The One Arm Pushup

The one arm push-up is a classic bad-ass feat of strength. Master this one and you’ll not only impress your friends at parties, but more importantly, build monstrous strength in the process.

Big muscles are not necessarily the key to performing body-weight feats of strength–you need look no further than my 165 pound frame for evidence of that. The key is core strength and total body control.

It’s hard to get a consensus on what counts as the definitive one arm push-up. There are different variations, and like all other feats of strength from the pull-up to the human flag, everyone has their own opinion.
How Low Can You Go?
I like to go low on push-ups and I’ve even heard of trainers insisting that clients touch their chest to the ground on every rep. Other times I see trainers letting clients get away with only lowering themselves one or two inches. There needs to be a middle ground! You won’t benefit much from doing a one inch push-up but many people cannot maintain safe form while going chest to the floor.

I believe that the ideal range in somewhere between 90-110 degrees of flexion as measured along the OUTSIDE of the elbow, depending on the mobility of the individual. If you aren’t sure how low you are getting, have someone else watch you. Sometimes it’s hard to feel how your body looks when you exercise. People often think they are going lower than they actually are. I know–I was once one of them! In order for me to count a rep in any sort of competitive situation, I would need to see a minimum of 90 degrees of flexion.

Elbow in or out?
There are different ways to position your body when you do a one arm push-up. You can put your feet wide, you can put your feet narrow; you can put your arm out or keep your arm in. Most people will find keeping their legs in a narrower stance to be more of a challenge. Keeping the elbow in can be more difficult for some people as well, as it shifts the emphasis from the chest onto to the front delts and triceps. I don’t care which way you do them as long as you maintain control and keep your body straight (or mostly straight, a little rotation is unavoidable).

More Than Just One Arm
A strong midsection helps to get your whole body to work together. You also need to think about your opposite leg; If you are doing a one arm push-up on your right arm, your left leg needs to be engaged and vice versa. I find it best to practice keeping my whole body tight during the entire range of motion.

Progressing Towards A One Arm Push-up
Obviously you should have the strength to perform many two armed push-ups (at least 30 or 40 consecutively) before you even think about trying a one arm push-up. It’s also helpful to practice other push-up variations.

Another way to practice the technique for a one arm push-up is to perform it up on an angle using a bench or bar that’s a few feet from the ground. As you get stronger, you can lower the angle – eventually you’re on the ground!

…And Beyond
There’s a lot of new challenges that lie ahead once you get the hang of the one arm push-up, like plyometric one arm push-ups, one arm push-ups on a medicine ball and the one arm/one leg push-up. With so many ways to vary this classic, you can always keep your workouts fresh and challenging!

Note: Check out my new one arm push-up training tutorial for more info on this exercise.

16 thoughts on “The One Arm Pushup

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  • By iawia003 -

    i like ur blog ! sorry to say that i cant watch the link on bad-ass.your know, all youtube vedios , are unaccessable to Chinese netizens…Government did that..
    So, wat i am asking for is that could you explain what bad-ass means? you know, i am not a native speaker, many phrases are obscure to me .Thanks !!!!!!

  • By Al Kavadlo -

    Thanks – glad you like the blog! Too bad you can't see the videos, though. “Bad-ass” is just a slang for a tough guy.

    • By Ascendant -

      Hey Al, just wanna say much respect on your skills and sharing your knowledge, you’re very inspirational.  Quick question–I can do about a dozen or so proper form one-arm pushups, how many reps should I be able to execute before going plyometric with it (or trying other advanced variations)?

      • By Al Kavadlo -

        Thanks!  If you’re doing 10+ one arm push-ups in one set with good form then you are definitely ready for some plyos!

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  • By Blah -

    Hey Al, love your blog,
    I can now do a few one armed push-ups per arm but as I get down low into them my back starts clicking and cracking like crazy (back and shoulders really). Its not a grinding sound and it doesn’t cause me any pain but I was wondering if this is normal and if I should keep going, or if its serious and I should stop?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks! A little crackle or two isn’t necessarily an issue if there is no pain associated with it, but “cracking like crazy” might be cause for concern. Maybe lay off them until those areas get a bit stronger or find someone who can assess your situation in person.

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  • By Ty -

    Even though it might be more stressful, wouldn’t getting maximal flexion in the elbow require the strongest triceps? Makes me wonder if we did this gripping a bar and could dip the elbow lower than the hand or something like that.

  • By Ty -

    Even though it might be more stressful, wouldn’t getting maximal flexion in the elbow require the strongest triceps? Makes me wonder if we did this gripping a bar and could dip the elbow lower than the hand or something like that.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Yeah I’ve done them on parallettes in order to get extra low.  There are many possibilities!

  • By Zak -

    How many one arm push ups can you do it bro?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Depends on how wide I position my feet.  With a fairly wide stance I can get 20 on each arm but with a narrow stance I can only get one!

      • By Zak -

        Im working on the one arm push ups for one year and i can do 12 on each arm,i discovered a way to increse the reps.if you what email me i will share my training with you!

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