Give This 15-Minute Anaerobic Workout Your All To Go Harder For Longer
Row, ski or spin your way to better anaerobic capacity
Anaerobic workouts should be used sparingly.
They’re intense, put your central nervous system under acute stress and will send your heart rate through the roof. But for those very same reasons, anaerobic workouts are also ruthlessly effective at improving your athletic potential.
“Anaerobic exercise is any activity that breaks down glucose for energy without using oxygen,” says Claire Wright (opens in new tab) of 1Rebel (opens in new tab) (formerly known as Core Collective), who has devised this 15-minute anaerobic workout for you to tackle in your next gym session.
Anaerobic Workout vs Aerobic Workout
The difference between anaerobic and aerobic exercise boils down to your body’s supply and demand of oxygen.
A walk in the park, light jog or cycle is an example of aerobic – “with oxygen” – workout. It occurs when your muscles have an adequate supply of O2 required to sustain your current effort levels, and accounts for most of our daily activities.
A short sprint during a five-a-side football match or a Tabata session alternating 20-second all-out sprints with 10-second rests are typical examples of an anaerobic – “without oxygen” – workout.
At this level of intensity, the cells in our muscles use up oxygen faster than it can be replenished. Without available oxygen, the cells are forced to draw on energy sources stored in the muscles via a process called glycolysis.
Your ability to sustain this level of intensity is known as your lactic threshold and it’s something you can train and improve, just like your speed and strength.
How To Boost Your Lactic Threshold
This 15-minute every-minute-on-the-minute (EMOM) workout is designed to overhaul your anaerobic capacity and, like your heart rate, push your lactic threshold through the roof.
“To increase your anaerobic capacity, you first have to burn through the maximum amount of energy you can produce via glycolysis,” says Wright. “That means performing repeated short, yet hard efforts above your lactate threshold.”
The best – and safest – way to achieve this is to use your gym’s cardio equipment, meaning you can perform these hard, short efforts while minimising impact to your joints and track your output with each interval to keep you at the required level.
“Make no mistake, this workout will challenge you mentally and physically,” Wright says, stressing the need to start with a comprehensive dynamic warm-up that will steadily increase your heart rate.
15-Minute EMOM Anaerobic Workout
Once warmed up, pick either your gym’s exercise bike, rowing machine or SkiErg, then follow this pattern for the next 15 minutes. On minute one, go for broke on your choice of cardio machine for 45 seconds, resting for the remainder of the minute. On minute two, perform eight to 10 burpees, aiming to complete them within 30 seconds, resting for the remainder of the minute. On minute three, rest completely and reset for the start of the next round.
Repeat five times in total, then make sure to warm down gradually and stretch.
“Use this anaerobic workout periodically to provide you with feedback on your training adaptations and as a benchmark of your overall fitness levels,” says Wright.
Minute 1: Bike / Row / SkiErg
Time 45sec max effort
Pick your weapon of choice and sprint hard for 45 seconds, aiming for a 9/10 rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Rest the remaining 15 seconds.
Wright says: “Try to hold on for the same number of calories burned all the way through each round, plus or minus 1-2 calories. Every effort on the machine should feel like a sprint.”
Minute 2: Burpee over rower (or dumbbell)
If using the rower, perform a burpee next to the machine, and when you reach the jump stage, explode laterally over the rower and go into the next burpee. If not using the rower, jump over a dumbbell instead. Aim to complete all reps in less than 30 seconds, remembering to take deep breaths in at the top or bottom of each move.
Wright says: “Push to get the burpees done in under 30 seconds and allow for a good 90 seconds of rest. Scale the burpees where required.”
Minute 3: Rest
Resist the urge to melt into the floor. Keep moving, taking breaths deep into your chest, allowing your heart rate to lower gradually in preparation for the next round. This is your chance to reset and recover.
Wright says: “Think about the round you’re on and determine if you need to slow down or hold, or have enough left in the tank to step up the pace.”
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.