Build Strength with On The Minute Work
Some of the best training programs aren’t fancy at all. They can be beautifully simplistic. The best workouts don’t require a rocket scientist to program them nor do they require a crazy algorithm to determine the perfect set, rep, and rest structures. Sometimes all you need is a movement and the clock.
If you’re pressed for time while you’re at the gym, you should aim to maximize every minute you have. I don’t mean just hopping on the stairmaster for your entire session, sure you’ll sweat, but if you want to build muscle and get stronger, you’ll need to do more than just that. Do something each minute that will help get you closer to your goal.
Enter OTM workouts. OTM means “on the minute”, which is used interchangeably with EMOM, which means “every minute on the minute.” This has become popular within the CrossFit community, but it’s slowly becoming more mainstream.
OTM work is great for establishing a consistent lifting technique, building strength (i.e. squat), and for working on your pulling and postural strength (i.e. deadlift). They can also be fun, efficient, and effective. If you use them for metabolic conditioning, they can be some of the most painful and best workouts of your life. You get to test your performance every minute against the clock, while also focusing on your form and proper positioning.
For example, if it’s prescribed to do 3 squats OTM for 10 minutes, you start the clock and do 3 squats and then rest for the remainder of that minute. Then, you do another 3 reps at the top of the next minute, and so on, until you finish your final set. This is a simple structure that will allow you to complete a high volume of quality reps at a moderately heavy load, while also training your body to manage the fatigue with minimal rest.
The beauty of this type of training is you’ll work several different types of energy systems: phosphagen and glycolytic energy systems with intense work periods ranging from 10 to 2 minutes, and you’re aerobic system will help you recover as fatigue sets in and your rest periods become progressively shorter. This type of training will also help you avoid is muscle failure and become better at managing fatigue.
There are a ton of ways you can incorporate OTM work into your training. Here’s how:
- Singles: choose a weight that is moderately heavy between your 3-5 RM or 85-90% of your 1 RM. The goal is to do a perfect rep every single minute. Depending on your goals and level of fitness do this for 10-30 minutes.
- Doubles and Triples: This protocol will require you to use a lighter load than you would be singles. Choose a weight that is between your 4-6 RM or 70-80% of your 1 RM.
- Hypertrophy (muscle building): just a warning, this could get hard! Typically, reps of 8-12 are good for building lean muscle mass, so choose a weight that would closely represent those rep schemes. Then set your clock for 10 minutes and do 4-6 reps OTM while maintaining solid form and keeping your reps moving at a nice and even pace.
- Rep Maxes: Set your clock to 10-20 minutes and gradually add weight OTM, building up to a heavy 1 rep without failure.
- Supersets: Pair two exercises that work different body parts or a lift with a bodyweight movement. For instance you can pair the following: back squat/deadlift, strict press/pull-up, back squat/burpees.
- OT2M (on the 2 minutes): This means do a set of 1-3 reps every other minute on the odd or on the even minutes (for instance, 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, etc.). This will help to maximize your power and strength and better prevent metabolic fatigue since you have extra rest time built in.
- Cardio: some of the best cardio workouts are OTM. They will look and feel like exactly like interval training. For example: try alternating between 15 burpees on the odd minutes and a 15 calorie row on the even minutes for 30 minutes. If 15 reps is too much, try 10 or 12 instead. If you want something shorter, than here’s another one – this time with 3 movements. Alternate movements OTM for 21 minutes: 15 wall balls, 15 American kettlebell swings (overhead), 15 calories on the Assault Bike.
Each week slowly add more weight to your sets. Choose weights you know you can hit now without failure, then each time you finish all of the reps at the weight, add 5-10# for next time. Remember, heavier isn’t always better when it comes to OTM strength work. Grinding out heavy reps doesn’t train you to be fast or help you work on technique. Save the grinding reps for when you’re testing your rep maxes and keep the OTM work solid and moving fast.