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Example of Anaerobic Exercise

author image Christina Bhattacharya
Christina Bhattacharya has been involved in the health and fitness field since 1999. Bhattacharya holds an A.S. in physical therapy from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor of Arts in technical communications from University of Maryland University College and a Master of Science in health management from Lindenwood University. She also holds personal trainer, senior strength training and Pilates certifications.
Example of Anaerobic Exercise
Close up of 2 people racing, focusing on female runner's shoes.

Anaerobic exercise is a form of high-intensity exercise that increases a substantial oxygen deficit. When performing at elevated intensity levels, your cardiovascular system has a challenging time delivering the oxygen requirement needed to your muscles fast enough. Since muscles require oxygen to maintain prolonged exertion, anaerobic exercises can only continue for short periods of time. Examples of anaerobic activity include sprinting, high-intensity interval training, powerlifting and most athletic sports.

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Anaerobic Metabolism

EKG showing heart rate.
EKG showing heart rate.

Aerobic metabolism burns fat for energy while anaerobic exercise burns glycogen to meet its energy requirement. As exercise intensity increases, the need for energy release ultimately surpasses levels that can be fulfilled by aerobic metabolism. During anaerobic activity, muscles require more response to sustain the energy requirements. Consequently, anaerobic metabolic involvement increases, known as metabolic threshold. Since anaerobic activity raises your heart rate close to your maximum heart rate, always consult with your physician prior to beginning any anaerobic exercise.


Female sprinting.
Female sprinting.

Biking sprints, swimming sprints and running sprints are examples of anaerobic activities. During sprinting, the muscles rapidly deplete energy reserves before heavy breathing begins. Sprinting demonstrates the requirement of a significant amount of oxygen needed by muscles to perform the activity. To perform, bike, swim or jog slowly for five minutes, then sprint at maximum speed for 30 to 90 seconds. Return to a slow speed for two minutes. Repeat the sprint and slow interval for 30 minutes.

High-Intensity Interval Training

Two men training on a beach.
Two men training on a beach.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is another form of anaerobic exercise. According to the American Council on Exercise, “High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a cardiorespiratory training technique that alternates brief speed and recovery intervals to increase the overall intensity of your workout.” HIIT can be performed with body-weight activities, such as pushups or crunches, to develop strength and power. To perform, walk for three minutes followed by performing as many pushups or crunches as you can in 20 seconds followed by gentle walking for 10 seconds. Repeat this interval 10 times, followed by a three-minute cool-down.


Athletic woman lifting weights.
Athletic woman lifting weights.

Anaerobic training develops the anaerobic metabolic capability of the muscles trained, raising the capacity of the athlete training and functioning at elevated exercise concentration. Powerlifting is a type of anaerobic resistance training that necessitates the bodybuilder to accomplish one repetition maximum each of three different lifts – squat, bench press and deadlift. Powerlifting is performed with a maximum amount of weight, with maximal effort and for three to 10 seconds. The main objective of this type of training is to intensify strength and power.


Looking up at a male sports team joining hands.
Looking up at a male sports team joining hands.

Anaerobic exercises comprise brief periods of physical exertion and high-intensity, strength-training activities. Sports such as basketball, football, tennis, racquetball and baseball are also anaerobic activities. These sports require brief surges of high-intensity activity, lasting two minutes or fewer, with short episodes of recovery. Since anaerobic activities allow quicker recovery time, sports are efficient forms of anaerobic exercises.

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