Do you need a quick, go-to exercise that targets all of the muscles in your upper body, works your core, and burns calories? Then look no further: The pushup can do all of that and more.

Pushups are a strength-building move. They primarily work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.

They only require your body weight, so they’re also a great on-the-go move to add to your routine.

The number of calories pushups burn vary from person to person. In general, pushups can burn at least 7 calories per minute.

While pushups are primarily considered a strength-building exercise, knowing the number of calories you can burn while performing them is important, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

In general, there are four variables that determine how many calories you’ll burn:

  • Height and weight. When it comes to metabolism, the larger the person, the more calories they’ll burn. This is true even at rest.
  • Sex. In general, males burn more calories than females performing the same exercise at the same intensity, because they usually have less body fat and more muscle.
  • Age. The aging process changes a lot of things about your health, including the number of calories you burn. This slowdown results from an increase in body fat and a decrease in muscle mass.
  • Intensity. The number of pushups you can do in a given time will determine your total calorie output. The faster you can correctly perform them, the more calories you’ll burn.

Pushups are portable and challenging, targeting multiple muscle groups at one time. In addition to strengthening your shoulders, chest, and triceps, pushups also target your core muscles.

Having a strong core allows you to correctly execute fitness moves. A strong core also assists you in most of your daily functions that involve bending, twisting, flexion, and extension. It helps protect you from lower-back pain, too.

Form is key when it comes to pushups. If you can’t maintain proper form for the entire move, start with one of the modifications discussed later.

proper pushup form
  1. Get in a high plank position, with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart and your palms directly under your shoulders. Your body will form a straight line from your heels all the way to your neck.
  2. From this position, engage your core muscles, and pull your shoulder blades down and back.
  3. Start to lower yourself to the floor by bending your elbows and pushing your shoulders forward.
  4. From this position, engage your core muscles, and pull your shoulder blades down and back.
  5. Start to lower yourself to the floor by bending your elbows and pushing your shoulders forward.
  6. Lower down until your chest is about an inch off the ground. Pause, exhale, and push your body back to the starting position.

The basic pushup is a powerful move. You can make it easier or harder with a few simple tweaks.

Higher intensity

To increase the intensity, fitness trainer Mat Forzaglia says to add a plyometric aspect to it.

“As you push away from the ground, explode off the ground, softly returning back into the bottom of the pushup,” he says.

You can also elevate your feet and make it a decline pushup, or add weight to make the pushup harder.

Another great way to make a pushup more challenging is to add a deficit, such as performing the pushup with your hands on a set of dumbbells, Forzaglia adds. “This will allow for a deeper range of motion, making it harder to push all the way up,” he explains.

Lower intensity

To lower the intensity, try kneeling on a mat and performing the upper-body portion of the exercise. Master this form before progressing to extending your legs.

With modifications, you can make the pushup a safe exercise appropriate for most fitness levels.

Just be sure to focus on keeping your rib cage tucked down so there’s no arching in your lower back. “You want to protect the shoulders as much as possible, so keeping them tucked into your side is the best bet,” Forzaglia says.

Exercise is good for your body and soul. But too much can have adverse consequences that may lead to overuse injuries, stress, anxiety, or depression.

Some of the warning signs of compulsive exercise include:

  • putting exercise before everything else
  • feeling stressed if you miss a workout
  • using exercise as a way to purge food
  • getting frequent overuse injuries

If you have concerns about your relationship with exercise, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. Check out these five affordable therapy options to get started.