Anaerobic Capacity

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Anaerobic Capacity[edit | edit source]

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Anaerobic capacity (AC) is defined as the maximal amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) re-synthesized via anaerobic metabolism (by the whole organism) during a specific mode of short-duration maximal anaerobic exercise.[1]

  • Anaerobic capacity and Anaerobic power outputs are 2 primary measures which are vital factors in sports which demand short-duration maximal efforts[2].

Energy Systems[edit | edit source]

Glycolysis simple.jpg

The body has three primary ways of creating energy ie ATP (the immediately available source of energy for all cellular metabolism including muscle contraction) These physiological pathways are called energy systems.

  1. Alactic Anaerobic system (short duration energy – 10 seconds)
  2. Lactic Anaerobic (glycolysis) Systems (medium short duration energy – 60-90 seconds)
  3. Aerobic System (long term energy from oxygen breakdown- hours)

Image 2: Glycolysis simple

  • Cells can store only limited amount of ATP, therefore ATP must be constantly generated to provide needed energy for all cellular metabolism.
  • The anaerobic energy system produces significantly less ATP than its aerobic counterpart and leads to the build-up of lactic acid[3].

Anaerobic Metabolism:

Many sports eg.100 metre race, involve quick bursts of speed at high intensities. An athlete's ability to quickly utilize and produce energy determines their perfomance. ATP is produced by the breakdown of glucose and glycogen( the storage form of glucose). The muscular stores of ATP is very limited and gets depleted within a seconds after a activity. Normally anaerobic system works from the second of start of exercise till 2 minutes. As exercises progresses past 2 minutes greater demands are placed on the long term energy system of aerobic metabolism.

Training for improved Anaerobic Capacity: see Anaerobic Exercise

Tests of Anaerobic Power and Capacity[edit | edit source]


When measuring the anaerobic systems, one would ideally have a test that could distinctly evaluate alactic anaerobic power, alactic anaerobic capacity, lactic anaerobic power, and lactic anaerobic capacity.

  • Because no such tests exist, attempts have been made to get this information indirectly by measuring: the total mechanical power generated during high-intensity, short-duration work; the amount of mechanical work done in a specific period of time; or the time required to perform a given amount of presumably anaerobic work.
  • The most commonly used laboratory test is the Wingate Anaerobic Test (WAT). The WAT is an all-out cycle ergometer ride for 30 seconds against a resistance based on body weight. Both arm and leg versions are available, although the leg test is most frequently used. Three variables are typically calculated: peak power (PP), mean power, and fatigue. PP is defined as the maximal power (force times distance divided by time) exerted during very short-duration (≤5 seconds) work[4].
  • Stair climb tests and sprint and middle distance runs are also often used to test the anaerobic systems. eg dashes of 40, 50, or 60 m take approximately 4 to 15 seconds and can be used as an indication of alactic anaerobic power or capacity, or both; Longer runs, probably between 200 and 800 m and lasting 40 to 120 seconds, can be used as an indication of lactic anaerobic power and capacity. Faster speeds in covering a given distance would indicate higher anaerobic power or capacity, or both.

Anaerobic Potential: Men VS Women[edit | edit source]

It has been documented that there is a greater anaerobic capacity in men than women during maximal intensity exercise.

  • The 30 s sprint test on a bicycle (ie Wingate test) is designed to estimate anaerobic power and capacity. It has been reported that during a single 30 s sprint, there is a higher proportion of ATP regeneration via anaerobic metabolism in men than women, suggesting a higher anaerobic component in men during maximal exercise.
  • A greater anaerobic potential in men has been evidenced by greater postexercise disturbances of the acid–base balance and a greater increase in blood lactate concentrations in the blood of men than women during maximal exercise tests[5].

The Heart and AC[edit | edit source]


The heart has very limited anaerobic capacity, and requires a continuous supply of oxygen by the coronary vasculature.

  • This supply is adequately used as, even under resting conditions, the myocardium extracts 75–80% of the available oxygen from the blood, leaving very little oxygen extraction reserve.
  • Local coronary blood flow must be tightly matched to the local demands of the myocardium on a moment-to-moment basis [41] and any increase in myocardial oxygen demand (~10 ml O2/min/100g myocardium at rest), which can increase up to five-fold during exercise, needs to be met by a similar increase in myocardial oxygen supply.
  • The ability of the coronary resistance vessels to dilate in response to increments in myocardial oxygen demand is extremely important to maintain an adequate oxygen supply. If oxygen supply is inadequate, the affected region stops beating and eventually dies.[6]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Green S, Dawson B. Measurement of anaerobic capacities in humans. Sports Medicine. 1993 May;15(5):312-27.Available from: (accessed 26.3.2021)
  2. Sports Science Wingate Anaerobic Test Available from: (accessed 26.3.2021)
  4. Plowman SA, Smith DL. Anaerobic metabolism during exercise. Sports-Specific Rehabilitation. 2007 Jan 1;23:213-30.Available from: (accessed 26.3.2021)
  5. Lundsgaard AM, Fritzen AM, Kiens B. Exercise physiology in men and women. InPrinciples of Gender-Specific Medicine 2017 Jan 1 (pp. 525-542). Academic Press.Available from: 26.3.2021)
  6. Zhang C, Rogers PA, Merkus D, Muller-Delp JM, Tiefenbacher CP, Potter B, Knudson JD, Rocic P, Chilian WM. Regulation of coronary microvascular resistance in health and disease. InMicrocirculation 2008 Jan 1 (pp. 521-549). Academic Press.Available from: 26.3.2021)