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Burning Calories With Steve Molella

Nadia Azar  /  UPDATED Aug 30, 2022

Drummer Lab is a series that follows Nadia Azar’s kinesiology research on some of your favorite drummers.

How many Calories does Steve Molella burn during a show with Finger Eleven?

After I finished analyzing the data I collected on Tim Alexander and Brann Dailor, I was really happy with how my energy expenditure monitors were performing. I was getting pretty consistent readings on each of the drummers from night to night, and although I can’t directly compare my data to those reported in earlier research studies1,2, my data were matching up nicely with theirs.

The average rate of energy expenditure across all six of my participants was about 10 Cal/min. By comparison, Romero et al.1 (5 drummers) and De La Rue et al.2  (14 drummers) reported average rates of energy expenditure of about 9 Cal/min and 10 Cal/min, respectively. So, even though direct comparisons between the three studies aren’t appropriate, at least I was in the same ballpark.

This was great to see, but a sample size of six drummers is pretty small to be looking for trends or making judgments. I already had a few more drummers lined up to be in the study, but I decided that I wanted another source of data to enhance my analyses. The gold standard for monitoring energy expenditure is indirect calorimetry, but even portable units would be bulky enough to be a nuisance for drummers during a live performance. So, I decided to add a heart rate (HR) monitor to the study protocol. This would allow me to estimate the intensity levels associated with playing the drums using the Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)3

Next up in the DRUMMER Lab is Steve Molella. Steve is a producer based in Toronto, Canada, and is currently drumming for Finger Eleven. He had already agreed to wear the BodyMedia armbands during two live shows in July 2018, and he was good with adding the HR monitor, too. 

Set up photo by Dory Azar 1 e1572475139709

Here’s what we found:

At the first show, Finger Eleven played a 75-minute set, including 15 songs and a guitar solo (during which Steve came off the kit). Steve’s total energy expenditure was 750 Calories (including downtime between songs and James’ solo). “First Time”, “Quicksand”, and “Cake” (a song by the band’s original incarnation, The Rainbow Butt Monkeys) tied for most intense song (all ~12 Cal/min).

Typical resting heart rate (HR) for healthy adults ranges from 60-100 bpm4. Steve’s average HR during the show was 152 bpm, which represents 82 percent of his age-predicted maximum HR. The ACSM defines any activities that push your HR into this zone as “vigorous intensity” activities3. Steve spent 74 percent of the show in this zone, and another 19 percent in the “moderate intensity” zone. 

Molella Bar Chart Show 1

At the second show, Finger Eleven played a 79-minute set, including 15 songs and a guitar solo (Steve came off the kit). The band later came back on stage to play the last two songs with I MOTHER EARTH, which was super cool because Christian Tanna was also doing the study that day, so I got to monitor two drummers at the same time!

Molella Bar Chart Show 2

This time, Steve’s total energy expenditure was 814 Calories (including downtime between songs and James’ solo). “Living in a Dream” and “As Far As I Can Spit” (another Rainbow Butt Monkeys classic) tied for the most intense songs (both 12 Cal/min).

Steve’s average heart rate (HR) during the show was 157 bpm (84 percent of his age-predicted maximum HR). He spent 87 percent of the show in the “vigorous intensity” zone, and another 12 percent in the “moderate intensity” zone.

steve molella calorie table

So…compared to the first show, Steve burned more calories and spent more time in the “vigorous intensity” zone. However, remember that Christian Tanna was also doing the study that day, and his set was after Steve’s. I only have one HR monitor, so Steve’s HR numbers don’t include the last two songs, which might explain why his HR numbers are higher this time around. That, and the ambient temperature – both of Steve’s shows were outdoors, and it was a lot cooler at the show in Kincardine – may play a role.

The bottom line? Drumming is exercise, and drummers are athletes.

Top 3 takeaways:

  1. The average rate of energy expenditure of the drummers in this study is approximately 10 Cal/min, which is comparable to the rates reported in previous studies1,2.
  2. Steve burned an average of 10 Cal/min and spent more than 74 percent of the show in the “vigorous intensity”3 activity zone (based on HR) at both shows.
  3. Drummers are athletes.


  1. Romero BR, Coburn JW, Brown LE, Galpin AJ. Metabolic demands of heavy metal drumming. International Journal of Kinesiology & Sports Science. 2016 July; 4(3): 32-36. 
  2. De La Rue SE, Draper SB, Potter CR, Smith MS. Energy expenditure in rock/pop drumming. International Journal of Sport Medicine. 2013 Oct; 34(10): 868-872.
  3. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (10th Ed). 2018. Deborah Riebe, Jonathan K. Ehrman, Gary Liguori, Meir Magal (eds.). Wolters Kluwer Health, Philadelphia, PA, 472 pp.
  4. Solan M. Your resting heart rate can reflect your current – and future – health. Boston, MA: Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Posted 2016 June 17, updated 2019 February 6 [cited 2019 October 15]. Available from:

Photo credit: Dory Azar

Nadia Azar Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Windsor, where she runs the Drummer Mechanics and Ergonomics Research Laboratory (DRUMMER Lab). Follow Nadia at @DrNadiaAzar or learn more here.

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