AMRAP or AMAP workout set is a training concept meaning as many as possible” or “as many reps as possible”.
Since then, it has experienced a resurgence of popularity over the past year or two, and many athletes are interested in using this training tool. This short article will serve to clarify some of the concepts of the AMRAP set and cover some of the psychological, programming, and strength gains, and some of the potential pitfalls.
First, the AMRAP set is a method of powerlifting testing involving fixed load and a number of reps. Amrap is also an abbreviation, it means as many rounds/reps as possible.
There is always a number after it, that number means how many minutes you have to work. For example, amrap7, so you do the circuit for a full 7 minutes before taking a break. If it is a competition then you have to count the rounds or reps done in these minutes to get the final score.
If it’s an amrap you can set your own pace. For example, if the movements are complex you don’t need to go very fast, but if the movements are mostly body weight you can go faster.
It’s often good to have a goal before starting an amrap.
Since AMRAPs are typically a higher number than four reps, they can be employed at the end of a volume training block, where adaptation is more likely to occur in that particular rep range. We need time to adapt to the training modalities.
This is one of the premises behind the leading protocol in competition – preparing the athlete to perform at their best on 1RM. Unlike 1RMs, AMRAPs, if programmed effectively, have little effect on recovery. We are able to do AMRAP more often than we are able to do 1RM. While some proponents of Bulgarian training will tell you that consistent 1RMs are sustainable, it is often actually heavy singles that are sustainable in some cases, not max effort.
Deviations from a lifter’s normal technique are not “make or break” moments for an AMRAP set. The technology is less sophisticated and less likely to rule out technical inefficiency as a reason for poor performance in testing.
The AMRAP set has even more utility like the heavier single, and can be carried at RPE of less than 10 (maximum effort). Performing an athlete’s AMRAP and capping the set to RPE 9 will not only make it easier to recover from, but will also provide accurate data on an estimated 1RM
More generally, we are referring to using them at regular intervals, and on that note Brian Mann recently led research for strength games. In his dissertation, he explains using APRE (Autoregulated Progressive Resistance Exercise). This is probably one of the reasons for the increase in the use and interest of AMRAP. Mann uses a similar principle, and performance above a specific baseline (such as performing 5 extra reps means +10lbs in training load the following week) requires an increase in training load over the next week. See Mann’s research and article for more on this.
Somewhat paradoxically, performing AMRAP more frequently is likely to lead to better recovery than the opposite, likely as athletes are adapting to the new training stimulus and the repeated bout effect. Under more frequent use, athletes can expect our athlete’s experiences to adapt to regular AMRAP use after ~3 weeks, after which AMRAP will cause less recovery deficits.
Physically too, AMRAP sets are a way to gather a little more volume, although a case can easily be made for just another set rather than adding extra reps to the same set. I can imagine training protocols where the AMRAP set is moved to a certain RPE, removing some of the fatigue associated with pushing the AMRAP set to failure.
Amap workout, as a testing tool, instills confidence if done correctly. If we choose a weight for an athlete to perform with 1RM and the athlete devotes to a single test moment after 4-12 weeks, there is dissatisfaction, frustration and a general feeling of failure. Is all this a waste of time? However, the added benefit is that failure does not necessarily mean that zero work has been done. Athletes are still able to crank out a few reps, though not as many as they expected. This sounds like less than a psychological blow.
Likewise, in terms of success and performance, getting in just one more rep can often be achieved with the right mindset, training partner, song, or extra “oomph”. Athletes often report watershed moments of feeling that they are capable of much more than they previously thought, leading to a re-calibration of their entire RPE scale. Suddenly RPE8 now represents a lot more weight than before. It may take just the hell of a performance on the AMRAP set to find that fact.
Seeing the tests repeated allows athletes to prepare mentally in smaller increments than the larger “do or die” trials at the end of 8, 12 or 16 weeks. Some athletes thrive in a consistent testing environment, while others find that the energy to mentally prepare themselves to perform at maximum each week is too much. As with most training ideas, we have to fit it within the context of the athlete’s psychology, training experience, and training annual plan.
Repeated AMRAPs can be useful in assessing an athlete’s endurance at a given training volume. When a lifter falls short of its expected rep range, it can be a sign that the lifter is no longer able to recover from the current volume. This can be an opportunity for the coach to reduce the volume in progress to promote recovery. This increase in training max will naturally increase volume and potentially keep lifters closer to their volume limits for a stronger training effect.
AMRAP is both a training and testing tool, but it is still a tool. Like any other tool, if you use it incorrectly, you are bound to do more harm than good. Hammers are great tools, but they don’t hold fish very well. Make sure you fit the AMAP workout into the context of a larger training plan that allows for adherence, continuity, progress, and an annual plan.