Seven Ways to Integrate Anaerobic Exercise Into Your Workout — and Why You Should

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Anaerobic capacity is essential in most sports, be it martial arts, baseball, or general athleticism, to produce efficient and powerful movements.

Anaerobic metabolism is incredibly useful in endurance sports, especially if you need that extra bit of energy to sprint towards the finish line. If you’re interested in integrating anaerobic exercise into your routine, consider our suggestions.

Anaerobic Exercise vs. Aerobic Exercise

Even though they sound similar, aerobic and anaerobic exercise are entirely different but equally important types of movement. Let’s take a look at what makes them unique.

  • Oxygen Use: Anaerobic means “without oxygen,” while aerobic means “with oxygen.” Anaerobic exercise doesn’t rely on oxygen as fuel and takes from energy stored in the muscles, which fatigues you quickly. Aerobic exercise does rely on oxygen in the lungs and requires macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) as fuel, which sustains longer workouts.
  • Heart Beat: Both exercises will spike your heart rate, but anaerobic does it faster. Aerobic exercises give your body a steady, elevated heart rate that’s between 70-80% of your max. Anaerobic exercises get you to 80-90% of your max, which can’t be sustained as long as aerobic movement. Aerobic workouts are less intense than Anaerobic.
  • Exercise Length: Aerobic focuses on gaining strength, while anaerobic focuses on gaining endurance. For example, if I run at the same pace for 30 minutes, that’s aerobic. However, if I added HIIT to my 15-minute run (2 minutes running as hard as I can go, 3 minutes rest), that’s anaerobic. Aerobic workouts are much longer than anaerobic.
  • Benefits Achieved: Aerobic improves cardiovascular health, while anaerobic improves lean muscle mass. For example, if I go from bench pressing 130 lbs to 140 lbs, that’s aerobic. However, if I go from bench pressing 130 lbs for 10 reps to 20 reps, that’s an example of anaerobic: same exercise, different training methods, different outcomes.

It’s important to incorporate both anaerobic and aerobic exercise into your fitness routine to improve your health. You can mix it up by alternating aerobic and anaerobic routines.

How to Incorporate Anaerobic Training

It’s easy to add anaerobic activities to your regular workout. We recommend separating your days between cardio workouts and strength training for the best fitness results.

1. Sprint Intervals

Most exercise guidelines recommend getting in 30-60 minutes of movement a week, but sprinting is the perfect alternative if you can’t commit to that. Sprinting involves short bursts (2 minutes) of intense running followed by rest (2 minutes). Continue for 15-20 minutes. 

2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training is another smart way to boost the effectiveness of your workouts. A typical HIIT workout lasts between 15 to 30 minutes and involves a 2:1 ratio (recoveries are twice as long as intervals). Include 5-10 intensity sprints at 80-90% of your max heart rate.

3. Jumping Rope

Jump rope is another interval training move that keeps your heart rate elevated for extended periods. After strength training, add a 30-90 second jump rope routine to take a short rest from lifting. Jump rope improves balance, coordination, agility and is an efficient fat burner.

4. Tabata Training

Tabata training is a highly effective HIIT move that gets your heart rate up to 90-100% of its max. In Tabata training, you get 10 second rest periods between 20-second exercise bouts, but you only have to repeat these movements 8 times for 4 minutes, improving accessibility.

5. Plyometric Training

Plyometric training is any movement that involves skipping, jumping, and hopping. Plyometrics are popular in CrossFit routines and military training. Squat jumps, box jumps, and lateral hopping drills are practical exercises for interval training—complete 3 sets of 10 movements.

6. Kettlebell Training

Not all kettlebell movements qualify as anaerobic training, but if you perform typical kettlebell exercises quickly, they can improve your endurance instead of strength alone. Lateral kettlebell swings, the kettlebell throw, kettlebell squat, and kettlebell overhead swing are anaerobic.

7. Fartlek Training

Fartlek training is more unstructured than traditional interval training because it involves speed work that isn’t so demanding.

This type of training can be done on all terrains and allows you to experiment with different paces and endurance levels. A typical workout involves 3-4 intervals of fast pace running (1-minute), 1 minute easy, and 2 minutes fast for a total of 5 minutes.

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