What is anaerobic exercise?

This type of exercise is also called strength-training exercise and it is mostly done to build up strength, power, and speed and by weight lifters to increase the strength and endurance of the muscles.

Besides building up the power and endurance of the muscles, strength training exercises impart some unexpected benefits not only in males but also in females.

These benefits start to incur over the short term and extend over the long term. They are explained later in this post.

Energy for anaerobic exercise

The main difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise is the intensity at which you exercise.

The intensity of the anaerobic exercise is so high that the heart is unable to deliver the required amount of oxygen to your muscles. That is why this type of exercise is of short duration.

Anaerobic exercise is so-called because the energy required for this exercise is not derived from the oxygen of the air but through metabolism, which occurs without air or without oxygen (anaerobically). This metabolism is called anaerobic metabolism.

Being a high-intensity exercise, the body is unable to provide a high oxygen requirement for the energy of this exercise. The oxygen supply gets depleted very fast and the body then provides this energy through anaerobic metabolism.

A process called glycolysis in which glucose is converted to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the main source of energy for cellular reactions and produces anaerobic energy.

In aerobic exercise, on the other hand, energy is derived aerobically (with oxygen). Your body depends on that oxygen, which you breathe in for energy to perform these aerobic exercises.

Lactic acid is produced at a fast rate during anaerobic exercise. When it builds up above the lactate threshold or the anaerobic threshold, there is muscle fatigue.

Does anaerobic exercise burn fats and calories?

Theoretically, because anaerobic exercise is a highly intensive exercise, it should burn more fat than aerobic exercise. But, this does not happen because of the lack of oxygen, which is required to burn fat. Instead, the muscle cells burn more carbohydrates, which do not require oxygen.

Anaerobic exercises are not as effective as aerobic exercises in burning fat. But, since anaerobic exercise increases metabolism, this indirectly helps to burn fat.

The increased muscle activity due to this exercise requires more energy and this is derived by the burning of more calories. The increased metabolism and muscle mass, therefore, help in consuming more calories without gaining weight.

Examples of anaerobic training exercises

If you are a beginner, you shouldn’t start with anaerobic training. It could put you at risk of injury. It is always better to start with aerobic training of mild to moderate intensity. Don’t forget to do stretching exercises before and after the aerobic activity.

Start with anaerobic exercises gradually increasing the intensity over a period. You can, however, do most of these exercises at home.

You can even join a gym for a more well-planned anaerobic program. Once your gym trainer has set a program, follow it at the gym, and then you could continue it at home.

Examples include

  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Weight lifting and
  • Sprinting

The anaerobic exercise targets a particular group of muscles during a workout. In addition, being a strenuous exercise, it is always advisable to do some stretching before starting this exercise workout.

These exercises must be accompanied by intervals of recovery periods. This will help to replenish the depleted oxygen and build up the energy, which is spent during this anaerobic activity.

When starting with this type of exercise, you should always start gradually with time and intensity. Initially, exercise periods should be short and you should gradually build up the intensity.

Do not hold your breath but breathe rhythmically. Learn how to breathe during this exercise. This will help prevent injury.

Types of anaerobic exercises

There are three types of anaerobic exercises:

  1. Isotonic
  2. Isometric
  3. Calisthenics

1. Isotonic exercises

Isotonic exercises are designed for specific muscles. They put the muscles through a full range of motion against resistance causing the muscle length to change. These exercises also include the mobilization of those muscle joints.

Examples include weight lifting with dumbbells, using resistance springs or bands, pushups, squats, sit-ups, and curls.  The resistance or tension remains constant so that equal muscle force is maintained throughout the exercise.

2. Isometric exercises

During isometric exercise, on the other hand, the muscles contract, there is no change in muscle length and the joints are not put through motion. Secondly, the resistance is immovable such as a wall.

This exercise increases the strength of the muscle or the muscle group that you exercise. Examples include carrying a heavy object or pushing against a wall with force or holding up your body with hands extended during a pushup for 8 to 10 seconds and then repeating it.

3. Calisthenics

These are exercises, which consist of rhythmical movements usually without the use of any equipment. In calisthenics, body weight is used as a resistance force. Examples include jumping, bending, kicking, and twisting. They increase muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, agility, and coordination.

Health benefits of anaerobic exercises

Having discussed the benefits of exercise in general, here we dwell on the specific benefits and advantages that regular anaerobic exercise provides.

Athletes regularly indulge in anaerobic exercise to improve performance. Non-athletes too can benefit from this type of training.

High-level training can increase your anaerobic threshold allowing you to work at a harder intensity for a longer period. It also helps to prevent weight gain because you burn more calories.

  • Prevents certain health conditions. Regular anaerobic exercise helps to prevent diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and back pain.
  • Builds muscle and bone strength. A sedentary life results in the loss of lean muscle as early as the age of 20s. Regular anaerobic physical activity builds up the strength and mass of the muscle giving your body a better appearance. It also increases bone density and thereby your bony strength. This helps prevent osteoporosis that you commonly see with advanced age.
  • Boosts metabolism. An increase in lean muscle increases your metabolic rate. A heightened metabolism keeps your overall health good and prevents weakness. Proper digestion is assured and gastrointestinal problems like constipation and indigestion are prevented. Lifting weights can boost your metabolism by about 15%.
  • Decreases body fat. The more your metabolic rate, the more calories you burn because the energy for metabolism is derived by the burning of calories. This reduces your body fat.
  • Better personality. This exercise is the most effective way to build muscle. The increased muscle mass gives your body a better look, enhances your personality, and increases self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Makes you a better sportsman and athlete. Anaerobic exercise increases your endurance and your energy reserves. Your stamina increases, which improves your performance in competitive sports and games. This is because anaerobic exercise increases your capacity to tolerate the building up of wastes such as lactic acid in your body and getting rid of them. This is an important factor in building up your stamina. This improves your cardiorespiratory fitness and performance.
  • Improves VO2 max. Regular anaerobic training improves your VO2 max.  VO2 max is the highest volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at maximal capacity.  This improves your capacity to perform sustained aerobic activity.

How much anaerobic exercise do you need per week?

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, along with 2 or more days of or anaerobic exercise.

That means you should do about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, 5 days per week, along with 2 days of anaerobic training.

The HHS DepartmentTrusted Source also similarly recommends that adults perform moderate-intensity anaerobic exercises at least 2 days of the week. Examples include weightlifting and resistance training.

When doing these muscle-strengthening exercises, it is important that you work out all the major muscle groups of the body rather than focusing only on a particular muscle group in the upper or lower body.

This post gives a detailed daily and weekly exercise program to plan out your aerobic and anaerobic activities.