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Here are my back-of-the-envelope calculations. I account only for the energy expended in pulling your body mass up.

Say you are 70kg (approx 155lbs) and a pull up raises your mass up by 60cm (approx 2ft).

Then one pull up increases your gravitational potential energy by m × g × h = 70 × 9.81 × 0.6 = 412.02 Joules, which is very nearly 0.1 kcal.

Of course, the human body is inefficient. If its efficiency is 10%, then one pull-up would burn about 1 kcal. If its efficiency is 20%, then one pull-up burns 0.5 kcal. 10% and 20% are some of the numbers I have seen on some webpages.

Does anyone have a more precise account of this?

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Hmmm.........interesting. Looking forward to the answers. –  Kneel-Before-ZOD Aug 13 '14 at 4:02
It depends on the exercise and the person. For example, cycling (as measured through expirometry) is about 25% efficient. And, a well trained person that can go up and down without jerking around will be more efficient than someone who has to wriggle and buck to do a pullup. –  JohnP Aug 13 '14 at 14:45
Another thing is that your body is inclined so one must consider the raise in the center of mass (which would be less than 2 feet) rather than raise in the shoulder height. –  claws Aug 13 '14 at 21:16
+1 for applying conservation of energy :) –  half-pass Aug 17 '14 at 22:17

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