Anaerobic exercise is a type of exercise that can offer certain benefits. What are some anaerobic exercise examples to do at home or in the gym?
One way to divide exercise is into two categories called aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is lower-intensity exercise where your body can use oxygen to sustain your current level of movement. Aerobic exercise examples include low tempo jogging, walking, climbing stairs,…
At some intensity point oxygen alone is not enough, this is called anaerobic exercise. At this point your body also starts using fuel like glucose.
Keep in mind that anaerobic exercises can lead to injuries due to their high-intensity. If you’re starting to exercise again after a long time it may be smart to start out with aerobic exercise and build up from there.
That being said, if your body is able to deal with anaerobic exercise, you can add the following anaerobic exercise examples to your routine.
Cardio exercises at a high tempo
The difference between a workout being anaerobic vs aerobic can be decided by something as simple as at what intensity you do it. The following exercise examples can be done in an anaerobic and aerobic way. If you want to have an anaerobic workout make sure you do them at a high intensity.
Running is one of the most popular exercises there is. It is also just an aspect of many sports. Most people stick to lower-intensity jogging but you can certainly up the tempo to get in an anaerobic workout. You don’t need a lot of equipment to run, once you have a good pair of running shoes you can get in a running workout.
Some of the benefits of running include: burning a lot of calories, strengthening your bones, improving your mood, and so on…
Keep in mind that running can be hard on body parts like knees and back, especially if you have a lot of pounds to lose. If you are in a situation like that some of the other exercise examples may be better to start with.
Another very popular exercise is swimming. Especially for people who are very-injury sensitive swimming can be a great anaerobic exercise option since the water carries a lot of your bodyweight. You do have to find a swimming pool or other body of water to be able to do this exercise.
Some benefits of swimming include: working out muscles over your entire body, burning a lot of calories, low injury-risk, can help you improve flexibility, and so on…
Make sure your swimming skill-level is up for the workout you plan to do. Especially if you plan to swim at an anaerobic tempo you may get tired fast. Having a lifeguard near you is also recommended.
High knees are a type of exercise where you basically run in place while lifting your knees high with each step. If you pick up the pace this exercise can definitely get you to anaerobic movement levels. One of the advantages of this exercise is that you don’t need any equipment.
Some other benefits of high knees include: being able to this exercise basically anywhere, improving your coordination, challenging your muscles, and so on…
The high knees exercise is another option that can be a bit rough on your knees and back.
Jumping jacks, also known as star jumps, are a well-known exercise but they are not done very often. In any case they are a no-equipment exercise you can use to get in an anaerobic workout.
Some of the benefits of jumping jacks include: challenging upper body muscles, being able to do them anywhere, having a simple technique, improving coordination, and so on…
Something to keep in mind is that jumping jacks may not be the best workout for injury-sensitive individuals. This exercise will definitely challenge your knees, back, and shoulders.
Another very popular exercise example is cycling. This may be one of the higher-budget workouts since you will need a bike, stationary bike, or join your local gym do it.
Some benefits of cycling include: being a low-impact workout, being able to do it as a mode of transportation, improving balance, and so on…
Cycling at anaerobic speeds in a safe way may be a challenge when cycling on a bike outside. You may want to get your own stationary bike or join a local gym to avoid any accidents.
In some cases cycling can lead to knee and lower-back pain. You can avoid this by riding at a low resistance and paying attention to your posture.
An exercise example that many people forget is jumping rope. All you need to implement a rope jumping workout in your routine is a good jump rope, a generally inexpensive piece of equipment.
Some of the benefits of jumping rope include: burning a lot of calories, strengthening your bones, challenging your upper body, improving your coordination skills, and so on…
Just like running, jumping rope can be a hard exercise on your knees and back. If you are injury-sensitive other workout options may be better. Also make sure the length of your jump rope is suited for your height.
Jumping rope at anaerobic intensities may also require good coordination skills. It’s possible that you will have to jump rope at aerobic speed to build up your skill level.
The elliptical trainer may be known as a classic cardio gym machine but you can also pick up the speed to anaerobic levels. This machine may look a bit complicated at first but if you give it a try you will find out it is very beginner-friendly.
Some of the benefits of the elliptical trainer include: being soft on your knees and back, engages your upper body muscles too, different resistance settings if you want to work your muscles more, burning a lot of calories, and so on…
While the elliptical trainer is generally easy to use, you do want to pay some attention to your posture when using it.
Soccer is one of the sports that easily becomes a high-intensity interval training. At times you will sprint for the ball and for example when the ball is on the other side of the field you will just walk. All in all, soccer is a good example of a sport you will likely do in an anaerobic way.
Some benefits of soccer include: improving your coordination, improving flexiblity, being a budget-friendly workout, and so on…
One of the downsides of soccer is that it is a contact sport. With these kinds of sports your injury-risk is often higher compared to non-contact sport.
Bodyweight anaerobic exercise at home examples
Exercise done with the goal of building muscle usually engage your body in an anaerobic way. That being said over time your strength increases. At some point bodyweight exercises alone may not be enough to keep building muscle and engaging your body in an anaerobic way.
For example for someone who can squat with a 200-pound barbell, bodyweight squats will likely just be an aerobic workout.
You can increase the chances of bodyweight exercises being anaerobic for you by using external weights like dumbbells, barbells, weighted vests, kettlebells, resistance bands,… or even just a heavy backpack.
That being said, for many people bodyweight exercises are a great way to get started with strength training which is an anaerobic workout.
Lunges are a strength training exercise to engage your leg muscles. In a very simplified way, you can describe this exercise as taking big steps. Since your hands are free you can easily do lunges with external weights to make them more challenging.
Some benefits of lunges include: improving balance and coordination, good long-term calorie-burning potential, being a low-impact workout, and so on…
You do want to pay attention to your posture when doing lunges to avoid any back injuries. This anaerobic exercise may also be challenging for your knees.
Pushups are one of the most popular bodyweight exercises out there. They are a great no-equipment exercise to build chest muscle mass.
Some benefits of pushups include: being a time-efficient workout, being a low-impact workout, improving posture, and so on…
Make sure you do pushups with a good technique to avoid shoulder injuries. You can also do decline pushups, pushups with your feet raised, to increase the chances of this exercise being anaerobic for you.
Pull-ups are another extremely popular exercise. Even if you currently don’t have a place to do pullups, doorway pull-up bars are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
Some of the benefits of pull-ups include: being a low-impact workout, being a time-efficient workout, improving posture, and so on…
The technique for a good pull-up is not the most complicated but you do want to pay attention to it to avoid any injuries.
The dip is an anaerobic exercise done to work out upper body muscles like your triceps, pecs, shoulders, and upper and lower back.
Some benefits of a dip workout include: being a time-efficient workout, being able to do it at home, being a low-impact workout, helping with long-term calorie burning, and so on…
Like many of the strength training exercises technique is key for dips. This is especially important for your shoulders.
Squats are a popular strength training exercise. You can do it with just your bodyweight but many people do them with external weights like a barbell with weights on their shoulders.
Some benefits of squats include: improving posture, great for long-term calorie burning, improving balance, improving flexibility, and so on…
Especially with weighted squats you want to pay close attention to your posture to avoid any injuries. Squats can also be rough on your knees.
A box jump is a plyo box exercise where you jump onto an elevated surface. This is not the most intensive anaerobic exercise example but exerting enough force in a short amount of time to jump likely engages your anaerobic system.
Some benefits of box jumps include: improving athletic performance, improving coordination, building fast muscle, and so on…
Overconfidence is especially punishing with box jumps. It is smart to start this exercise with low-height plyo boxes and build up from there.
Weight lifting anaerobic exercise examples
Oxygen alone is generally not enough to provide your body with enough power to lift heavy weights. This makes these exercises generally anaerobic.
You don’t have to do these exercises with the heaviest weights you can find, on the contrary. It is smart to start out low and build up from there to know where your limits currently are.
The shoulder press, also known as the military press, is an exercise where you lift a heavy weight straight upwards above your head. Most people use barbells or dumbbells as the external weight.
This exercise mainly engages your shoulder muscles. This is also the area where the injury-risk is when you don’t use a good technique.
Weight lifting row
There is a difference between a weight lifting row and the cardiovascular focused rowing exercise although they work similar muscles.
This exercise involves standing bent over and moving an external weight up and down. Weight lifting rows will work out your back muscles.
The bench press is one of the most popular weight lifting exercises. You do this exercise by lying on a weight training bench and pushing a weight up and down from the chest level. Basically a pushup upside down.
This exercise will mainly work out your chest muscles.
The last anaerobic exercise example is the deadlift. This exercise involves picking up a heavy weight from the floor and raising it to more or less hip height.
With the deadlift you work out a variety of muscles but especially your lower back. The deadlift is one of the exercises that you really don’t want to do with a suboptimal technique.
How much anaerobic exercise should you do?
At the time of writing the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends the following exercise guidelines to adults (1):
- Moving more and sitting less throughout the day
- At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week. Preferably spread throughout the week.
- You can gain additional health benefits by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
These anaerobic exercise examples are great but don’t forget the other types of exercise to improve your health.