8 EMOM Back Workouts to Forge Strength, Muscle and Skill for CrossFit Athletes

These EMOM Back Workouts will help to build better strength and power withing varying CrossFit contexes.  

In CrossFit, a powerful back will help you to:

  • Control and execute gymnastic movements such as muscle ups
  • Improve the pulling phases of the Olympic Lifts
  • Help stabilise all overhead pressing and balancing movements
  • Support your spine and protect you from injury
  • Maintain good posture
  • Enable you to lift more (and thus get stronger) on the most important basic strength exercises
  • Work with your core to control and stabilise movements

EMOM (which stands for every minute on the minute) is a type of interval workout where you perform a specific task at the start of every minute for a set amount of time.

What are the benefits of EMOM Back Workouts?

-Pacing: EMOMs remove much of the thinking from a workout; the clock decides when you’ll be working and when you’ll be resting. Every minute you’ll also be able to see if you’ve done the prescribed work in a faster or slower pace. Let’s say the workout calls for an 8 minute EMOM of 10 wall balls. If it takes you 35 seconds the first minute and 50 seconds the second minute, you can clearly see that you’ve fallen off pace.

-Progression: EMOMs are a great tool for measuring progressions from week to week. Back to the wall ball EMOM example. Week 1 you may want to complete 10 wall balls every minute on the minute for 8 minutes while trying to complete the work in under 40 seconds (leaving you 20 seconds of rest every minute). Week 2 you could increase the number of wall balls you do every minute or the total length of the workout.

Back-exercises-build-muscleSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc

-Versatility: EMOMs can be programmed to train anything: power, the aerobic or anaerobic systems, mechanics or skills.

-Rest Periods: Well-programmed EMOMs should have built in rest periods. Unlike a normal WOD, these rest periods allow you to analyze your performance after each minute. How did you feel? How was your technique? Did your pace slow significantly? After analyzing each set, EMOMs allow you to redo the work at the start of the new minute.


The muscles of the back can be divided into three groups – superficial, intermediate and deep:

  • Superficial – associated with movements of the shoulder.
  • Intermediate – associated with movements of the thoracic cage.
  • Deep – associated with movements of the vertebral column.

The deep muscles develop embryologically in the back, and are thus described as intrinsic muscles. The superficial and intermediate muscles do not develop in the back, and are classified as extrinsic muscles.

emom back workouts

The deep intrinsic muscles are located underneath the erector spinae, and are known collectively as the transversospinales. They are a group of short muscles, associated with the transverse and spinous processes of the vertebral column. There are three major muscles in this group – the semispinalis, multifidus and rotatores.

ring row back workoutsSource: CrossFit epoc

The superficial back muscles are situated underneath the skin and superficial fascia. They originate from the vertebral column and attach to the bones of the shoulder – the clavicle, scapula and humerus. All these muscles are therefore associated with movements of the upper limb. The muscles in this group are the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, levator scapulae and the rhomboids. The trapezius and the latissimus dorsi lie the most superficially, with the trapezius covering the rhomboids and levator scapulae.

The intermediate group contains two muscles – the serratus posterior superior and serratus posterior inferior. These muscles run from the vertebral column to the ribcage, and assist with elevating and depressing the ribs. They are thought to have a slight respiratory function.


Add these into your training.


AMRAP in 7 minutes
Wall Ball Shots (20/14 lb)
5 Deadlifts (225/155 lb) at the top of each minute
Workout starts with Wall Ball Shots. Then, at the top of each minute, starting at 1:00, complete 5 Deadlifts, then immediately resume Wall Ball Shots.

Score is the total number of repetitions (of Wall Ball Shots and Deadlifts combined) completed before the 7-minute clock stops.


EMOM for 9 minutes
Odd minutes:
9 Deadlifts (275/185 lb)
Even minutes:
9 Bar Over Burpees


EMOM For As Long As Possible
Death by Deadlifts (60% of 1 RM)

Following the “Death By…” format, start clock and do one deadlift within the first minute, two repetitions within the second minute, three deadlifts within the third minute and so on. Add one repetition every minute until you cannot complete the required number of repetitions within that given minute.

Tip: Do not speed up to get all the reps. Go slow and use good form. Don’t let your back round. If you can’t get the reps using good form, then so be it. There is no shame in that. Injuring your back, however, there is a lot of shame (and pain) in that.


EMOM for 10 minutes
3 Deadlifts (65% of max rep)
Max Burpees
Remainder time of each minute is max burpees. Score would be the total number of burpees throughout all 10 rounds.


EMOM for 14 minutes
Odd Minutes:
15 Kettlebell Swings (24/16 kg)
Even Minutes:
10 Deadlifts (275/205 lb)


For Time
150 Wall Ball Shots (20/14 lb)
Every 2 minutes on the minute, perform:
3 Deadlifts (315/225 lb)
3 Bar Over Burpees
With a running clock, as fast as possible perform 150 Wall Ball Shots. Every 2 minutes on the minute, perform the 3 Deadlifts and 3 Bar Over Burpees until the total number of Wall Ball Shots is completed.

Score is the time on the clock when the 150th Wall Ball Shot is completed.


EMOM for 12 minutes
Odd Minutes:
5 Push Presses (155/105 lb)
Even Minutes:
5 Deadlifts (155/105 lb)
Each push press should start from the ground.


EMOM for 23 minutes
3 Deadlifts (230/160 lb)
5 Strict Pull-Ups

Check out a great selection of other back exercises that will be highly beenficial to CrossFit athletes. 

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