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How To Master One-Arm Push Ups - Part 1

Updated on February 25, 2014

I'm sure that you can do a good amount of "normal", two-handed push ups, but how many one-arm push ups can you do?

This body weight exercise is a true test of strength and isn't the easiest movement to learn. My chest definitely isn't the strongest part of my body, so this took a while to build up to.

If something's next to impossible for you to complete, then you usually aren't that motivated to keep trying it after a while. But if an old Sylvester Stallone can do them, even though he was taking human growth hormone, then you can too. I'd hope that you'd attempt these naturally though.

Don't give up on these just yet; let me help you out a little.

One-Arm Push up Basics

First let's go over the basics...

  • Get into a normal push up position with both hands on the ground.
  • Make sure that you're on the balls of your feet and not up on your toes.
  • Now spread your legs a little wider than you would for a normal push up. I find it a little easier to keep the leg that's on the same side of your body that your supporting arm is on a little straighter. So if you're going to start out with doing your push ups on your right arm, then keep your right leg in the normal pushup position but move your left leg a wider. This will help balance your weight better.
  • Now you'll want to stiffen your body and take your one hand off the ground and put it behind your back.
  • As you do your push ups, your chest will almost touch the ground and your shoulders should stay level.
  • Keep your face straight down and spread your fingers wide on the floor, your middle finger should be straight forward. You want to try to keep most of the weight on the outside of your palm; the pinky side. You want to try to almost grip the floor as you do them.
  • Keep your body tense! Tighten your abs and you can squeeze a tight fist with the arm that's behind your back.

If you want to see the movement in motion, check out the video on the right.

These are pretty hard aren't they? I had a difficult time with them from the start. If you can do them already, then my hat's off to you, but I wasn't wearing one to begin with.

Check out a book called The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline for a lot more tips and techniques on mastering this strength move. I just got done reading it myself a couple months ago and it's helped me a lot.

Let's move onto an easier way to work up to the dreaded one-arm push up.

Reverse Elevated One-Arm Push ups

Alright, get warmed up first before you get ready to try some reverse elevated one-arm push ups. If I were you, I wouldn't jump right into trying to do one-arm push ups from the floor; you'll probably end up pretty disappointed.

You can actually start out doing them by standing a bit away from a wall and leaning onto it. Put your hand on the wall and learn the basic movement. Get in the same position I outlined earlier and just push off the wall. You can stand farther and farther back to make them harder.

Once these are easy for you, you can move onto doing them with your hand on something that's about 2 feet off the ground. When I did these, I just used a step. You'll just have to be sure that you don't hit your face on the other steps above it.

You'll be doing the same exact movement as a normal one-arm push up, these will just be easier. This angle will focus more of your weight toward your feet and less onto your hand. As you get stronger you can do them on a block, step or box that's only a foot off the ground. Eventually you'll work toward doing them on flat ground.

Go down until your chest is close to touching whatever your hand is up on. I find it a little easier to put your free hand on your hip instead of behind your back. Grip tight on your side to help keep the rest of your body tense.

I did these 4 days a week when I started out for 5 sets of 3 for each arm. Don't be afraid to give yourself extra rest in between sets, this is still a hard exercise.

Don't expect to "master" this movement right away; take baby steps. That's why I said to start with pushing off the wall first if you need to. These really will help you out a lot, because after doing reverse elevated one-arm push ups for a week straight I was able to do a single rep on each arm without the use of a step!

Hopefully this technique will help you on your way to completing full one-arm push up reps on the flat ground.

>> Continue Reading Part 2 - Isometric One-Arm Push Ups >>


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