Unless your main goal in life is to be able to run a half marathon or do a triathlon, traditional cardio workouts are an inefficient waste of your valuable time.
Long, steady-state workouts only train one element of the body’s three energy production pathways. You miss out on diverse adaptations that come from anaerobic exercise, which can make you leaner, faster, and more powerful.
You see, lifting weights and doing sprint intervals are two forms of high-intensity training (HIT) that get you get in shape while saving training time. The technical term for these workouts is anaerobic training because it means that it takes place without the use of oxygen.
Anaerobic training is like the bold, daring cousin of aerobic exercise because it’s tough, intense, and tests your physical will. While you may not consider anaerobic training “fun,” it is exhilarating, challenging, and oh so much more effective.
It’s the workout style of choice for anyone who is easily bored, impatient, busy, or just in a hurry to get in shape fast.
This article will give you the nine most amazing uses of high-intensity anaerobic training and provide tips for getting started.
#1: Lose body fat and get lean fast.
The cool thing about anaerobic training is that you can lose body fat without dieting. This is key because research shows that calorie-cutting programs leave a lot to be desired.
Here’s how good anaerobic training is: A 2008 study that compared anaerobic cycle sprints and aerobic cardio done by 20-something, normal-weight women found that the cycle-sprint group dramatically improved body composition, losing an average of 2.5 kg of body fat and increasing lean muscle by 0.6 kg. The aerobic cardio group gained about 0.4 kg of fat by the end of the study.
Researchers believe the anaerobic intervals led to fat loss because the training improved metabolic hormone levels as well as the body’s ability to mobilize body fat and burn it for energy.
Sample Workout: This is best done on a stationary bike with resistance: For a total of 20 minutes alternate between cycling all-out for 8 seconds followed by 12 seconds of low-intensity cycling, repeated 60 times).
#2: Get better abs and eliminate dangerous belly fat.
You’ve probably heard about the dangers of being “skinny fat”—a body composition in which you appear lean, but have excess fat deep inside the body surrounding the organs. This type of nasty fat is centralized around your belly, making your waist bigger and thwarting any hope of six-pack abs.
In addition, belly fat secretes dangerous inflammatory hormones called adipokines, which encourage further fat gain and makes us unhealthy. Anaerobic training happens to be one of the best methods of burning belly fat for two reasons:
First, interval workouts improve the production of enzymes involved in fat mobilization and breakdown.
Second, anaerobic training elicits a large jump in oxygen consumption during the 24-hour recovery period after your workout as the body restores physiological factors in cells and repairs damaged tissue. This increased oxygen use means your body is burning calories at a faster rate for a prolonged period.
#3: Balance hormones for better homeostasis in your body—feel more calm and less stressed.
The hormone cortisol is often mistakenly viewed as all “bad” when it comes to losing fat or dealing with stress. In fact, cortisol is only detrimental when it is elevated at the wrong time or for too long.
For example, if your hormones are balanced, cortisol gets you out of bed in the morning and it motivates you to kill it every time you hit the weights.
However, when you’re under repeated stress throughout the day, cortisol stays elevated, making you anxious and apprehensive. People who are sedentary, especially those who are overweight, often have out of whack cortisol and unbalanced hormones.
Lifting weights and interval training are tremendously effective at solving this because they improve the release of hormones like testosterone that help you to recover physically and cope psychologically with stress.
#4: Get smarter and protect your brain.
It’s no surprise that exercise protects the brain as you age, and recent studies show that anaerobic training can actually improve learning and make you happier. Researchers think intense exercise raises the adrenaline hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine that stimulate the brain to make fast connections.
#5: Better insulin sensitivity & diabetes prevention.
Anaerobic training literally repairs a “broken” metabolism by adapting your body to be able to burn fat for energy. For example, in one recent study, doing four 30-second sprints on a resistance bike increased fat burning by 75 percent. The elevated use of fat for fuel was sustained for at least two hours after the workout.
By being “fat adapted” it makes it a lot easier to lose body fat and you are able to get through the day without needing to eat a steady stream of carbs.
#6: Get more powerful and improve coordination.
Power is the ability to express strength quickly. It’s an essential trait for because it improves the connection between your brain and your muscles so that you get yourself out of tricky situations.
Power training also preferentially increases the size and explosiveness of the Type II fast-twitch fibers, which are the muscle fibers most associated with fall prevention in the elderly.
To truly reach your power potential, you need to achieve a threshold of strength and train yourself to utilize the stretch-shortening cycle, which is the elastic component of the muscle. Any kind of explosive training will do this, whether it’s power training with weights (jump squats, bench throws, push presses, power deadlifts), stair running, Olympic lifting, or plyometrics.
#7: Better heart function and lower blood pressure.
It’s unfortunate that endurance exercise got dubbed “cardio” because it’s not the best form of exercise for improving heart health.
Comparison studies between sprint interval and endurance training repeatedly show better cardiovascular outcomes from intervals. For example, a 2011 study in overweight women showed increased stroke volume and a reduced heart rate both at rest and during training after 4 weeks of cycle sprints.
Other studies show lower blood pressure, and better arterial structure, with a decrease in chronic inflammation that damages heart function. And remember that for the elderly, prioritizing both cardiovascular and functional mobility is essential, and interval training against resistance can help build the fast-twitch muscle to prevent falls and fractures.
#8: Greater endurance performance & work capacity.
Including anaerobic workouts in your program if you’re training for an endurance event can do wonders for performance for the following reasons:
* It improves the body’s ability to use oxygen so that you sustain a faster pace for longer and reduce your overall time at a given distance.
* It improves the amount of glycogen that can be stored in the muscle by as much as 20 percent and boosts final sprint speed so that you’ll be able to outkick opponents.
* It boosts the body’s muscle buffering capacity, raising the intensity at which you can perform without accumulating lactic acid.
#9: Training becomes something you look forward to and it builds mental strength.
As you’ve seen in this article, anaerobic training provides a lot of options:
* You can lift weights fast, slow, heavy, or moderately.
* You can do sprints of varying intensities on a track, stationary bike, up the stairs, on the road, in the pool, or whichever way you love to move your body most.
* You can do Olympic lifting, plyometrics, strongman exercises, or go push your car up the hill.
* You can try a sport that uses intense bursts of activity, whether it’s tennis, basketball, soccer, flag football, or some hybrid sport such as CrossFit.
The key point is that your workout shouldn’t become a daily chore. Sure, there are rough days in the gym, but working out shouldn’t be something that you have to endure in pain.
The beauty of anaerobic training is that it is easy to set small, reachable goals every day that challenge your abilities and help you get better. There may be moments of doubt in the middle of tough workouts, but pushing through to the end will build confidence in your physical and mental strength.
You will accomplish something not many other people can do.
Be excited! Start today!