One Arm Push-up Training

Single limb exercises are a great way to add a challenge to your calisthenics regimen. Along with the pistol squat and the one arm pull-up, the one arm push-up rounds out the trifecta of isolateral bodyweight exercises.

While a certain amount of asymmetry might be unavoidable (a right handed person is almost always going to be right dominant), training movements like the one arm push-up can go a long way towards building a strong, balanced body.

Triangle Tango
It’s important to note that the form of a one arm push-up is a bit different than the standard two arm variation. Your legs will likely need to be a bit wider than a regular push-up position and your hand should be directly under your body, rather than off to the side. The three points of contact with the ground (foot, foot, hand) will make a triangular formation. Very strong individuals may be able to keep their feet a bit closer together. The ultimate one arm push-up is performed with the feet touching.

Incline One Arm Push-up
Like any other difficult bodyweight exercise, a great way to work towards a full one arm push-up is to practice using a position where you will have better leverage, thus making the movement a bit easier. The best way to do this with the one arm push-up is by practicing on an inclined surface, such as a rail or bench.

Self-Assisted One Arm Push-up
Using your secondary arm to spot your primary pushing arm is another tried and true method for perfecting the one arm push-up. This can be done by resting your opposite arm on a brick, medicine ball or other nearby, slightly elevated object.

L7 Diamond Push-up
Another type of self-assisted one arm push-up is what I call the “L7″ push-up. This variation is similar to a diamond push-up, except one arm will rest on the back of the hand instead of the palm (when done with the right hand turned over, your fingers will look like the letter “L” and the number “7″). Since having a lot of weight on the backs of the hands can be uncomfortable, this variation forces you to push more with the opposite side.

Negative One Arm Push-up
Slow, controlled negatives are another excellent technique for building to a full one arm push-up. With your feet spread apart, perform a diamond push-up, then take one hand off the floor and lower your chest to the ground as slowly as possible. Bring the second hand back in when you reach the bottom, perform another diamond push-up, then do a negative on the other side.

Pistol Position One Arm Push-up
This move isn’t much easier than a standard one arm push-up, but if you’re real close it could help put you over the top. Get into the bottom position of a pistol squat, then place the hand opposite your squatting leg flat on the ground. Lean over towards that hand, bringing your nose right to the floor and then press yourself back up. For a full body workout, try doing a pistol squat in between each push-up.


For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

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  • Feinguy

    Thank you so much for this Al! Your timing is impeccable
    as I have been desperately attempting to work up to these recently. *shakes hand*

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Right on, Feinguy!  There is never a bad time for one arm push-ups!

  • Dale

    Al, after some experimentation – and having to account for fussy shoulders – I’ve settled on the self-assisted one-armed pushup that you’ve illustrated. Candidly, my goal is somewhat daunting. I’m aiming for a close-stance, elbow-tucked OAP. It may take me forever to get it, but I love the stability the self-assisted version affords. And I can roughly quantify progression by very gradually moving the assisting hand away from my torso.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Good plan, Dale.  Keep training hard!

  • Anil

    Hey Al, thanks for showing all those variations of the one arm push up. All the explanations and demonstrations was very good as usual.  I keep reading and learning lots of information from your site and keep the working out fire inside me alive.  I will try to add this one into my working out regime..but well I think sometime later because I need more powerful arms for that :p

    By the way, do you think that, working on dimond push up would help improve dips?

    Thanks.

  • Jim Arkus

    Great article.  I’ve been meaning to get back into doing more frequent bodyweight stuff because all I’ve been doing is weightlifting 2-3 times a week for awhile now.  Maybe an article on mixing the two?

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Anil!  And yes, diamonds and dips are complimentary moves.  Keep training hard!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Get on it, Jim!  I’ll keep your suggestion in mind for a future post.

  • http://lovetotrain.com/ Amy @ lovetotrain

    i just discovered your site today via youtube… i can’t wait to go through all the articles ( well ALL might be a challenge.. so lets say.. as many as I can before I get restless in front on the computer!). Really informative and great approach to health and fitness! 1 arm pushups are one of my goals… so this post has been super helpful. thanks! amy

  • Belatrix

    Your OAP looks much nicer than mine. I find it hard to keep my balance unless I twist my upper body somewhat so that my arm is directly under my body. Any suggestions? 

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Amy!  There is a lot of content here so take your time – you don’t have to read it all today.  :)

    Keep training hard!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Belatrix!  I’ve been doing one arm push-ups for almost 10 years.  It takes time to get the form clean – keep practicing! 

  • Nunh

    Great advice and tips – thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/giancarlov1 Giancarlo Vinciguerra

    That last one armed one legged push- up is amazing Al!

  • http://www.facebook.com/giancarlov1 Giancarlo Vinciguerra

    That last one armed one legged push up is amazing Al!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    You’re welcome, Nunh!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Giancarlo!

  • Noel

    Great article. I love the L7 push-up! I’ve been doing the assisted push-up with the other hand on the top of an upright kettlebell so I won’t be able to push too hard with it but the L7 push-up is closer to the real thing. I also wanted to try some of Pavel’s “flipper” push-ups so it works towards that as well.

    For people with kids try practicing your one-armed push-ups while the little ones are playing in their kiddie pool. My sticking point is right where I meet the water so I use the buoyancy to assist me in the bottom part of the movement. My kids think I`m nuts of course…

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Noel!  And thanks for sharing your advice for the parents out there.  :)

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  • http://disqus.com Ty

    The Pistol position one is genius, I don’t think something like that occurred to me. Of course, sucking at the pistol might have something to do with it, lol.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    I actually got that move from Ido Portal.  If you don’t know who he is do a google search and prepare to be blown away.

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  • lorenzo

    L7 assisted pushups are pure genius! I’ve never thought about that! Thanks Al! I prefer to put my fingers facing the other hand, though!

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks, Lorenzo!  Feel free to vary these suggestions however you like.

  • Cyx

    Wow, I just discovered your site the other day and I am really impressed with all the cool body weight exercises you can do.  I must humbly disagree with you difficulty ranking system on this one, as I can do several reps of 1-arm push-ups on both sides but I cannot do any handstand push-ups without a wall.  Personally, I would’ve switched the two.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks for the compliment!  For the record, I am referring to a wall HSPU in my ranking system.  I agree that a  freestanding handstand push-up (FSHSPU) is MUCH harder than an OAP. 

  • Cyx

     Ah, that makes more sense.  I can do it with the wall, or with someone holding my legs, but I’m still working on the freestanding.  I’m hoping that I can master most(if not all) of the level 3 exercises by the end of the summer, and maybe even one or two of the level 4 by next wrestling season.  Thanks for the incredibly helpful site!

  • Mad Dog

    These are not 1 arm push ups. Can you do it feet together? The one arm one leg push up is definitely easier than the CC master step due to balance. According to my experience, if you don’t put your arm back, it helps not to twist the body so much. I keep it aside.

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    1. These are, in fact, one arm push-ups.
    2. Yes I can do a one arm push-up with my feet together.  I have another post with a video of this.  You should take a look around before you post obnoxious (and ignorant) comments.
    3. If you can do it so much better than me, how about you post a video?

  • Mad Dog

    Hi Al,
    yes, I checked it since that. Good job. Very few people can do it right. Grat. Do not take me wrong, I like what you do. About the position of the arm, it was just a suggestion. Did you try it? 

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Thanks.  You came off like a bit of a troll in your last commnet – glad to see that is not the case!  And yes, I’ve tried lots of different variations on the OAP – different arm positions, different leg positions, etc.

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  • Mad Dog

    Hi Al,

    last time you told me to send you a video. You can see it on the link below. It is me on the 1st and 3rd videos. Basically it is the third part of a trilogy concerning one arm push up. Sorry, it is Hungarian, but you can read it using Google translation. My OAP PR is 20. I hope you like it. And of course, I still like what you do. :)

    http://confidenceandpower.blogspot.hu/2012/08/teoretikus-egykezes-fekvotamasz-hogyan.html

  • http://www.AlKavadlo.com/ Al Kavadlo

    Looks like you are a pretty strong dude after all, Mad Dog! Perhaps the tone of your original message seemed rude more due to you being a non-native English speaker, as opposed to my first impression that you were simply being a jerk. I’m glad we made friends now! Keep up the good work!