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How Anaerobic Exercise Works:

Understanding How Your Body Develops Strength Through Anaerobic Exercise Will Help You Attain It

By Robert Rousseau, Bodyomics.com
Anaerobic Exercise (definition as noted by About.com): Exercise in which oxygen is used up more quickly than the body is able to replenish it inside the working muscle. As a result, muscle fibers have to derive their contractile energy from stored substrates like Glygogen (stored carbohydrates), ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate), and CP (Creatine Phosphate). Weight training is an example of such an activity. It is highly anabolic in nature but also highly catabolic if done in excess.


Getting into the jargon: What happens in the body during anaerobic exercise

When you jog, ride a bicycle, or walk for an extended period of time your body requires a great deal of oxygen to generate energy. That's because those kinds of exercises are aerobic in nature. Anaerobic exercise occurs under different circumstances. Under such circumstances, our muscles are unable to receive a sufficient amount of oxygen (our muscles do still get oxygen, but not enough to have that drive the energy output). Thus, our muscles must look to alternative sources to get the energy needed.

Getting even more specific, during anaerobic exercise our muscles begin by utilizing stored creatine phosphate to generate the ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) that produces muscle contraction. Moments later, ATP energy is made available to muscles. This is done by metabolizing muscle glycogen into pyruvate through glycolysis, similar to how things happen during the aerobic cycle. However, instead of being broken down through the slower aerobic process, the pyruvate is fermented to lactic acid.

Lots of big words, huh?

Muscle glycogen is then restored from blood sugar. Interestingly, this glycogen can come from several sources including the liver, ingested sugars, digested carbohydrates, or amino acids that have been turned into glucose itself.


The Lactate Threshold and Anaerobic Exercise

The Lactate Threshold is useful to know about when training anaerobically. Basically, this refers to the point at which exercise intensity causes lactic acid to begin to accumulate in one's blood. How does this happen?

The same way snow accumulates: When the snow is falling faster than the sun can gobble it up. The Lactate Threshold is reached when lactic acid is produced faster than it is removed or metabolized. Thus, knowing one's threshold, which can be accomplished through a simple blood test, is useful in training.


What are the goals of anaerobic training?

From an athletic perspective, we're talking about things like weightlifting, sprinting, and hitting a sled. In other words, strength and power related activities. Thus, the goal of anaerobic exercise is simple.

Get bigger. Get faster. Get stronger.

However, there are a host of other benefits that anaerobic activity offers beyond this. Some are listed below.


More benefits of anaerobic training

1. The more muscle you have, the more calories that your muscles will burn throughout the day. In other words, anaerobic training can serve to speed up your metabolism.

2. Anaerobic exercise increases bone density and weight. Forget osteoporosis!

3. Muscle from anaerobic exercise can help protect your joints. In both athletic competiton and old age this can be key.

4. The bigger your muscles, the more energy you can store. Thus, anaerobic exercise can increase energy.

5. Anaerobic training can lower blood sugar.

6. Just as important, anaerobic training makes you look good. And when you look good, you feel good!


Things that can harm the benefits you achieve from anaerobic training

A lack of sleep can harm any workout, as your muscles need rest. Further, overtraining muscles in an anaerobic sense can also do damage (check with a professional in the field before deciding on a workout regimen). Beyond that, smoking, heavy drinking, and drugs, of course, will negate many of the positive effects you'll gain from your anaerobic training.

Said another way, those are the kinds of things that promote cardiovascular and liver disease

Thus, when you put it altogether anaerobic exercise is a necessary part of any workout. So don't skip it if you are truly seeking a healthy lifestyle!

Disclaimer: Remember that before starting any workout you should contact an appropriate medical professional and fitness trainer to determine what kind of workout is appropriate to your needs. No article can take the place of that.

References

Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic Exercise as used by athletes and bodybuilders

The Health Benefits of Anaerobic Exercises

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