I remember when I first saw a one arm pushup.
I was sitting at home at the age of 12 or so and what a VHS box set (yep, that’s how old I am) that my dad had down stairs in our entertainment room. From this young age is was one of the montage memories that got me interested in bodyweight training. Years later I now teach people how to execute one arm pushups, pull-ups and pistol squats for a living.
We don’t need a lot of equipment to build enough relative strength to get us through our day and fitness pursuits. Sure, if we want to lift heavy things off the ground we’re going to need a lot of heavy things to lift but if your aim is to move well, master your body and not spend hours in the gym the one arm pushup might just be for you.
So why would you want to learn the one arm pushup? Here’s three reasons:
- The one arm pushup allows you to progress the standard pushup using minimal to no equipment. Duh
- You are forced to focus on execution of form rather than reps
- To execute the one arm pushup well you need excellent shoulder mobility and stability
If you’re tired of endless HIIT workouts and jumping around your living room like a lunatic, focusing on bodyweight skills like the one arm pushup might just be the change in your training plan you need. By focusing on execution of form you can only practice the progressions to the point your form fades, which usually leave a few reps in the bank. It’s a skill you can practise over time without having the unnecessary pressure of instant progress bearing down on you and with an emphasis on mastery, it means you’re finally maturing as an athlete and not following the masses. So now you’re sold on the benefits of the one arm pushup, here’s how to tackle it.
Step 1: Elevated Pushups 2×20 – Elevated or incline pushups can be done starting against a wall to begin the pushup process. With a bench or TRX you must be able to maintain a stable mid section enabling a straight line between shoulders and ankles. Sucking your elbows in on a 50-75 degree angle will help you achieve depth in the pushup.
Step 2: Pushups 2×20 – For training towards a one arm pushup full depth of a pushup is achieved when the chest touches a tennis ball underneath the body or the floor (preference is the floor). This will help train a full range of motion. Feet should be kept together to reduce the stability of the movement to help development of trunk stability.
Step 3: Diamond Pushups 2×15 – During the diamond push-up the feet remain together and the eyes remain 30cm ahead of the body. The thumbs come into contact with each other and the elbows are sucked in beside the body. The diamond or tricep push-up helps develop the strength required with the hands being underneath the body during the one arm pushup.
Step 4: Uneven Pushups 2×15 – The uneven pushup starts to develop the push from the depth that is required for the one arm pushup. With one hand on a ball or higher surface and the other on the floor focus should be put in driving most of the energy through the hand on the ball or raised surface. Remember to corkscrew the elbow in on the way up on the elevated arm.
Step 5: Lever Pushups 2×10 – The feet remain spread, fingers are as wide as possible. The majority of the weight should be placed on the grounded arm during the course of the movement. When lowering down the other arm rolls out on a ball or alternate sliding surface away from the body. On the rise out of the bottom, corkscrew the elbow in and drive your palm through the floor.
Step 6: Elevated One Arm Pushup 5×5 – Start at a height where you can push out of the bottom of the movement. The unloaded arm now comes behind the back with the top of the hand pushing into the lower back. The lats remain connected sucking the shoulders to the hips. Maintaining a straight line between the shoulders and ankles is essential. The feet now spread wider to help the counter balance of the upper body. Pro tip: the foot on the unloaded side should come away from the body to help the balance the the loaded side should be about inline with the shoulder.
Step 7: One arm pushup – Spreading the fingers as wide as possible, with the feet placed in a stable position (see step 6 for pro tip) imagine sucking yourself to the floor. This cue will help encourage the shoulder and lat to stay connected to the body. On the drive out, force your palm through the floor and drive the floor away from yourself.