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What Is Anaerobic Endurance?

author image Jeremy Hoefs
Based in Nebraska, Jeremy Hoefs began writing fitness, nutrition, outdoor and hunting articles in 2006. His articles have been published in "Star City Sports," "Hunting Fitness Magazine" and RutWear field journals, as well as on the Western Whitetail website. Hoefs graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
What Is Anaerobic Endurance?
Sprinting is anaerobic exercise. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

Endurance comes in many forms and is commonly defined as the ability to perform prolonged periods of physical activity. Anaerobic endurance is a form of endurance characterized by the absence of oxygen. Without oxygen, your body can sustain a specific intensity level for only a short period of time. However, anaerobic endurance can be trained and improved to meet the metabolic demands of various sports.

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Metabolic Pathways

The body has 3 metabolic pathways.
The body has 3 metabolic pathways. Photo Credit: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

Your body is supplied with energy by three metabolic pathways -- phosphagen, glycolytic and oxidative. Each pathway is responsible for providing energy during different intensity levels and durations. The phosphagen and glycolytic pathways are responsible for anaerobic endurance while the oxidative system is aerobic. The phosphagen and glycolytic systems supply energy with adenosine tri-phosphate -- ATP -- and lactate.


Sports use anaerobic endurance.
Sports use anaerobic endurance. Photo Credit: Warren Goldswain/iStock/Getty Images

Athletes use their sport-specific anaerobic endurance to improve performance. Sports that require a significant amount of anaerobic endurance also require significant amounts of strength, speed and power for short, high-intensity events. These sports include sprints such as the 100-m and 200-m dash, football, and tennis. When the play extends to several minutes in these sports, the athlete starts using the oxidative system and switches to aerobic endurance.


Training requires endurance.
Training requires endurance. Photo Credit: Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Training anaerobic endurance involves performing a specific number of intervals for a specific amount of time and rest. The goal of anaerobic endurance training is to develop the sport-specific energy system used during competition. To train the phosphagen system, perform intervals lasting 10 to 30 seconds with 30 to 90 seconds of rest repeated for 25 to 30 repetitions. For the glycolytic system, perform intervals lasting 30 to 120 seconds followed by 60 to 240 seconds of rest repeated for 10 to 20 repetitions.


Aerobic fitness.
Aerobic fitness. Photo Credit: IuriiSokolov/iStock/Getty Images

By training anaerobic endurance with specific high-intensity intervals, you improve your body’s ability to develop aerobic fitness without sacrificing other physical traits and athletic abilities. For example, anaerobic endurance training promotes a decrease in body fat along with increasing cardiovascular function, muscle mass, strength, speed and power. With the increased intensity level of anaerobic endurance training, the potential for overtraining is accelerated.

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