There are many exercises you can do to lose weight, both inside and outside the gym. What about pushups, are they good for weight loss?
A pushup is a classic bodyweight exercise where you start on your hands and feet with a stretched body, arms and legs. You then fold your arms until your face is close to the ground. You then stretch your arms again and repeat from there.
Pushups help you lose weight by burning more calories both during the workout and after the workout because of the muscle you build.
Find out how many calories you burn with pushups, how good pushups are compared to other exercises, and how you can lose more weight with the same amount of pushups.
Cardio versus HIIT versus Weight Lifting
All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting. In terms of what parts of your body they impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.
Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.
The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight is slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. One or the other can be better depending on the situation.
Pushups are mainly a muscle-building exercise when you start out. You do get your heart beating but it’s only a tiny amount compared to something like running. The more you do them the more repetitions you will have to do to keep seeing muscle growth.
Weight lifting helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor of how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen, you lose some weight and you start burning less calories with the same habits.
Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. A certain amount of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same amount of fat. This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the amount of calories you burn 24/7.
Pushups mainly work your chest muscles or arm muscles depending on your form. Your chest muscles are one of the biggest muscle groups you have so that translates in more calorie burning. To build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 pushups depending on how advanced you are.
Your legs are an even bigger muscle group so doing something like squats helps you build more muscle than pushups.
Another problem with pushups when it comes to building muscle is that it’s hard to add a lot of weight. You can for example wear a weighted vest but compared to lifting weights in the gym the extra muscle building potential from that is rather small.
Pushups are a decent weight lifting exercise when you start out but sooner or later you will see results slow down a lot.
Cardio and HIIT
Cardio and HIIT help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.
This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.
HIIT is basically cardio but faster. So depending on your tempo you are doing one or the other. The higher the intensity of the exercise you are doing, the more calories you burn.
HIIT can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stopped the exercise.
Do this for long term weight loss
So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.
For long term weight loss weight lifting can be a lot more time and effort efficient.
You can also do both. The extra muscle will help you get more out of your cardio workout.
Often people forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is.
Pushups are great to start working on long-term weight loss but if you don’t like them, chances are you won’t keep doing them. In that case, you might want to choose a different workout or exercise.
How many pushups do you have to do to lose weight?
You have to keep in mind that the amount of calories burned by exercising depends from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels,… influence it.
That being said, there are still approximations for how many calories you can burn doing pushups. You can also see the calories burned for different kinds of exercises to see how all the workouts compare.
The following numbers are an estimation for a 155-pound person doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1).
- Weight Lifting (general): 112 calories
- Weight Lifting (vigorous): 223 calories
- Water Aerobics: 149 calories
- Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
- Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
- Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
- Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
- Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
- Jumping rope: 372 calories
- Swimming (breaststroke): 372 calories
The thing with these numbers is also that the more intense and the longer you do your exercise, the more calories you will burn. These measurements are great to get an estimation but you can’t rely on them being the exact same for you.
As you can see the weight loss power of weight lifting and more specifically pushups is not in the amount of calories you burn during the workout. Pushups will also lean more towards the “general weight lifting” because you are not using any extra weights.
These numbers only represent the 30 minutes during the workout. It’s hard to measure exactly what the long term weight loss effects are of pushups.
How long does it take to see results from pushups?
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from pushups will also depend on the amount of calories in your diet.
One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.
30 minutes of weight lifting could help you burn an extra 1120 calories in 10 days which is about 0.32 pounds of body fat. 30 days 3360 calories and so on…
Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.
Because of the muscle you will gain from pushups your weight might not move that much. That does not mean you are not losing fat. If you lose inches but not weight when you start doing pushups you are most likely gaining muscle weight and losing body fat weight.
How often should you do pushups?
Muscle building exercises are not always about doing as many as possible. The way you build muscle is by first breaking muscle down with a weight lifting exercise. And then letting your body repair the muscle with a little extra on top.
Depending on how fast you recover you could do pushups 2-4 times a week. Once you start to see diminishing muscle-building returns your body might recover faster from the same workout.
Should you do pushups for weight loss?
In terms of time-efficient calorie burning during the workout, pushups are not that great. Their real power comes from the extra calorie burning from the muscle mass you build.
With the right form, pushups do work your chest muscles, a big muscle group. This helps you burn more calories 24/7 without too much effort.
The thing with pushups is that you stop growing a lot of muscle rather fast since you are only using bodyweight. By for example doing bench presses with weight you will see more chest muscle growth.
All in all, pushups are a decent exercise to do at the start of your weight loss journey. However, soon you won’t see that many weight loss results from them. Once that happens you will benefit more from doing certain weight lifting workouts or cardio workouts.
Keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.
How to do pushups for weight loss
Depending on your form, you work different muscles with pushups.
If you place your hands very close to each other you will mainly work your arm muscles. The more you place your hands apart the more you work your chest muscles.
To lose weight you want to work the biggest muscle group of the two. This leads to more calorie burning. Your chest muscles are bigger than your arm muscles so to lose weight you want to do pushups with your hand further apart.
You can also do your pushups with either your hands or your feet on a higher surface. These are called incline and decline pushups. With decline pushups, your feet raised, you will push a slightly higher amount of weight which means they are slightly better for losing weight in a shorter amount of time.
Do pushups make you lose belly fat?
Losing belly fat is more about losing weight overall than doing a “targeted” workout. Since pushups can help you burn some calories they can help you lose belly fat as well.