Are Pushups Aerobic or Anaerobic?

Man doing pushups in sand

Pushups are considered an anaerobic exercise, although they can be aerobic until you become breathless and your muscles become fatigued. Aerobic exercises are continuous exercises that use your body’s oxygen as fuel. Anaerobic exercises are start-and-stop exercises that require huge bursts of energy. Your body doesn’t have enough oxygen to fuel anaerobic exercises so it must also rely on glycogen.

Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises improve cardiovascular fitness by raising a body’s heart rate to at least 60 percent of its maximum heart rate, which is 220 heartbeats per minute minus age, for at least two minutes. Improving cardiovascular fitness significantly requires 20 to 60 minutes of continuous aerobic exercises three to five days per week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Most people can’t do pushups for nearly that long. People in excellent physical condition can do pushups continuously for a few minutes without relying on glycogen, but most people must stop and rest long enough to get their breath back before exercising again. Aerobic exercises include bicycling, jogging, swimming, walking and several gym exercises such as aerobic dancing and using a stair-climbing machine.

Anaerobic Exercises

Anaerobic exercises are high in intensity, but last only for a few seconds to about two minutes. Throwing and hitting baseballs, shooting hockey pucks and hitting golf balls are anaerobic exercises. Aerobic exercises also qualify as anaerobic exercises when they’re so intense that they can’t be done for longer than two minutes. Consequently, sprinting while bicycling, running and swimming are anaerobic exercises. Strength-training exercises are the third kind of anaerobic exercises. They include weightlifting and resistance exercises such as pullups and pushups. The ACSM recommends doing about 10 repetitions of about 10 different exercises two or three days per week.


Choosing pushups as one of the eight to 10 strength-training exercises that you do regularly will make your arms, chest and shoulders stronger, according to the American Council on Exercise. The muscles that will be strengthened the most are the arms’ triceps, the chest’s pectorals and the shoulders’ anterior and medial deltoids. Other muscles that will be strengthened include the gluteus maximus, the posterior deltoids, the rotator cuff and a few abdominal muscles. The correct way to do a pushup is to lift your body off the floor with your arms as rapidly as possible via a quick burst and lower your body slowly. You should exhale when you lift your body and inhale when you lower it.

Other Benefits

Pushups help you lose weight during and after the exercise. People who weigh 155 pounds burn 563 calories per hour doing pushups vigorously and 317 calories per hour doing pushups moderately, according to Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Family Services. Heavier people burn more calories. You’re exercising vigorously when your heart rate is 70 to 84 percent of its maximum and moderately when it’s 50 to 69 percent of its maximum. One pound equals 3,500 calories. One hour of pushups requires several workouts, but pullups, situps and other calisthenics burn the same amount of calories. Pushups also help you lose weight throughout the day because people burn more calories while doing other exercises and everyday activities when they’re more muscular.