The Best of Both Worlds: The Importance of Incorporating Both Aerobic and Anaerobic Workouts Into Your Programing.

There’s an age old debate in the fitness world, and it all comes down to one simple question:

Which is better, aerobic workouts or anaerobic workouts?

If you’re someone who enjoys low-intensity endurance work, like pounding it out with a long, slow run or jog, then you’re in favor of aerobic-type workouts. However, if you prefer pumping iron in the gym (or home gym), or busting out high-intensity sprint intervals, then you air on the side of anaerobic workouts.

In truth, everyone has their own preference, and that’s ok! Being different is what makes us unique individuals, but only engaging in one type of training can actually be counterproductive to your overall health and fitness. Ultimately, it is very important to develop and follow programs that utilize both aerobic and anaerobic work…Just as it is necessary to be a well-rounded person, it is equally as necessary to take a well-rounded approach to fitness.

So, what’s the difference?

Well, first, let’s define the terms “aerobic” and “anaerobic”:

  • Aerobic – occurring with the use of oxygen, or requiring oxygen. Thus, aerobic exercise refers to any moderate physical activity that places demands on the oxygen-using pathways that supply blood to your working muscles, i.e. walking, running, jogging, biking, swimming, etc. During aerobic workouts, oxygen is flowing through the body and to the muscles which result in the production of more blood vessels (to carry that oxygen). It also increases the size of blood vessels. These changes help more nutrients and oxygen get to the muscles and then take waste away. All of this supports recovery and muscle growth.
  • Anaerobic – occurring without the use of oxygen. Thus, anaerobic exercise refers to any physical activity that is performed without muscles having to be supplied with oxygen, i.e. any type of intense weight training. Anaerobic activity is short-lived compared to aerobic workouts because the lack of oxygen triggers a production of lactic acid. The buildup of lactate is what causes fatigue and forces you to take a break from the exercise. But, the more you engage in these kinds of workouts the greater your tolerance will be to high levels of lactic acid, thus improving strength and muscle endurance.

There! Now we know the difference…

Next, let’s talk about muscle fibers.

There are two types,

  • fast-twitch muscle fibers – contracts quickly and is used mostly in intensive short-duration exercises. They include Type IIa muscle fibers and Type IIx muscle fibers.
  • slow-twitch muscle fibers – contracts slowly and has a high capacity for aerobic glycolysis. They include Type I muscle fibers.

Each of these two types of exercise recruits a different type of muscle fiber.

Aerobic exercise mostly relies on slow-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are important because they produce a steady, low-intensity, repetitive contraction, which allows you to do steady endurance work, like running or swimming, for long periods of time before fatigue sets in. Aerobic workouts increase the size and number of Type I muscle fibers, which, in turn, improves endurance performance.

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, relies on fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are selectively recruited for high-intensity, short-duration work. They contract quickly, yielding short bursts of energy, and they are recruited in high numbers during brief, intense exercises such as sprinting or weightlifting. Anaerobic workouts increase the size and quantity of these powerful muscle fibers, which improves the power and strength of muscles and also increases hypertrophy (size).

Now, let’s discuss the metabolic changes associated with both aerobic and anaerobic workouts.

Aerobic workouts trigger important metabolic changes in muscle tissue, including an increase in mitochondria and the protein myoglobin. Mitochondria—the powerhouse of the cell—are necessary for creating ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary source of energy in muscles. Myoglobin, on the other hand, brings in the oxygen needed for that process. These changes are what improves the aerobic capacity of muscles.

Some of the metabolic changes triggered by anaerobic workouts include increased breakdown of glucose—the process known as glycolysis. This kind of exercise also boosts levels of ATP, as well as CP (creatine phosphate), which can be quickly changed to ATP and used for energy. Levels of creatine also go up, which helps supply energy for muscle contraction. These factors are what improves the ability to get through those last grueling reps of intense training sessions.

Finally, let’s talk about changes in body composition.

All of the changes from aerobic activity lead to a better ability to burn fat. Greater blood flow to the muscle tissue, more oxygen transport, larger numbers of mitochondria, and a jump in the levels of enzymes used to metabolize fat all let muscles better access fat and burn it for energy. This is what leads to fat loss throughout the body.

High-intensity anaerobic workouts that last between 45 to 75 minutes trigger important hormonal changes, including a boost in the production of testosterone and growth hormone. These along with other hormones are necessary for increasing muscle size. And the more lean muscle you have, the more fat you burn naturally,

So…

For best results, I recommend combining BOTH aerobic and anaerobic training into your workout routine each day.

Now, I understand how difficult it can be, especially when you have a busy schedule, but taking the time to engage in a well-rounded fitness program will make all the difference in your overall health and fitness level.

My week at a glance: (For example purposes, only!)

This is what my workout week looks like, right now…Keep in mind, I switch up my routine often, (about every 6 weeks or so) to keep my workouts from becoming stagnant, and to prevent my muscles from becoming “bored” and plateauing.

Monday & Friday

  • Fasted Cardio: 20 min Spin followed by a Plyo routine
  • Rest & Snack
  • Strength: “Leg Day” (routine: from my own “Tone and Sculpt” program)

Wednesday

  • Fasted Cardio: 20 min Spin followed by a Plyo routine
  • Rest & Snack
  • Strength: glute specific (routine: from my own “Booty Sculpt” program)

Tuesday & Saturday

  • Fasted Cardio: 20 min HIIT (circuit designed by me) followed by core training (routine from my own core program)
  • Rest & Snack
  • Strength: Biceps & Triceps (routine: from my own “Tone and Sculpt” program)

Thursday

  • Fasted Cardio: 20 min HIIT (circuit designed by me) followed by core training (routine from my own core program)
  • Rest & Snack
  • Strength: Back & Shoulders (routine: from my own “Tone and Sculpt” program)

Sunday

  • Rest Day!!!

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