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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.

Recommended Reading

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 >>

Did This Exercise Help YOU Master One-Arm Push Ups?

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    • Bendo13 profile image

      Ben Guinter 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Thanks getadateinfo! I hope you're pumping out the push ups soon... thanks for the vote!

    • getadateinfo profile image

      getadateinfo 6 years ago from Orlando

      Great Article - I should be impressing my kids with one arm push ups in no time. I voted it up for you.

    • Bendo13 profile image

      Ben Guinter 8 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      They are a great but difficult power move ,almurray... Just baby-step your way up and I'm sure you'll be able to conquer this exercise!

    • almurray profile image

      Alan Murray 8 years ago from Ipswich, United Kingdom

      When i have tried one arm push ups in the past it has always disappointed me and i have found it hard to motivate myself for more.

      I like to consider myself a fit guy with marathons, triathlons and an extensive history of weight training behind me. One arm push ups though destroy me.

      This Hub has given me some determination to get back to it.


    • Bendo13 profile image

      Ben Guinter 8 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Thanks David! Many more to come!

    • David R Bradley profile image

      David R Bradley 8 years ago from The Active Side of Infinity

      Great Hub! Power to You Comrade!

    • profile image

      kevin b heath 8 years ago

      I am a big believer in the 1apup... Try 'em on your knuckles, with a dumbell in your other hand.

    • Bendo13 profile image

      Ben Guinter 8 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Be careful jdigio; they take practice! I'm a little out of practice myself right now, I doubt I'd be able to do one either.

    • profile image

      jdigio 8 years ago

      I thought I'd be able to do at least one.

      Not even close!

      I can't even do half of one.

    • Bendo13 profile image

      Ben Guinter 8 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Yeah Steve, it's a hard exercise to jump right into.. but if you work your way into it, you'll master it before you know it.

    • profile image

      steve 8 years ago

      I first saw this exercise on a talk show on TV. The old cowboy from City Slickers was doing them and I thought No Way! I think he was like 70 or 80 years old! I got on the floor and fell on my face when I tried to copy him. Don't laugh if you haven't tried it. He did them a little differently than the Utube vid. He leaned a little so when he was using his left arm, his right shoulder was higher. This method means better balance and a more fluid motion, but it also uses different muscles and is harder to do. I do mine his way and I can do 4-6 on the floor. I figured out right away you have to start up against a wall, then get more horizontal a little at a time. I still use a wooden chair with a pad on it to get more reps. I find it harder to lower myself than to raise myself, so the pad cushions my chest if I fall.

    • skilled4methodz profile image

      skilled4methodz 9 years ago

      Interesting article. I've done some extensive reading that one can develop the strength to do one-handed pushups by utilizing partial or assisted repetitions. For example for partial repetitions you focus only on lowering yourself for at least 3 seconds. This emphasises the eccentric phase which in turn will let your body to recruit more muscle fibres which results in strength gains. As for assisted repetitions you get a partner to pull you up during the concentric phase or when you rise up.

    • lifestar profile image

      lifestar 10 years ago from New York

      Nice article. Yeah I can't tell you how difficult these are for me. Nearly next to impossible. Great tips on modifying very helpful