The ‘3-6-9 Workout’ Is a Low-Impact Way To Build Strength and Get Your Heart Rate Up

Photo: Getty Images/The Good Brigade
When scrolling through lists of at-home workouts to do, the endless exercise acronyms (EMOM, HIIT, BWT, METCON, etc.) can sometimes make me feel like hardcore fitness enthusiasts speak a language that I never learned. Left out of the club—or intimidated by what those workouts may entail—it's easy to circle back to my tried-and-true modality. But as it turns out, venturing out to try new workouts isn't as scary as the CAPSLOCK abbreviations make them out to be. Enter: the 3-6-9 AMRAP workout.

What is an AMRAP workout?

AMRAP stands for "as many rounds as possible," and put simply, it just means doing a move or a series as many times as you can within a set time limit. It's you versus the clock, not you versus everyone else in the room. Though the acronym became popular in the Crossfit world, the concept can be applied to nearly any workout modality and is a great way to ease into a new class or practice. “AMRAP workouts are about achieving your goals—big or small—through dedication, hard work, limited distraction, and focus,” Jason Khalipa, founder of NCFit and author of As Many Reps As Possible: Succeeding In Competition, Business, and Life By Making The Most Of Every Single Minute, previously told Well+Good.

How do you do the 3-6-9 AMRAP workout?

Intrigued? One popular way of structuring an AMRAP workout is by using the 3-6-9 concept. This means that your repetitions are locked and you work to do as many rounds of them as possible. Here's how it works: You create a three-move circuit. In the first round of the circuit, you do three repetitions of each move, then in the second round of the circuit, you do six repetitions, and finally, in the third round of the circuit, you do nine repetitions. If you still have time on the clock, you can continue adding to your workout by counts of three. "The 3-6-9 AMRAP workout is an effective type of training session because it allows you to efficiently challenge both your musculoskeletal system and cardiovascular systems, and can be easily customized," explains trainer Ella Magers. Because the workout is so personalizable, it's up to you whether you choose to focus on strengthening one muscle group, using it as a warm-up to get your blood pumping, or as a full-body practice.

To start, "select three exercises you can do safely, comfortably, and with proper form for a set amount of time. Make sure you’re able to easily transition into the next exercise, explains Laura Wilson, founder of Natural Pilates. "The length of time will depend on your fitness level. For beginners I would start at five minutes and build from there," she adds.

What low-impact moves can you include in the 3-6-9 AMRAP workout?

"Your choice of exercises depends completely on your health and fitness goals, and what equipment (if any) you have access to," explains Magers. "I would personally choose bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, glute bridges, and core exercises," adds Wilson. That said, the workout doesn't have to stay the same every time you do it. Other low-impact moves that limit the stress put on your joints while also increasing your heart rate could be:

1. Plank with shoulder tap

2. Lunge or reverse lunge

3. Crunch or reverse crunch

4. Pilates teaser

5. Tricep dip

6. Donkey kick


Why are AMRAP workouts so beneficial for one's heart health?

AMRAP workouts are the ultimate multitaskers. They're scalable, so you can dial the difficulty level up or down based on your needs (by adding time and varying the difficulty of the exercises you're doing). They're also versatile because you can mix up the exercises you choose to include. And lastly, they're a great way to track your personal progress, because the number of reps or rounds that it will take to hit muscle fatigue will grow as you get stronger and your endurance builds. The important thing to remember is that, because time is your variable, the speed of whatever moves you choose to incorporate will really get your blood pumping, your heart rate up, and have your muscles feeling a serious burn because there are no built-in rest periods.

"[Bodyweight training] requires your body to use many muscle groups at once to perform the exercise...Incorporating the 3-6-9 AMRAP method with these exercises guarantees constant movement for a set amount of time," says Wilson. Because your body will be moving throughout the whole workout, your heart rate stays elevated the whole time, "thereby challenging your cardiovascular system and improving heart health. Depending on the type of exercises you choose, you can create a workout that keeps you in a relatively steady state of cardio, or you can create a workout in which one or two of the exercises is more intense, spiking your heart rate so that it becomes more of an interval training workout," explains Magers.

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