diet for fat loss. Most people overestimate how many calories they’re burning from a workout (and no, your tracker is probably not accurate) and underestimate the amount of food they are eating on average. Humans are notoriously bad at estimating calorie intake (study – after study – after study – after study) show this. 

Your return on investment is much greater by focusing on diet. Think about it for a second. Exercise 60 minutes super hard to burn a few hundred calories or swap the chips at lunch for an apple.

Will amrap workouts build muscle?

It can if it applies the principles of progressive overload.

Without this, it’s virtually impossible to get stronger or build muscle. In order to get stronger, build, or maintain muscle – The stimulus has to be more than it is used to. If you do the same thing over and over again nothing will change.

There are multiple ways you can do this.

  • Intensity: Lifting more weight in your next training session.
  • Volume: Doing more reps, sets, or exercises.
  • Frequency: Doing more training sessions than the week before.
  • Tension: Increasing the duration of each repetition within an exercise. For example, taking 5 seconds to lower yourself in a push-up.
  • There are just a few

One way you can do this in an amrap is by doing the same amrap with heavier weights. Completing more rounds or reps. Or reducing the rest you take in an amrap. Your diet will also need to provide you with enough calories and protein to help muscle growth.

Will amrap workouts make me strong?

See above.

Oversimplifying the process and beating a dead horse, the number one requirement for strength is progressive overload.

beat a dead horse

Now if you’re friend just started working out after years of inactivity. Or if you know someone that is working out for the first time and telling you how awesome amrap workouts are and all you need to do is come to this boot camp with them because they are getting so strong and building muscle. I want to explain what is going on. 

Beginners or those who have not trained in a while will experience progressive overload with just about anything.

In the first 3 to 6 months and sometimes as much as 12 months. You’ll notice that your strength may increase rapidly. Then all of a sudden it gets harder and harder to get stronger. Leaving you all like, dah fuck 🤷‍♂️ and 😕. 

This is totally normal and is creatively called “beginner gains.” Almost anything you do is progressive overload at this point and your body responds very quickly to it. You can even get great results with poorly designed programs and random workouts. But at some point, you’ll need more structure in order to get stronger and continue building more muscle. 

Are amrap workouts cardio?

They can be if designed that way. Cardio refers to the energy pathway that the body uses. I apologize, it’s about to get all kinds of sciency up in here.

The three main energy systems are:

  • Phosphagen (fast)
  • Anaerobic (somewhat slow)
  • Aerobic (slow)


This system supports very short and extremely high-intensity work. You use this energy system when you are working at an all-out type effort for 10-20 seconds. Think very short sprints, vertical jumps/broad jumps, etc…

You can train this system by doing the following:

  • One to Two very heavy strength training movements (squats, deadliest, etc..)
  • Short Sprints lasting no longer than 20 seconds of effort
  • Medicine ball slams or short duration kettlebell swings

Usually, 5 to 10 sets of this type of work with long rest periods that allow for complete recovery are ways to train to see improvement.


After the initial use of the Phosphagen system work in the 10-20 second range, your body moves into using this system as its primary source of energy.

After the first all-out effort seen in your first 10-20 seconds of work, you will begin to slow down a bit. You’ll notice things like your lungs beginning to press for air, you may even become nauseous as the PH balance in your body begins to change.

This is the system that most fitness professionals recommend for losing body fat, keeping or building lean muscle, strengthen muscles, and as a way to get the most out of their gym time.

This energy system relies primarily on carbohydrates for fuel so if you do a ton of this type of training those good carb sources will come in handy for performance.

You can also use this type of training in combination with a lower carbohydrate eating approach to maximize fat loss if performance is not a primary concern.

This energy system is used during bouts of work lasting 20-40 seconds (for some it is possible to train within this system for up to two minutes) with rest in-between sets lasting about thirty (30) seconds to two (2) minutes.

  • 200-meter sprints (maybe even longer if you run like the wind)
  • Strength training circuits with short rest intervals in-between sets
  • Running stairs

Usually, 4-8 sets of this type of work is enough to see improvement. However, you may not want to do it more than twice per week as it can be very demanding on your body and tough to recover from.


This system usually starts getting used after the two (2) minute mark of moderate to higher intensity training sessions.

We used to use this energy system all the time before cars came into our lives with low-intensity walks, jogs, and swims.

To train this system you typically are moving at a slow to medium pace. Think of things like a walk, slow jog, team sports, hiking, kayaking, and bicycling. This type of work usually lasts longer than five minutes.

  • Three (3) to five (5) five-minute bouts of low to moderate work with one (1) to five (5) minutes of rest is one way to train this system.

You could also perform shorter one (1) to three (3) minute bouts of work followed by one (1) to five (5) minutes of rest for five (5) to ten (10) sets. Or you could even do longer ten to twenty minutes with longer rest periods (upwards of ten minutes) between sets.

An interesting thing about the Oxygen or Cardio system is that it was previously thought that the best way to train it was to do those long slow 30-60 minute sessions of aerobic activity multiple times per week. Research is now showing us that you can still receive all those cardio or aerobic benefits from short intense workouts like Interval training weight training, and other high-intensity activity.

The oxidative system can also be used to help recover from high-intensity training. In essence, you’re killing two birds with one stone by training this way. Basically, go on those walks.

3 full-body amrap workouts you can do at home (bodyweight and resistance bands)

beginner bodyweight workout

Below are three full body amrap workouts you can do at home, using your own body weight and resistance bands. Each workout uses an upper-body pulling exercise, upper body pressing exercise, and one lower body exercise. I also give an optional “cardio” exercise you can add.

You’ll notice rep ranges given. If you’re a beginner, start with the lower rep range and work your way up. Intermediate, start with the higher reps.

Workout 1: 5 to 20-minute amrap

Workout 2: 5 to 20-minute amrap

Workout 3: 5 to 20-minute amrap

3 amrap workouts you can do with dumbbells

Personal trainer spotting female client

Workout 1: 5 to 20-minute amrap

Workout 2: 5 to 20-minute amrap

Workout 3: 5 to 20-minute amrap

3 amrap workouts you can do with one kettlebell

20-minute kettlebell workout

Workout 1: 10 to 20-minute amrap

Workout 2: 10 to 20-minute amrap

Workout 3: 10 to 20-minute amrap

5-minute amrap workouts you can do

Workout 1: 5-minute amrap

Workout 2: 5-minute amrap

Workout 3: 5-minute amrap

Workout 4: 5-minute amrap

Workout 5: 5-minute amrap

How to create your own amrap workouts (simple version)

There are many ways to put together effective amrap workouts for yourself. Keep it simple and use basic movements that allow you to focus on form while moving at an aggressive pace you’re comfortable with.

Choose 1 upper body pressing exercise:

  • Bench press, overhead press, push-up, handstand push-up, dips, incline dumbbell press

Choose 1 upper body pulling exercise:

  • Pull-ups, Bent over row, inverted row (bodyweight), chin-ups, back extensions

Choose 1 lower body exercise:

  • Squats, lunges, deadlifts, step-ups

Complete 5 to 15 reps of each. Amrap length can be anything you want but 5 to 20 minutes is perfect. Keep your amrap workouts to mostly bodyweight, dumbbell, and kettlebells. While you can use barbells, save those for the strength days.

What are the benefits of an amrap workout?

The main benefit of amrap workouts is that you can get in a lot of work in a shorter period of time. You can easily sneak one in on a lunch break, as a movement snack during your day, or when rushed in the morning or evening.

They can also be a good way to keep you from bullshitting during a workout. Because there is no prescribed rest period, you’re kept moving from one exercise to the next.

  • A great way to burn calories.
  • Amraps can be used for both cardiovascular and muscular endurance
  • They can help build mental toughness, especially if you’re trying to beat previous scores.
  • They’re easy to track progress

What are the disadvantages of an amrap workout?

It’s easy to sacrifice form for intensity when doing amrap workouts. Especially if you’re doing them in a group and are overly competitive. In a group setting, you can push harder than you may be ready for which may lead to injury or burnout.

  • It’s hard to follow a progressive program (too much variability)
  • It’s easy to burn out from working that hard all the time

Should amrap workouts be the foundation of my training program?

Probably not. But it depends on what your goals are. If you just want to move more and get a sweat in then sure. If you want to get stronger and build muscle following a progressive strength training program would be more effective.

You could also combine the two. Strength training workouts could finish with short amrap workouts for conditioning. Or you could use amrap workouts once or twice per week in-between strength training days. Just be mindful of recovery. 

Who are amraps workouts good and not good for?

Most people can complete an amrap workout. They allow you to move at a pace that you’re comfortable with. You can ramp up or back as you see fit. But this can also be a disadvantage. You can also take it too easy when doing amrap workouts. A good rule of thumb is to work at around 80-90% of your maximum effort most of the time. Every so often sprinkle in a 90-99% effort.


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