Pull-ups do not only look challenging. They will also help you burn more calories in a variety of ways. Find out what you can expect in this area.
Some rough estimations are that the average person can burn around 56 to 97 calories while doing pull-ups for 15 minutes.
One important thing to note about these numbers is that they don’t take the long-term calorie-burning you get from building muscle mass with pull-ups into account.
This is a big downside because weight plays a big role in how many calories you burn throughout the day.
As an example, the 56 calories burned estimation from above is for a 125-pound (56 kg) person doing the pull-ups. On the other hand, the 97 calories apply to the same 15-minute workout but for a 215-pound (97 kg) person.
So while you should not take all these numbers too precisely, they do give you some idea of what you can expect from pull-ups.
Below, you can also find a more detailed chart for different body weights and durations, which details influence your results, and how to increase how many calories you burn with pull-ups.
Biggest factors in calories burned with pull-ups
Something important to keep in mind when looking at any calorie-burning estimation is that these are hard to get exactly right.
You can’t just use these to balance certain amounts of food and expect to get precise results.
That being said, you can still make your estimations somewhat more accurate by taking certain details into account.
Knowing what things influence how many calories pull-ups burn can also help you make your workouts more effective.
Some of these things that influence your energy usage while doing this exercise include:
- Weight: The human body needs energy to keep you alive and fuel your movements. Generally, heavier bodies require more calories to do these things.
- Body composition: Your body is made of different types of tissue and their ratios can vary. This is worth noting because a certain amount of muscle will typically burn more calories during pull-ups than the same weight in fat.
- Intensity: Doing a workout or exercise does not always look exactly the same. You can do pull-ups at fast or slow speeds. Faster repetitions will generally burn more calories during the workout.
- Weighted or assisted: In their essence pull-ups are a bodyweight exercise but you can modify them by doing the weighted (harder) or assisted (easier) versions. This will influence how much energy the exercise requires.
Hidden calorie burning from pull-ups
If the details above are not confusing enough, there is another important detail to keep in mind when predicting what fat loss results you can expect from pull-ups.
The number of extra calories you burn by doing a workout with this exercise is not only limited to the actual time you spend moving more intensely.
How much you weigh influences how many calories you burn a lot. Not only during your pull-up workouts but also the rest of your day.
Since pull-ups are a resistance training exercise, doing them with the optimal resistance, repetitions, sets, and frequency can help you build a nice amount of muscle mass.
This extra muscle mass will help you use more energy throughout the day. However, it is extremely hard to put these pull-up statistics into an exact number.
Additionally, weight lifting workouts can cause something called afterburn. This means burning a few extra calories for a short amount of time after you stop exercising.
The calorie-burning estimations for pull-ups only apply during the workout. These more long-term effects are typically not included.
This is unfortunate because a lot of the fat loss results from pull-ups come from these effects.
Chart of pull-ups calorie-burning estimations
There is a cheat sheet from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention that simply mentions that light-intensity calisthenics exercises like pull-ups burn between 3.5 and 7 calories per minute (1).
Luckily, you can also use other techniques to make more precise predictions. More specifically, you can use MET values.
These are numbers that estimate (and sometimes measure) how physically intense certain activities are. You can use these MET values in the formulas below to estimate how many calories pull-ups burn.
Formula: METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute
The exact MET for pull-ups can vary from source to source. Even so, one example is an MET of 3.8 for moderate-effort calisthenics exercises like pull-ups (2).
You can find this pull-up MET applied to the calorie-burning formula for different body weights and time durations in the chart below.
It is worth noting again that these predictions are far from perfect. The MET value does not consider many factors that do influence your actual results.
|1 Minute||15 Minutes||30 Minutes||45 Minutes||60 Minutes|
|4 calories||56 calories||112 calories||168 calories||224 calories|
|5 calories||70 calories||139 calories||209 calories||278 calories|
|6 calories||83 calories||166 calories||249 calories||332 calories|
|6 calories||97 calories||193 calories||290 calories||386 calories|
How many calories do 10 pull-ups burn?
Instead of looking at how many minutes you spend doing pull-ups, you may also want to know how many calories certain amounts of repetitions burn.
Let’s assume the average person does around 15 pull-ups per minute.
In that case, the average person can expect to burn around 2 to 4 calories while doing 10 pull-ups.
This does not only sound like a small amount. Something like doing 100 pull-ups a day is not that effective for short-term calorie burning.
With the same intensity, you have to do around 233 to 401 pull-ups to burn 100 calories during the workout. One pull-up burns about 0.25 to 0.43 calories during the repetition.
To get a better idea of what all these calorie amounts mean, 100 grams of boiled potatoes contain about 87 calories (3).
Something else to note is that all of these numbers don’t take the long-term calorie burning from pull-ups into account.
Ways to burn more calories with pull-ups
By now you likely understand that how many calories you burn per minute with pull-ups is not something static. You can change your results in a few ways.
The most important thing to note is that you want to do the reps and sets of pull-ups that are most likely to help you build a lot of muscle mass.
This can sound and feel somewhat counterintuitive but burning calories with pull-ups require a different approach than cardiovascular workouts like running.
That being said, in theory, you could also use more energy per minute of doing pull-ups by doing faster repetitions (again not optimal for muscle growth).
Additionally, you can make your repetitions more challenging by doing weighted pull-ups and/or building muscle mass with other resistance training exercises.
How long does it take to see results from pull-ups?
Burning more calories definitely sounds nice but you likely want to know how long it takes to see other results from doing this exercise.
Something important to note first is that while pull-ups can help you lose weight, whether you actually see any results will also depend a lot on details like your diet.
That aside, a 185-pound (83 kg) person who does 3 sessions of 15 minutes of pull-ups a week can burn an extra 249 calories during the workouts.
About 0.07 pounds (0.03 kg) of body fat contains this number of calories.
If the same person follows the same pull-up routine for four weeks, they can burn an extra 996 calories or about 0.29 pounds (0.13 kg) of body fat.
In reality, you would likely burn more energy by doing these workouts due to muscle mass gains.
Something else to note is that the number on the scale may not move that much even though you are making positive progress.
This could be because you are building muscle mass (weight) but losing body fat.
Should you do pull-ups for calorie burning?
From the rough estimations above, it may look like pull-ups are not that good for burning calories.
And while this is the case for the short-term effects, pull-ups can still be relatively effective for burning calories in the long term thanks to the muscle mass they allow you to build.
Another benefit of pull-ups is that they are relatively easy to implement into your daily life.
There are relatively inexpensive doorway pull-up bars that allow you to do this exercise at home. This offers a time-efficient workout.
At the same time, it is worth mentioning that there are other exercises and workouts that are more effective than pull-ups for burning calories.
These include both resistance training exercises for bigger muscles and more intense cardiovascular workouts like running that really burn a lot of calories during the workout.
Lastly, if you want the calorie-burning from pull-ups and other workouts to come from fat, you likely need to keep an eye on other lifestyle habits like nutrition too.