Anaerobic Exercises: What Are The Benefits?

Anaerobic exercises, or static exercises, are short and high intensity. They increase muscle strength and power, and improve endurance and base metabolism. Learn more of the benefits in this article!
Anaerobic Exercises: What Are The Benefits?

Written by Ana Núñez

Last update: 25 May, 2022

Before starting an exercise plan, you have to have some clarity regarding what you want to achieve or maintain. If you want to lose weight, aerobics will work. However, if you want to train to gain strength and power, you should turn to anaerobic exercises.

In any case, research proves that aerobic and anaerobic exercises are complementary, as you get the energy you need for the former with the latter. Find out here what these exercises–also known as static exercises–are all about in this article!

What are anaerobic exercises?

In exercise, muscles work. And, as we know, all work requires energy. In this particular case, anaerobic exercises are high-intensity and short-duration exercises that demand a powerful and fast fuel source from the body.

This fuel is present in immediate sources: Muscle ATP (also called energy currency), phosphocreatine (PC), and glucose.

Anaerobic exercises are often interspersed with aerobic sets. For example, while walking, you can perform a sprint or fast run of 10 seconds to 1 minute, and then continue walking while you replenish your energy.

The time of explosive effort that characterizes static, strength, or anaerobic exercises ranges from 1 minute to 120 seconds.

In this practice, you activate two energetic mechanisms. In the first 10 seconds, the body uses creatinine phosphate, especially for short-duration and very high-power exercises. When it’s extended in time, your body uses glucose as an energetic substrate, generating lactic acid.

If you extend this practice -from 20 to 120 seconds- lactic acidosis occurs, which creates the conditions for fatigue.

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What are the benefits of anaerobic exercise?

Although there are many benefits to dynamic exercises, when you practice static training regularly, it increases muscle strength and power. It also improves endurance and basal metabolism.

On the other hand, a good walk brings immediate benefits, however, the achievements of anaerobic exercises require time and perseverance. In fact, you’ll only begin to notice them after 3 months or more.

A woman lifting weights at the gym.
Anaerobic exercise requires the use of immediate energy sources that ensure the explosiveness of the movement.

Disease prevention

Anaerobic exercises strengthen the immune system and help prevent diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. They also reduce cardiovascular conditions, arthritis, and back pain.

Developing and strengthening muscle mass and bones

Weight lifting with dumbbells or apparatuses is used to increase muscle mass. Lifting weights involves the muscles and the bones, so anaerobic exercise increases bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Paying attention to the weight you can lift depending on the type of exercise is essential to avoid injury.

Improving the quality of life

Anaerobic exercises strengthen the musculoskeletal structure, leading to greater balance in movement and greater confidence and independence in daily activities.

The strength that anaerobic exercise develops translates into vitality and optimism to face daily challenges.

Increased metabolic rate

Experts recommend aerobic exercises for weight loss, but anaerobic exercises, by increasing muscle mass, contribute very well to this purpose.

By rebuilding muscle, anaerobic exercises decrease the amount of fat, resulting in a relative weight loss. In other words, aerobic exercise burns lipids, and anaerobic exercise increases lean fat.

This contributes to the increase in the rates of your basal metabolism, that is, in the amount of energy your body needs for its vital functions.

The factor most closely related to resting metabolic rate is lean mass. You achieve this with weight lifting, which reinforces the hypothesis that this exercise is useful for the treatment of obesity.

Increasing endurance and power

Anaerobic exercises are designed to build endurance. There comes a time in training when the legs or arms can’t take any more. This occurs when the blood lactate level rises to levels that the body can’t get rid of immediately. This leads to muscle acidification, fatigue, and loss of performance.

Increasingly extending the threshold is part of anaerobic training in athletic endurance building. Among the routines are strength exercises that work the muscles that accumulate more lactate.

Examples of anaerobic exercises

There are two types of strength or static exercises. Isometric, when there’s a sustained muscle contraction against a fixed resistance (a wall, for example), and isotonic, when muscle contraction can overcome resistance (lifting a weight):

  • Weight lifting: This uses muscles to their maximum capacity in a short time interval, without resorting to breathing. The practice generates power, strength, and endurance up to muscular hypertrophy.
  • Sprinting: This consists of very intense short races, such as the 100-meter sprint, and develop power and speed in the lower limbs and torso.
  • Crunches: This is an exercise that can bring muscular endurance to the point of fatigue, with increasingly longer sets of repetitions.
  • Bars and parallel bars: Isometrics include bars and parallel bars that use the athlete’s own weight. In these, the muscles ask for an energy reserve that allows you to lift the body repeatedly.
  • Squats: These also use body weight, just like push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. In squats, the weight of the torso falls straight on the thighs, while the arms are extended or at the nape of the neck.
  • Push-ups: These exercises use gravity as the resistance to overcome. Just like the bars, but upside down, the arms lift the weight of the torso in this exercise.
A woman doing push ups.
Push-ups, as well as squats and sit-ups, represent examples of anaerobic exercises that can be performed with your own weight.

Tips for performing anaerobic exercises

First of all, you shouldn’t start anaerobic routines without a medical check-up, especially in the case that you suffer from any disease. At the same time, if you’re a beginner and are overweight, you shouldn’t perform anaerobic exercises. The same is true if you’re pregnant.

Before starting, the body should undergo a warm-up or cardio period, which gradually increases physical activity. This causes the removal of lactic acid, which increases heart rate and blood flow, preventing the appearance of stiffness.

In the same way, aerobic exercises should include stretching, which will prepare the body for the demands of anaerobic exercises.

These are also strong exercises. That’s why we recommend excluding complicated movements at the beginning and allowing yourself to gain experience to progressively add difficulties.

Anaerobic exercises require professional care and attention

Anaerobic exercises are very demanding and, if you don’t practice proper precaution, can result in injuries. It’s important to know, for example, that there’s an anaerobic threshold. This is the maximum exercise intensity to which you can subject the body without experiencing extreme fatigue.

Exercising above this threshold will depend on many factors: The type of training, muscle composition, diet, and environment. In general, the body must adapt to different levels, which you can manage without complications below this threshold.

Going beyond this threshold requires professional training and monitoring, sometimes with a view to the practice of high-performance sports.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.