|When you push up on an object, are you creating thermal energy or does that only occur when something does work on you?
When you lift a heavy object, you do work on that object. After all, you exert an upward force on it and it moves in the direction of that force. However your muscles are inefficient and you consume more food energy (calories) during the lifting process than you actually transfer to the heavy object. Whatever energy you consume that doesn't go into the object remains in you as thermal energy. Any time you tighten your muscles, whether you do work on something, it does work on you, or neither does work on the other, you end up wasting some food energy as thermal energy.