The Basics of Anaerobic Exercise

by Lisa Marie Mercer

The terms aerobic and anaerobic refer to energy pathways utilized during exercise.

  • Aerobic exercise is performed with higher levels of oxygen, and uses fat as its main fuel source.
  • Anaerobic exercise is performed without high oxygen consumption, and uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source.

Since aerobic exercise is the more efficient fat burner, many people assume that it is most effective for weight loss.

This is only partially true. Consider these basic facts of exercise physiology:

  • It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to burn one pound of body fat.
  • Anaerobic exercise burns less fat, but more overall calories.
  • Adding short periods of anaerobic training during an aerobic session will increase your overall caloric expenditure.

Training Zones

Your heart rate helps you determine the intensity of your workout. To find your target heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220, and calculate 60 to 85 percent of that number.

  • At 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, you are in the Energy Efficient Zone. The workout is primarily aerobic, and fat is the main fuel source.
  • At 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, you are in the Aerobic Zone. Working out at this intensity improves your body’s ability to transport oxygen. Fat is still the major source of fuel.
  • At 80 to 90 percent of your maximal heart rate, you are at your Anaerobic Threshold. Your body uses fat and glycogen as fuel sources. Lactic acid, which your body experiences as discomfort, is a by-product of burning glycogen. Increasing your ability to deal with lactic acid build-up helps you eventually intensify your workout.
  • At 90 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate, you are in the Red Line Zone. The 400-yard dash is an example of Red Line Zone Training.

Examples of Anaerobic Exercise

Sprinting, hill, training, plyometric exercises and strength training are examples of anaerobic training. Integrate these tools into your workout by:

  • Interspersing two-minute sprint intervals during your aerobic workout.
  • Adding hill training to your outdoor training, or increasing the incline on an indoor treadmill.
  • Adding intervals of increased resistance on indoor aerobic machines.
  • Circuit training by interspersing two-minute weight exercises into your aerobic workout.
  • During step class, add plyometric movements, by jumping up onto the step and landing in a squat position. Only perform these moves for one minute at a time.

Benefits

Adding anerobic intervals to your aerobic workouts improves your body’s ability to consume oxygen during a workout, while increasing your overall strength and speed. The strength developed from anaerobic training revs up your post-workout metabolic rate, triggering your body to burn more calories while at rest.

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