We all know about aerobic exercise and how its helps us lose weight while also keeping us in good cardiovascular health. But what is anaerobic exercise? Anaerobic exercise is made up of brief but extreme, strength-based activities. Examples of anaerobic exercise are sprinting, bodybuilding or jumping. Aerobic exercise on the other hand is based on endurance activities, such as a marathon or long-distance biking. It is believed, however, that all exercise is anaerobic in the beginning or during the early stages.
Anaerobic exercise is intense enough to create lactic acid fermentation. During anaerobic activity, muscles tap glycogen from carbohydrates which, when burnt in the absence of oxygen, gives off an end product called ‘lactic acid’. That process results in muscle fatigue, which is why anaerobic activity is limited to short activities like sprinting and weightlifting. It is used by athletes who are not into endurance activities to build speed, strength, and power. Body builders use it to build muscle mass. Those trained in anaerobic exercise have muscle energy systems trained for optimal performance during short durations. These bursts of strength can last from a few seconds to as long as 2 minutes only.
Experts consider anything lasting longer than 120 seconds as more of an aerobic type of activity. One of the clear benefits of anaerobic exercise is explosive power. It makes our muscles more powerful while also decreasing body fat. An anaerobic training routine also helps build muscle mass while increasing bone density. It also boosts metabolism which leads to more calories burned. Anaerobic training also helps improve your cardiovascular fitness. It would not be wise to even draw a comparison between aerobic vs anaerobic exercise since both have their own advantages and specific uses, which depend largely on your training goals. Aerobic simply means “with oxygen” while anaerobic means “without oxygen”.
Both these types of exercises have their rewards. It is advisable to use both in a workout. For beginners it is vital to build a good aerobic foundation before progressing to a high intensity anaerobic exercise. One should start with low intensity cardiovascular exercise for a few weeks at first, then start high intensity anaerobic exercise as you become more aerobically fit. Continue aerobic exercises in the regimen as there are many health benefits to be reaped from low intensity exercises. Too much anaerobic training can lead to burnout and overtraining. Low intensity aerobic exercise is also usually suitable for all ages. High intensity anaerobic training, on the other hand, is obviously not suitable for people with heart conditions, hypertension, the elderly, obesity, pregnant women, asthma, and diabetes. It would also be prudent to consult your family physician before embarking on any high intensity exercise program.
Not knowing it, you probably are already doing some form of anaerobic activity. Here are some examples of anaerobic exercise that you could do.
1. Circuit Training Routines
The intense phases and recovery periods cycled over and over again in circuit training is a classic form of anaerobic exercise. Make sure to choose light weights or resistance as you move from one exercise to another. Work at a high intensity for 30 seconds to a minute per exercise, taking a maximum of three minutes to recove after completing one circuit. Plyometrics, calisthenics, and other bodyweight exercises are excellent choices for anaerobic exercises.
2. Sprint Training and Jumping
Doing brief but high-intensity sprints on a treadmill or the track, while jogging, or during cycling, creates anaerobic exercise. Begin with 30-second sprints cycled with 90 seconds of recovery. Repeat this for several intervals.
3. Sports Activities
Sports like volleyball, tennis, racquetball, football and basketball are anaerobic since you execute plays at a very high intensity which cannot be sustained for more than two minutes. To be able to continue, you need recovery periods. Anaerobic workouts build your ability to recover from intense phases in a sport.
4. Resistance Training
Resistance training is a classic example of anaerobic exercise. When weight training, you perform repetitions for brief periods, usually less than a minute at very high intensities. You can lift with heavy loads and fewer reps, or chose to do a circuit-training routine using less weight. Ways to create resistance are bodyweight exercises or you can opt to use dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, a kettlebell, free weights, machines, or workout at home using a gym set-up.
5. Isotonic Exercises
These exercises are usually done by weightlifters who are accustomed to lifting dumbbells or barbells on a regular basis. During these exercises, muscles are subjected to continuous motion constrained by tension through the machine used. Isotonic exercises help in muscle toning and reducing fat. A leg extension is a sample of an isotonic exercise.
6. Isometric Exercises
In isometric exercises, muscles have to exert against immovable or hard objects such as a wall. These exercises require your muscles to maintain a particular position for an extended period. Isometric exercises are aimed at strengthening muscles; however there are no movements in bone joints involved. Muscle flexibility results due to these exercises. Some examples are wrestling and mountain cycling.
Remember, anaerobic exercise should be incorporated along with your aerobic routines to have a complete workout. Keep in mind also that it is not for everybody. Anaerobic exercise is primarily reserved for those who are very fit but desire to improve speed, lactate threshold, and overall aerobic strength. Anaerobic training usually leads to greater lactic acid concentrations in your muscles and is accompanied by more muscle discomfort afterwards. Done right, this is a very intense type of training and should not be attempted by the novice exerciser or weekend warrior. Before training anaerobically, always do a good aerobic warm up before vigorous activity, and allow yourself to warm down too as you finish.