Are EMOM Kettlebell Workouts Overrated?

Are EMOM Kettlebell Workouts Overrated? 


Every Minute On the Minute.

Why it’s not EMOTM is beyond me.

Personally, I prefer TOTM – Top Of The Minute or better yet – OTM – On The Minute.

Regardless, it’s become increasingly popular in the last decade or so.

I started using it back in 2004 with my weightlifting partner.

We’d train our Oly work at his place – UNC Chapel Hill Olympic Sports Strength & Conditioning Center – then on other evenings or Saturdays we’d train at my personal training studio.

We just kept it stupid simple – KB Snatches OTM – 2 to 3 reps – for 20 to 30 minutes, 2x week.

It was “enough.”

The results?

Well, I wish I could say my lifts skyrocketed, but they didn’t.

Probably because this was about 6 to 9 months before I injured my hip.

But we did notice an increase in stamina or a decrease in recovery between sets of our Oly work and our assistance work.

And I’ve used OTM on and off over the last decade or so when I train the Oly lift – 1 rep OTM for 10-25 minutes, depending on the load.

But what I’ve noticed is that EMOM is generally abused by most outside of the kettlebell community at large, and probably even more so outside the StrongFirst community.

And that’s because even though you’re doing a set OTM…

You still need to be aware of the dominant energy system being trained.

And that’s important because of what occurs in the body and the outcomes you’re producing.

Many people using EMOM either end up “inverting” their rest periods – where their work period is longer than their rest period – 20s work, 10s rest – for example. (Faux Tabata anyone?)

Or they still use excessively short work-to-rest ratios.

Either approach:  

[+]  Makes you accumulate fatigue quickly

[+]  Decreases your force output / power production

[+]  Alters your technique

[+]  Sets you up for injury 

[+]  Damages your cell function (mitochondria) in the long run

[+]  Damages your heart health and function

So, if you’re going to use OTM, keep your work periods short – or on the short side, unless you’re doing GLYCOLYTIC PEAKING for a 400m race or a BJJ tournament or some similar event.

(NOTE: This is where some inverted work-to-rest ratios can be used, if you’re going to use them at all.)

Plus, even if you do get the work-to-rest ratios right, many, if not most folks “push” through “indicators” that they should stop and rest more.

My two biggest are:

[1]  Speed drop off – where your reps start getting slower, and…

[2]  Nasal Breathing – where you can no longer breathe nasally before your next set and end up mouth breathing with your tongue lolling outside your mouth…

That’s why I’m such a big fan of “autoregulation.”

Autoregulation is essentially where your current state (physical, mental, emotional) determines your output.

Long, tiring day at work?

Don’t expect to have a ton of energy to hit a PR performance.

Great night sleep, feeling relaxed? 

You’ll probably do more work than you normally would.

Generally speaking, I think autoregulation is superior to OTM / TOTM / EMOM for most of us over 40, because it accounts for our less-than-optimal recuperation / recovery abilities.

It lets you train hard, but not so hard you crush yourself like you did when you were a kid and could get away with it.

So, if you’re going to use OTM / TOTM / EMOM…

  1. Make sure your recovery ability is high and your technique is solid, especially if you’re using power exercises, like the Snatch.
  2. Start with less reps than you think you can do per minute – usually by about ½ to ⅔ . So if you think you can do 10 reps OTM pretty easily, prove it to yourself by starting with 5 or 6 and go for at least 20 minutes.
  3. And start with “low skill” non-technical exercises first, like the Swing vs. the Clean + Jerk
  4. Stop when your speed drops and/or your breathing is compromised (so your technique doesn’t get compromised and you pave the way for injury).

Hopefully you found this helpful.

Stay Strong,


P.S. If you want a mix of OTM and autoregulated Swing programs, check these out.


And if you’re looking for autoregulated Clean + Press and Snatch programs, guys are loving this one.


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