What Is Anaerobic Exercise and Can It Maximize Your Workouts?


When you think of anaerobic exercise, you would think of it as high intensity exercise that is a power version of the best exercise. Surprisingly, you are right and, that anaerobic exercise is different from aerobic exercise.

Now the term will not be something that you are familiar with, still anaerobic exercise would be the effective and best workout that you can do. Furthermore, you would put yourself into aerobic exercise at certain parts of your life.

Hence, the basic definition of anaerobic exercise would be one that you do like most of the high intensity exercise. Here this means the cardiovascular exercise that allows oxygen to reach your muscles faster.

This can seem to be like a desirable outcome. Most importantly, such activity improves one’s endurance and muscle strength. As we all know muscles need oxygen to continue working, anaerobic exercises can only last for short periods, allowing you to cut your total workout time.

Sometimes you would get breathless while doing a workout. Well, you do need to know that both strength and cardio training are anaerobic ones. Here the huge difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise is the kind of intensity present and at which you are working.

What Do You Know About Anaerobic Exercise?

To put in simple terms, anaerobic exercise is just like the normal exercise that you do, but in this one you will not be using oxygen as energy. It can be a bit doubtful for you as most exercises use oxygen and since this does not use exercise, one can feel that this can be termed as an exercise.

Frankly, that is the special part of the anaerobic exercise. Here oxygen will not play a great role and in this your body remains fuelled. For understanding this exercise, you need to have a good understanding about how your body can get the required fuels. The ones that can power you all around the workout sessions.

Here these would be done through the body’s metallic energy systems that help to convert the food you eat into the necessary energy. Here the two major energy systems would be anaerobic as well as aerobic metabolism.

All around the day, the human body breaks down compounds to release energy and keep things running along. This is done by breaking down the molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is the one that produces energy.

You can use this energy for doing anything, and these involve from digesting food to climbing Everest. As many energy systems are based on various kinds of fuel sources, ATP is the major one among all of them. Plus, it plays a great role in every metabolic reaction of your body.

You might feel that it is complicated, however, your body will know which system it needs to tap into. This would be based on what activity you are doing. After that, your body would try to funnel the resulting energy as and when it needs. As and when you are doing any kind of workout, the energy is needed for helping your muscles and heart to keep up along with the task that is present at hand.

Kinds of Anaerobic Exercises You Can Do

Anaerobic exercise is any activity that breaks down the glucose for the energy. Such exercises are the ones that do not use oxygen. Frankly, these types of activities are of somewhat short length and have high intensity. Well, the idea is all about the huge energy that is released and that too within a small period. Plus, the demand for oxygen would surpass the supply of that.

Such kinds of exercises and body movements need certain short kinds of bursts of intense energy. Certain examples of these kind of anaerobic exercises are –

  • Jumping Or Jumping Rope
  • Weightlifting
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Sprinting
  • Biking

Basic Benefits of Doing Anaerobic Exercises for Your Health

Basically, anaerobic exercises are somewhat done by athletes, they simply help to increase their performance. People doing exercise everyday would benefit from it. When you train at high levels of intensity, you increase your anaerobic threshold. That can mean you get to work harder for a longer period, and thus burning a lot of calories.

Other Major Benefits You Might Come Across

  • Improving The VO2 Max: The human body learns how to use more oxygen. This converts into energy that allows one to exercise for a longer period.
  • Endurance: When you are doing some anaerobic training and along with that other workout can become easier. The short burst of intense exercises or the best strength training would help in the longer workout sessions, as well.
  • Stronger And Better Muscles: Rather than creating a burst of energy from oxygen like it does when one does aerobic workouts, the body would be using energy that is stored in the muscles when doing the anaerobic exercise. It means this would help to maintain and improve the body’s muscle mass.
  • Maintaining The Muscles: As and when we begin to age, the muscles can begin to lose their mass. While doing anaerobic exercise, it would assist to maintain the muscle’s makeup and create strength.
  • Fat Loss: Certain studies show that doing certain high-intensity intermittent exercise which basically means interval training would be very much less effective compared to aerobic workouts that help various exercisers burn fat.
  • Robust Bones: There are certain anaerobic exercises like the intense resistance training which easily helps to improve bone density and strength. That would in turn lower the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improving Mood: Like aerobic exercise, the anaerobic training leads to decreasing the feelings of depression, tension, and anger.

Anaerobic Exercises and Difference Among Aerobic Exercises

Just think of aerobic exercise like any kind of cardiovascular conditioning or basic “cardio.” While doing cardiovascular conditioning, the breathing and heart rate can start to increase. That would be for a sustained period. Some of the major examples of aerobic exercise consists of swimming laps, running, or cycling.

When it concerns anaerobic exercises, it would have faster bursts of energy. These can be done at the maximum effort and even for a short period of time. Some of the major examples consist of jumping, sprinting, or heavy weightlifting.

Keep in mind that your respiration and heart rate can differ in aerobic activities along with anaerobic ones. Here oxygen can be considered as the main energy source when one is doing aerobic workouts.

When one is doing aerobic exercises, the breathing would become faster as well as deeper compared to the time when your heart rate begins to be at rest. Here it is all about maximizing the amount of oxygen present in one’s blood. Not only that your heart rate goes up and that can increase the flow of the blood to the muscles and even back into the lungs.

While doing anaerobic exercise, the human body would be requiring faster energy. Our body is dependent on the stored energy sources, rather than oxygen, to fuel itself. This even consists of and adds on the breaking down of glucose.

Keep in mind that your fitness goals can help in finding out whether you must take part in aerobic or anaerobic exercise. Sometimes you would be new to exercise. In that case, you would need to begin with aerobic exercises and that can later build and create the necessary endurance.

Sometimes you would be exercising for a long time. Might be that you are trying to lose some weight faster. Well just try to add anaerobic workouts into your daily routine. It can be sprints or high intensity interval training (HIIT) that would help you to meet your goals.

Do You Feel Anaerobic Exercise Is the Way to Go?

Like clearly stated above, anaerobic exercise is short burst, high-intensity exercise where your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds how much oxygen is available. As and when you are working out at the highest level of high intensity, it is difficult for your cardiovascular system to deliver the necessary oxygen to your muscles quickly enough to keep up with the activity. For this reason, anaerobic exercises can and should only be performed at short periods of time per session.

Anaerobic metabolism would burn glycogen which is stored in muscle and the liver. As anaerobic activity leads to a higher level of energy release compared to an aerobic activity, the muscles need to respond more for meeting the energy requirements. Due to this, your body reaches its metabolic threshold and increases your heart rate nearly to its maximum.

Of course, all kinds of exercise would have its benefits to your body and health, there would be certain benefits that are unique to anaerobic activity. Here It would lead to burning more calories at rest by increasing metabolism, developing strength, increasing the efficiency of working out, and increasing VO2 max. Most importantly, anaerobic exercise promotes EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. These would facilitate the burning for over 24 hours after working out. Anaerobic exercises would lead to –

  • Building overall strength better than aerobic exercise
  • Increasing the muscle mass
  • Improving the cardiovascular system
  • Leading to better respiratory fitness
  • Increasing endurance
  • Allowing one to better withstand fatigue.
  • Aiding in weight loss
  • Increasing lean muscle mass, thereby boosting metabolism
  • Decreasing body fat

What Is the Science Behind Anaerobic?

Oxygen is required for the body to be able to use fat for fuel. Since aerobic exercise uses oxygen for creating energy, it can use both fat and glucose for fuel. Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, would be only using glucose for fuel.

The glucose is available in the muscles for quick and short bursts of movement and can be used when the aerobic system is maxed out for a short period of time.

When you start to exercise vigorously, there is a temporary shortage of oxygen getting delivered to your working muscles. That means anaerobic exercise must be fuelled using glucose through a process called glycolysis.

Glycolysis occurs in muscle cells during high-intensity training without oxygen, producing energy quickly. This process also produces lactic acid, which is the reason why your muscles get so tired after the energy burst.

Through the engagement in anaerobic exercise regularly, your body will be able to tolerate and eliminate lactic acid more effectively. That means you will get tired less quickly.

What Major Advantages One Gets From Anaerobic Exercise?

Anaerobic exercise is beneficial for the body and promotes good health by building muscle, burning fats, strengthening bones, and maintaining muscle mass, which is particularly important as you age.

1. Creating Good Muscle

One of the most popular anaerobic exercise benefits is that it helps build lean muscle mass and improve endurance and fitness levels. Increased lean muscle mass due to exercise boosts the metabolism and helps combat fatigue. It also helps reduce body fat, which is a key factor for people trying to achieve weight loss goals.

2. Improving the Mood

Exercising has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. It also relieves stress, helps you sleep better, improves your memory, and boosts your overall mood. When one engages in exercise, it releases endorphins which is the chemical released in the brain that triggers a positive feeling, like that of morphine — that energizes your spirits and makes you feel good. Finally, anaerobic exercise can also serve as a distraction, helping you to find a calm and relaxing time to break out of the cycle of negative feelings that feed depression.

3. Helps To Increases Endurance

Anaerobic exercise helps build endurance and fitness levels. In fact, many lower body strength training exercises are designed to increase stamina and endurance.

4. Lowers the Blood Sugar

The body turns the food you eat into sugar. Food that remains unused is either burned immediately, stored as fat in the body, or stored as glycogen in the muscles. Regular anaerobic exercise helps regulate insulin by burning the stored glycogen to help your body stay healthy. This helps you avoid spikes in blood sugar levels.


Frankly, anaerobic exercises are a great way to remain in the best shape. Go ahead and try these exercises and see the difference for yourself.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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