Everyone knows what an endurance workout is. It's the cardio stuff, long and slow, working your lungs and heart and circulatory system. It makes you a better athlete for long haul sports like tennis or marathons. But there's another kind of endurance workout that can make you a better, more powerful athlete.
Ever heard of anaerobic endurance? Just as "aerobic" means with oxygen, "anaerobic" means without oxygen. An anaerobic workout doesn't require producing energy by breathing more air, as running does. Instead, it's a pure muscle workout from something like lifting weights. Energy from the cells is used to power the workout. Much of that energy comes from stored glycogen, a form of glucose, which is essentially sugar.
If you're able to train the cells to store more energy, you can produce power longer. Here's an example:
A ski or snowboard run is anaerobic, which is why your legs burn when the season first starts.
But if you're on the slopes a lot, you soon build up your cellular energy, your muscles get stronger and your legs don't hurt any more when you make a run.
To be a powerful athlete, it isn't enough to build up the muscles. Your muscles may be strong for 10 reps, but if you work on your anaerobic endurance, they can be strong for 20 reps. They can be strong for the game-winning pass, or the anaerobic burst of speed that wins the race. This kind of workout will build the length of time you can continue putting out powerful efforts. You can go hard for more time.
Build up your cells the same way you build your aerobic capacity; with constantly increased training. Use free weights for the best results; they will work your body in more ranges of motion than machines do, and also build up the smaller assisting muscles that don't get used with machines because they don't require you to balance your body while moving it under resistance. Do light weights you can lift 20 to 30 times. Remember to breathe during each set.
The major body weight exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups are also anaerobic.
Step-ups are also a great anaerobic exercise: step up onto a weight bench with one foot, bring the other foot up, then step down with one foot and bring the other foot down. Do five reps leading with one foot, then do five more leading with the other. This exercise makes you lift your body weight up onto the bench, it works all the muscles of the lower body and builds your balance at the same time. After the first week, begin adding two additional reps every week.
When training for anaerobic endurance, it's essential to work fast. You want to burn up that cellular energy quickly, so the mitochondria, the energy center of the cell, is forced to store bigger reserves. The most important thing to remember when it comes to aerobic and anaerobic work is that it's not either/or. If you're moving so fast that you go into oxygen debt, your body will automatically turn to the cells to get the last little remaining bit of energy. If you're making a big muscular effort, like balancing the weight of your body on your legs down a snow covered mountain, or shoveling snow, your muscles will use some of your breathed-in oxygen that comes to them via the blood vessels.
But just as you do cardio to build up your aerobic endurance, do fast resistance work to build up your cellular endurance. Whatever your sport, being able to put out power for a longer period of time will get you closer to, if not on, the winner's podium.