The one-arm pushup is a show of Herculean strength. Even a gym monster that can bench 300 pounds is unlikely able to do a one-arm pushup, or any exercise involving a single limb for that matter. Do you want to show off to your friends, or show off to the kids and their moms at the park? Well, this is the exercise of all exercises that turns heads.
Why Master the One-Arm Pushup?
Why should you learn the one-arm pushup, or bother with bodyweight exercises at all? We can think of four reasons.
1. It’s a Different Way of Working Out
The first reason is that bodyweight training provides an alternative way of working out. If you feel like you need to switch things up in the gym, then stay at home for once and do an all-bodyweight workout. That is actually another thing about bodyweight exercises: you can do it anywhere anytime. You don’t need access to free weights, kettlebells, or machines.
The fact is you’re not always going to have access to a gym. What if you’re traveling with the family for the holidays? While most hotels have a gym, they’re often pretty crappy and only have a few cardio machines. What are you going to do then? While we are big advocates of weight training, we don’t believe you should be completely dependent on free weights for a good workout.
2. It Makes You Functionally Stronger
A 2008 study revealed that traditional strength training combined with bodyweight training increased strength more than traditional strength training alone. The group that performed both types of exercises increased strength by 11.6%, compared to 7.1% for the group that only lifted weights or used machines.
Bodyweight exercises also build core strength. This is especially true of the single-arm pushup, which requires those stabilizer muscles to keep your body steady and balanced on one arm. This is why someone that can bench an insanely heavy weight rarely can execute a one-arm pushup. They haven’t sufficiently developed their core and stabilizer strength.
Having immense core strength is especially vital for combat sports like boxing or MMA. It helps you execute strikes with precision and power.
3. You Build Muscle
Some people, though, are skeptical whether bodyweight exercises alone can build muscle. If that’s your worry, then we suggest you take a look at the physiques of male gymnasts. Most don’t lift weights and only do bodyweight training. Yet, many of them are absolutely ripped. Good examples include Olympic gymnasts and twins Paul and Morgan Hamm.
4. You Can Show Off
We don’t believe there is anything wrong with a little showmanship, especially if you worked hard to acquire the skill you’re showing off. Do a one-arm pushup at a park or at the gym, and people will be like “that is one strong buck,” “what a badass,” or “I wish I could do that.”
Aside from showing off your Kinobody-developed physique, you can also show off your equally impressive strength prowess.
6 Progression Steps for the One-Arm Pushup
Okay, let’s get to it. The steps below help you progress to a full one-arm pushup with your legs elevated on a bench, which ups the difficulty even more.
Step 1: Master the Regular Pushup
You’ll be surprised at how many people cannot execute even 10 regular pushups using proper form. You may or may not need work in this area depending on your current level of fitness. In any case, regular pushups should feel like a piece of cake before moving on to step 2.
Step 2: Master Regular Pushups on a Bench
Get good at regular pushups with your feet elevated on a bench, a chair, or some yoga stackable steps. Again, watch for good form and be sure your torso doesn’t sag. Elevating your feet targets more of the shoulders and upper chest.
Step 3: Side-to-Side Pushups
With side-to-side pushups, you shift your bodyweight towards one arm. This forces that arm to do most of the pushing. Once you get good at this, progress to side-to-side pushups with your feet elevated. You can shift your weight all the way to one side or just partially to adjust the difficulty.
Step 4: Medicine Ball Pushup
This step requires a medicine ball, though a basketball or soccer ball would suffice as well. Stretch the non-working arm all the way to the side while holding down the ball. This forces the other arm to do virtually all the work. The non-working arm, though, still supports your balance.
Step 5: Medicine Ball Pushup on a Bench
Once you can do six to 10-reps of medicine ball pushups for both arms, then progress to the same move while elevating your feet. You can make this step even more challenging by placing as little weight on the ball as possible. Instead of putting your whole hand on it, perhaps just place your fingers or the base of your palm.
Step 6: One-Arm Pushup
This is it. Once you mastered the previous steps, then you’re ready for the real deal. Start with regular single-arm pushups. Keep your feet spread, keep your chest square, and tighten your torso to prevent it from sagging. Once you have this down, then take a shot at a pushup with one hand while keeping your feet on a bench.
Side Note: keep in mind that one arm may progress more quickly than the other. Don’t fret if one arm is a step or two ahead of the other. Let each arm progress at its own pace.
Use Your Own Body as Resistance
We recommend going beyond the one-arm pushup. Other advanced bodyweight exercises you can challenge yourself with include the handstand pushup, pistols (one-legged squat), and the insanely difficult one-arm pullup.
If you’re a fan of advanced body calisthenics, then check out our Bodyweight Mastery Program. You’ll essentially learn how to use your own body as a gym. You can be in the middle of Antarctica or the Saharan Desert and still have a way to train in accordance with Kinobody principles.
What’s so great about the one-arm pushup and other advanced bodyweight exercises is that they’re difficult enough where you can only get in about 5-6 reps. This makes it a nice companion as part of a low-volume resistance training.
Mix It Up with Weights and Bodyweight Exercises
We don’t believe in limiting yourself to a single way of training. While you may prefer bodyweight training over free weights or vice versa, a bit of novelty every now and then never hurts. Plus, by mastering the use of your body for exercise, you’ll never be dependent on gym equipment ever again.