Estimates of exactly how many calories a single push-up burns vary somewhat, from about 0.29 calories each to 0.36 calories per push-up, based on figures from Forbes and the American Council on Exercise, respectively. But a 2014 study from researchers at Arizona State University shows that old methods of measuring energy expenditure may have underestimated the calorie burn from strength-training exercises. The ASU researchers also report energy expenditure in terms of METs, which yield a more accurate figure than a straight calorie burn estimate because they allow you to take the exerciser's weight into account.
In a 2014 Arizona State study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers used two methods to calculate energy expenditure during four strength-training exercises, including push-ups. The conventional method measured oxygen consumption during exercise, while the less-conventional second method gauged oxygen consumed during recovery. Based on their findings, they determined that oxygen consumption during recovery is a more accurate gauge of calories burned. Using the new method, they measured the energy expenditure of push-ups at 6.91 metabolic equivalents, or METS.
From METS to Calories
One MET equals the amount of energy your body uses while at rest. To convert METS to calories burned, first estimate your daily basal metabolic rate by multiplying your weight in pounds by 10 for women, or by 11 for men. Divide the result by 24 to get your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, per hour. Multiply the result by 6.91 METS to get your calories burned per hour doing push-ups. That number is about 432 for a 150-pound woman. Divide by 60 to get 7.2 calories per minute, and divide the number of pushups you can do in a minute -- 15, for the purposes of this example -- to get a result of 0.48 calories burned per push-up.