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Characteristics of Anaerobic Exercise

By Scott Friedman

Anaerobic exercise involves short bursts of intense activity such as sprinting, jumping or lifting heavy weights. Anaerobic exercise uses your stored glycogen to produce energy as opposed to the oxygen used to produce energy during aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise provides many benefits such as faster workouts; increased calorie and fat burning; and increased strength, speed, and endurance. Anaerobic exercise should be considered a component of a complete workout program that alternates between aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise.


Anaerobic exercise comes from any short burst of intense physical activity that uses glycogen to produce energy instead of oxygen. Using the glycogen stores in your muscles causes more release of lactic acid than aerobic exercise, which makes your muscles more sore. Typical anaerobic activities include sprinting, weight lifting, calisthenics and isometric exercises. Anaerobic exercise produces continuing calorie burn after exercise as your body works to remove lactic acid build up and repair damaged muscle tissue, raising your metabolism.

Anaerobic Energy System

Understanding how your body produces energy when you work out helps you understand how to adjust your workout in order to avoid excessive fatigue. Anaerobic exercise relies first on energy produced from ATP, adenosine triphosphate, which your muscles store and functions without oxygen to produce about 12 seconds of maximum energy. Next, your body relies on glucose circulating in your blood or stored in your muscles as glycogen to produce another 30 seconds of moderate energy. After you have exhausted your ATP and glycogen, your body switches to aerobic energy, relying on oxygen to produce a long period of low-energy output.


Anaerobic exercise provides many benefits that aerobic exercise cannot match. While offering the same increase in endurance and stamina, anaerobic exercise can also increase your speed and strength. While aerobic exercise can burn fat and calories, it can also burn away muscle during long cardio sessions. Anaerobic exercise, however, burns more overall calories and fat while helping to maintain and build muscle. Anaerobic exercise also continues to burn fat and calories after your workout in order to remove lactic acid, replenish ATP and glycogen, and rebuild muscle.


Always consult your physician before beginning any kind of exercise program, including an anaerobic exercise routine. Anaerobic exercise requires short bursts of intense activity, so it is essential to warm up first, which helps you avoid injuries. Eat carbohydrates and protein to fuel your workouts, then replenish your glycogen stores afterwards to aid recovery and prevent lingering fatigue.

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