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Types of Anaerobic Exercises

written by: Donna Clarke • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2011

Choosing an effective fitness regimen means knowing what types of anaerobic exercises should accompany your exercise program. Understanding the difference between anaerobic and aerobic exercise is key. This article offers clear examples and explanations to help you achieve your fitness goals.

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    According to Mosby's Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, anaerobics is defined as "physical activity, which instigates a metabolism that does not depend on oxygen." In other words, anaerobics is any activity that you perform that requires your body to operate in an oxygen depleted state. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, is exercise in an oxygen rich condition. Because in many ways all types of exercise have the potential of beginning anaerobically, their are many different types of anaerobic exercise.

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    Simply put, anaerobics is any intense, brief physical activity which creates an oxygen poor state. As such, any exercise potentially begins as anaerobic and over time becomes aerobic as ones individual condition becomes stronger and more fit. This is because the beginning of any fitness program has the potential to create an anaerobic outcome. Walking, for example, is an excellent form of exercise. Walking briskly, uphill for 5 minutes may create a setting of breathlessness and muscle fatigue, thus fulfilling the criteria for an anaerobic workout. After several weeks or months of repetition, the walker might find he or she can complete this 5 minute uphill walk without any breathlessness or fatigue, thus creating the beginnings of an aerobic workout. It is therefore important to remember that the proper workout incorporates both anaerobic and aerobic exercise.

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    Sprinting is a classic form of anaerobic exercise as you are going from a theoretically resting state to a state of oxygen depletion or deprivation, and muscle fatigue. Sprinting is meant to be at the fastest possible speed for the runner for a short period, or burst of time. This creates the maximum potential for intensity, thus enabling the maximum benefit from the exercise. Over time, sprinting may adapt into periods where the sprinter runs for longer periods. These longer periods of running are considered to be aerobic, not anaerobic as they are meant to burn, not build. In other words, sprinting builds stamina, while running burns fat.

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    Biking is not only fun, it is an excellent family activity that burns fat and tones the body, increasing stamina and overall fitness. But, did you know it can also be anaerobic? Those short bursts of energy needed to get up all those steep hills provide an anaerobic physiological response. It's why you feel the burn, become short of breath, and experience a rise in your heart rate. Once you have conquered that hill and are back on level ground, your shortness of breath diminishes and the burning sensation returns to normal.

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    Weightlifting - Body Building

    Weightlifting, or body building is another form of anaerobic exercise. Utilizing the benefits of isometrics, weightlifting allows for the same physiological response as sprinting and biking do, while building muscle. Over time, the amount of weight used increases to enable the same physiological response, allowing for more muscle development. Keeping the same weight would create an aerobic event over time, not anaerobic, as the body would eventually adapt to the specific exercise.

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    Just get started

    There are many types of anaerobic exercises. In reality, all forms of exercise have the potential of being anaerobic. The key is recognizing the characteristics of anaerobic exercise, and of course, getting started. As with all exercise regimens, be sure to check with your health care provider should you have any questions or concerns.

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    Science Daily: Anaerobic exercise -

    Discovery Home & Health: Anaerobic Exercise -