What Is Anaerobic Training? Examples & Benefits

Medically Reviewed on 12/15/2022
What Is Anaerobic Training
Anaerobic exercise is any activity that is performed at a high level of intensity

Anaerobic exercise is a type of workout that helps you burn glucose for energy without the use of oxygen. During anaerobic training or exercise, your body's need for oxygen exceeds the supply of oxygen that is available. The term "anaerobic" means "in the absence of oxygen" or "without oxygen."

Anaerobic exercise is any activity that is performed at a high level of intensity. Almost any activity, including those generally thought of as aerobics, can be turned into anaerobic exercise. The key is in the intensity. For example, jogging at a moderate speed is aerobic, whereas sprinting is anaerobic.

Anaerobic training is a great way to improve heart health, build muscle mass, and lose weight.

How does anaerobic training work?

During anaerobic exercise, your muscles begin to break down sugars in your muscles for energy, resulting in increased lactic acid production. 

The idea is that during anaerobic training a large amount of energy is used in a short period of time in which the oxygen demand exceeds the supply. When you start exercising strenuously, there is a temporary lack of oxygen in the working muscles.

Glycolysis occurs in muscle cells without oxygen, providing quick energy. This process generates lactic acid, which is why the muscles get so tired following the energy surge. Regular anaerobic exercise will help the body tolerate and remove lactic acid more effectively, eventually leading to less tiring sessions.

What is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training?

Aerobic exercises are longer and require sustained movement. Anaerobic exercises are strenuous and brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to two minutes. They each rely on different energy systems to fuel a workout session.

The primary distinction between these two types of exercise is how your body fuels itself while performing these activities. Breathing and oxygen are critical components of aerobic exercise. In anaerobic exercises, your body does not use oxygen to get energy. 

Most anaerobic exercises are very short-duration, extremely high-intensity exercises, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to 2 minutes. Anaerobic training or high-intensity training requires athletes to push themselves to their physical limits or abilities. 

The CDC recommends a healthy balance of aerobic and anaerobic exercises in your weekly exercise routine. Combining anaerobic and aerobic training can improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, speed, and overall health. 

What are 6 examples of anaerobic exercise?

1. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

  • In this workout, you alternate high-intensity short-term activities with longer intervals of low-intensity activities. 
  • Work as hard as you can during high-intensity activities; this rhythm helps you enter the anaerobic zone.
  • HIIT significantly burns excess body fat and improves your exercise performance and endurance.
  • HIIT turns traditional aerobic exercise into anaerobic exercise by alternating high-intensity bursts of movement with periods of low-activity rest. For example, a person might perform a normally considered aerobic exercise, such as cycling, in high bursts of energy. Short bursts of energy would be accommodated during recovery periods to allow the body to catch up and breathe.

2. Tabata training

  • Tabata training falls under the category of high-intensity interval training and is excellent for toning your muscles and boosting your endurance.
  • The basic idea behind this workout is to execute high-intensity movements for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. You should complete eight circuits in total, which will take 4 minutes.
  • It is a popular approach to reducing weight in a healthy and relatively quick way.

3. Heavy weight lifting

  • Lifting weights is done in a repetitive manner, also known as "reps," and the body rests between repetitions.
  • Experts recommend at least 2-3 weight lifting sessions per week. Weight lifting helps your muscles grow and get stronger as well as enhances your muscular coordination.

4. Plyometric training

  • Plyometric training is a great anaerobic activity for increasing power, strength, and balance, especially in the calves, quadriceps, and glutes.
  • Examples may include:
    • Jump squats
    • One-legged hops
    • Series of jumps which may also include jumping onto boxes or over cones
    • Jumping rope
    • Squat jumps
    • Burpees
  • It is crucial to consider your fitness levels. If you are a beginner, start this type of training gradually.

5. Sprints

  • Sprints are done with the highest level of effort as opposed to steady jogging.
  • Instead of running at a steady pace as you would during a marathon, you exert the maximum amount of energy possible for shorter distances.

6. Isometric training

  • Isometric training is a type of weight training that can be especially beneficial for maintaining strength and improving stability.
  • These types of exercises are low-impact and do not require a full range of motion, making them useful for people dealing with arthritis and other painful conditions.


Pictures of the 7 Most Effective Exercises to Do at the Gym or Home (and Tips to Improve Form) See Slideshow

What are the benefits of anaerobic training?

Anaerobic exercise increases your heart rate, which causes your breathing rate to rise as well. When exercising at this level of intensity, the body tends to burn a good number of calories in a short period. This can increase the effectiveness of exercise when trying to manage or lose weight.

The potential benefits of anaerobic training exercises include:

  • Improves muscle strength: Short, intense bursts of exercise increase the number of rapid-twitch muscle fibers in your body and can increase your endurance.
  • Increases muscle mass: The rapid bursts of effort needed during anaerobic exercise can make your muscles become stronger and bigger.
  • Boosts metabolism: Improved muscle mass boosts metabolism as muscles are hungry in the hours following a high-intensity anaerobic exercise. In comparison to the amount of fuel your body burns at rest, your body will burn more fuel for many hours after a high-intensity exercise session.
  • Increases VO2 max: VO2 max is the maximum quantity of oxygen your body can consume while exercising. This number rises when anaerobic activity becomes a regular part of your workout regimen. This is significant because it increases the oxygen available for rapid bursts of exercise in your daily life. Increased VO2 max also enhances endurance for other activities, such as aerobic exercises.
  • Decreases soreness: While post-exercise soreness is an unavoidable side effect of an anaerobic exercise program, it is reduced if anaerobic activity becomes a regular part of your workout regimen.  This is because regular anaerobic exercise increases your body's tolerance to lactic acid and also boosts your body's ability to efficiently remove toxins.
  • Improves energy: Regular anaerobic activity enhances your body's glycogen storage capacity, providing you with extra energy when you need it.
  • Increases bone strength and density: Anaerobic exercise enhances bone density more than any other type of exercise. This means that it can help protect against osteoporosis and age-related joint pain.
  • Promotes weight loss: In addition to assisting with weight reduction through muscle growth, anaerobic exercise can help you continue to burn calories at rest, commonly known as the "afterburn."
  • Reduces blood sugar: Everything you eat is converted to sugar, which is then either burned or stored in the muscles as glycogen or in the rest of your body as fat. The anaerobic activity also helps control insulin synthesis and action, which helps you prevent blood sugar spikes.

What are the disadvantages of anaerobic exercise?

Anaerobic exercise may not be suitable for everyone. The following are the potential risks involved in anaerobic training:

  • Requires expert guidance: On a 1 to 10 scale for perceived exertion, anything over a 7 is considered a high-intensity anaerobic exercise and is not typically recommended for beginners. If you are a beginner, anaerobic exercises should be done under the supervision of a trained fitness instructor.
  • May not be suitable if you have underlying medical conditions: Before beginning anaerobic workouts, consult with your doctor. Short bursts of high-impact, high-intensity workouts may not be good if you have joint pain, a heart problem, or blood pressure issues.
  • Risk of injury: Improper anaerobic exercise can cause injury, exhaustion, persistent inflammation, and even weight gain. It is important to perform these exercises with proper form and technique to avoid injuries.
  • Sleep disturbances: Rigorous exercise near bedtime may disrupt sleep.

What precautions should I take before starting anaerobic training?

Precautions may help reduce the risks and enhance the advantages of anaerobic training. Because anaerobic exercises are high-intensity workouts, there are a few things to keep in mind when performing them:

  • Before beginning your workout routine, consult with a trainer and a doctor, especially if you have a health condition or are taking a prescription medication.
  • Warm-up sessions are required before each workout session to help prevent injury and prepare your muscles and joints.
  • Follow a well-balanced diet to avoid fatigue and gain stamina.
  • Stay hydrated as any high-intensity workout session can cause you to sweat profusely.
  • Cross-train and incorporate more strength training and core exercises into your workout routine.
  • Pay attention to your body and do not overdo it or push yourself too far. 
  • Rest between workouts is critical to avoiding injury.
  • Once done with a workout, cool down and stretch to relieve pain and stiffness.

How often should I do anaerobic training exercises?

The CDC advises that people dedicate at least 2 days a week to anaerobic workouts such as strength training. Start slowly if you're new to anaerobic exercise to avoid overexerting your body.

Another crucial point to remember is that your body requires complete recovery after such training sessions. If you decide to incorporate anaerobic exercise into your routine, limit it to 2-3 times a week while resting in between workout days.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/15/2022
Image Source: Getty image

10.3: Anaerobic Exercise https://med.libretexts.org/Courses/Folsom_Lake_College/FLC%3A_Nutri_300_(Giordano)/Text/10%3A_Physical_Fitness/10.3%3A_Anaerobic_Exercise

Aerobic vs anaerobic exercise training effects on the cardiovascular system https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5329739/

The benefits of anaerobic exercise https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/the-benefits-of-anaerobic-exercise

The difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise https://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/the-difference-between-aerobic-and-anaerobic-exercise

Training the Anaerobic and Aerobic Energy Systems https://web.cortland.edu/buckenmeyerp/Lecture12.html