What is Anaerobic Exercise?

anaerobic exercise
intense woman lifting heavy barbell

What is Anaerobic Exercise?

Anaerobic exercise involves quick bursts of high intensity activity that briefly taxes the cardiovascular system beyond its aerobic capacity. Weightlifting and sprinting are examples of anaerobic exercise.

How Does Anaerobic Exercise Work?

During short anaerobic efforts, the body cannot supply oxygen fast enough to meet the muscles’ demands. Instead, carbohydrates are broken down rapidly without oxygen through glycolysis and lactic acid fermentation. This provides immediate but limited energy.

Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise

  • Builds muscle size and strength
  • Increases power output
  • Burns calories and fat
  • Improves speed and fast-twitch muscle fibers

Examples of Anaerobic Exercise

  • Weightlifting – Performing compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses with heavy weights to build strength and muscle.
  • Sprints – Running short distances as fast as possible to build speed, power and anaerobic endurance.
  • Jumping rope –  Rapidly jumping over swinging rope to improve coordination, footwork, and cardiovascular endurance.
  • Burpees or mountain climbers – Full body movements combining plyometric and core elements to elevate heart rate.
  • Plyometrics like box jumps –  Explosive jumping exercises to build power and explosiveness in legs and hips.
  • Martial arts and boxing – Combat training combines technical skills with high-intensity intervals to build fitness.

Lactic Acid and Fatigue

As lactic acid builds up, it impairs muscle contraction, causing that “burning” feeling. Short rest periods between anaerobic efforts remove waste products and restore power.

In summary, anaerobic exercise works the muscles hard for brief periods relying on fast energy systems, unlike aerobic exercise done for longer durations.

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