I imagine many of you are wondering what “AMRAP” means. It’s short for As Many Round As Possible, and it’s a very popular protocol for optimizing work density, that is, optimizing the volume of work you do in a set amount of time. Read on.
The AMRAP is a really great protocol and I utilize it often (three times this week, in fact). It’s kind of like this: Instead of determining beforehand to do four sets of ten reps, you determine the number of reps per set and then determine to complete as many of them as possible in however many minutes you determine beforehand. (Incidentally, everything I’m going to say here also applies to “for time” or “sprint” workouts, where you try to complete a certain number of rounds of work as quickly as possible. They’re great, but they have their drawbacks.)
So an example of an AMRAP workout may be something like this:
AMRAP in 20 minutes:
A) 5 pull-ups
B) 10 pushups
C) 20 squats
Those three movements combined make up one round. Then you try to do as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes. Say you get 12 rounds in the 20 minutes. The next time you do this workout, you try to beat that number by better pacing, managing rest, getting stronger, or whatever.
Great protocol, right? Right. I get in some great training sessions this way. So what’s the problem here?
Well, to be candid, many folks (including me, from time to time in the past) don’t know when to stop. Pull-ups, pushups and squats are pretty benign. If you can’t complete the rep, you’re not that likely to hurt yourself. But imagine a workout like this:
AMRAP in 12 minutes:
A) 135# barbell snatch – 10 reps
B) 15 burpees
C) 2 pood (approx 70#) KB Swings – 15 reps
Looks harmless enough on a computer screen, but you’d better be smart when going after this. Why’s that? Because in workouts like these, there’s a tremendous temptation to compromise form for sake of the rep. And that can be dangerous. Let’s say your legs get wobbly from the burpees by the time the swings roll around, and you start bending too much at the back to complete the rep, or you start pulling with your traps because your grip is failing. Then you start the next round on those snatches when you shouldn’t and you end up dropping the bar behind your head because you’ve got nothing in the tank.
But you’re bent on getting in your rounds and impressing yourself, so you gut it out and keep going. Next think you know (after taking a break to throw up in a trash can and wrap your ripped callouses), you’re curled up in the corner sucking your thumb and asking for mama when you can actually muster the energy to talk. All before the 12 minutes are up.
Now for some of you this may sound like a good time…or at least the makings of a good workout. Not me. I’ve experienced enough of it to think otherwise (and by “enough” I don’t mean an experience like the one above, but you get the point). So I’d like to introduce the AMROPWAP. Yup. That’s pronounced “AM-ROP-WAP.” And really it’s what any writer of an AMRAP workout actually means. It stands for…
As Many Rounds Of Perfect Work As Possible. That’s AMROPWAP. Of course CrossFitters and others who are strong AMRAP advocates don’t want you counting reps that are done with wonky form. So they intend perfect work whether or not they say so.
And this requires working smarter, not harder. As often as not, the ironic part is that a person can actually accomplish MORE work by managing rest and doing perfect reps than he can just flying through the workout with lousy technique. Proper form enables you to lift more, recruit more muscles when doing so, and reap greater overall benefit from every rep than when you just fly through them.
Don’t believe me? Drop and do 10 sloppy pushups as fast as you can then rest a minute. Now do 3 pushups slowly, contracting and tensing your quads, glutes, core and your lats (i.e., your “wings” under your armpits). I didn’t even mention your shoulders, arms or chest, but you’ll use them, too. Now, which one was harder? In that case, which is actually better? 3 quality reps or 10 garbage reps? You get the idea.
If at the end of the workout you haven’t “completed” as many rounds as you like, but the rounds you completed were with perfect form, you win. You live to train another day and you’ve actually made greater strides in your overall fitness while continue to develop proper muscle memory.
But by all means, do your AMROPWAP’s, but focus well on the Perfect Work part.
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