Anaerobic Training & the Wingate Test

Young woman workout in gym. Woman on the elliptical machine.

Exercise is typically divided into either aerobic or anaerobic categories. During aerobic respiration, the body uses oxygen as the main fuel source. This form of exercise lasts longer and is associated with weight loss and endurance training.

Anaerobic training is characterized by short bursts of intense effort and is used to increase muscle mass and strength. It's also an effective way to build cardiovascular fitness. One of the most popular and definitive tests to determine anaerobic power is the Wingate test.

Anaerobic Training

Anaerobic training refers to any form of exercise at a near maximal intensity during which the body can no longer process oxygen for fuel fast enough to meet the demands of the muscles.

These exercises are brief, lasting no longer than two minutes, and utilize a fuel stored in the muscles called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, along with lactic acid. Eventually ATP stores are exhausted and the muscles fatigue due to the buildup of lactic acid. This point of exhaustion is the anaerobic threshold and can be improved with training.

Wingate Test Procedure

Developed during the 1970s, the Wingate Test is one of the most well-known laboratory fitness tests. The test requires the subject to operate either a bicycle or arm ergometer at full exertion for 30 seconds. For the first few seconds there is no resistance, then resistance is applied.

The amount of resistance used is relative to the body weight of the test subject and can vary from 45 to 90 grams per kilogram of body weight. A specialized counter on the ergometer records the number of rotations in five-second intervals.


The findings of the Wingate Test measure the peak anaerobic power, anaerobic capacity and anaerobic fatigue of the subject. Peak anaerobic power is the highest measure of force generated during any of the five-second intervals and is expressed in terms of watts.

Anaerobic capacity is the sum of all of the five-second intervals and represents the total amount of work accomplished during the test. Anaerobic fatigue is the percentage of decline in power. These figures can give athletes insight into their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to adjust their training programs.


In addition to adapting the amount of resistance for more athletic individuals, several variations of the Wingate test have been created to suit different needs. An arm ergometer can be used to measure upper-body strength and endurance.

Because the Wingate test procedure and equipment is focused towards cyclists, the running-based Anaerobic Sprint Test has been developed to provide similar results for runners.