Handstands and pushups fall into the category of high-intensity resistance training. They burn a large number of calories in a short period of time. But when it comes to using up calories, these exercises cannot be maintained for the same amount of time as steady-state cardiovascular activities. The number of calories expended during an exercise session involving handstands and pushups can be approximated, but an accurate total would depend on the time spent in handstand position, the number of pushups and the amount of rest between sets. In other words, it is not likely that you will ever know the answer exactly without a detailed personal experiment.
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Estimated Calorie Burn
The American Council on Exercise estimates that a 180-lb. person can burn a respectable 164 calories through 20 minutes of "Weight Training (Intense)," which includes handstands and pushups. However, if calorie expenditure is your exclusive goal, consider that a person of the same weight would expend 191 calories by jogging for 20 minutes and 313 calories through vigorous running at an 8:30 min/mile pace. The increase in caloric expenditure for cardiovascular activity is because the heart rate remains elevated over the entire time span. Conversely, when weight training -- no matter how intense -- there will inevitably be periods of rest in which caloric output slows.
Supersets & Circuits
Supersets are a series exercises performed back-to-back with no rest until after all of the exercises have been completed. Circuits are giant supersets. Create supersets that include pushups and handstands to up the intensity of your workout. Pushups and handstands focus on upper body strength and endurance. Try supersetting these exercises with high-intensity lower body exercises like squats or deadlifts to maximize the calories you expend in a single session. Cut down on your overall rest time and keep your heart rate elevated to introduce cardiovascular qualities to your weight training -- and increase the number of calories burned.
If the last time you did a handstand was 30 years ago in fourth-grade gymnastics, it is not the appropriate exercise to begin your foray into high-intensity strength training. A safer choice, one that similarly trains the arms and deltoids, is the shoulder press. If you are new to or rusty at pushups, modify these by doing them from bent knees.
Put Your Pushups Into Action
If you like high-intensity training but want to branch out, take a boot camp class at a gym or rec center. The intense classes that are influenced by military boot camps may expose you to fresh moves that you can incorporate into your own supersets and circuits. A boot camp class may encourage you to move quickly from one exercise to the next, maximizing the overall calorie expenditure for your efforts.