The One-Arm Push-Up

The One-Arm Push-Up (OAPU), to me, was something out of bodyweight training folklore. An impressive movement limited to the very strong.

Though, finding myself without a goal, little equipment to work with and some inspiration from Rocky, I gave it a shot.

The plan

Four weeks was the time-frame to achieve 5 OAPU’s per side. I worked for three days and had every fourth day off. I saw the movement as a skill. The more frequently trained, the better. I lowered the volume because of the high frequency.

Day 1 –

  • Diamond push-ups: 3 sets x 8 repetitions
  • Inverted rows: 3 x 8
  • Hollow body hold: 3 x 30s

Day 2 –

  • Biased push-ups: 3 x 6
  • Inverted rows: 3 x 8
  • Hollow body hold: 3 x 30s

Day 3 –

  • Elevated eccentric push-ups: 3 x 5
  • Inverted rows: 3 x 8
  • Hollow body hold: 3 x 30s

Day 4 –

  • Rest

The inverted row and hollow body hold were included for shoulder balance and core strengthening. The OAPU is an upper body dominant movement. But it still needs core stability to be done well.

Image result for rocky one arm push-up


I kicked things off with a test. I couldn’t do the movement from the floor – unless free-falling onto my face counts – though I was able to complete the push-up in an elevated position, with my hand on a chair.

Using a combination of resources (see below) and intuition, I attacked the push-up, progressing as often as I could. Once I was comfortable with diamond push-ups I raised one hand onto a block to bias one side. I began doing elevated eccentric push-ups with a 3-second decent through half-range. As I improved, I worked up to 5 seconds through the full range at ground level.

As for the biased push-up, I experimented with variations. I found most benefit with having one hand on an elevated surface to reduce its contribution to the movement.

I re-tested at the half-way mark and was able to do a OAPU from an elevated surface. The height was about half of the chair I used when doing the initial testing. I progressed the row and hold. I widened my grip for the row and increased the hold to 45-seconds.

Key points

  • When working on single-arm variations, keep the working arm and elbow tucked into your side to get the lats involved. There should be no gap between your upper arm and ribcage.
  • Focus on whole body tightness. Maintain a hollow body posture throughout. It’s much easier to move a single unit then several different parts.
  • Allow the hips and feet to pivot with the movement. Your upper body should be perpendicular to the floor not parallel.

Common mistake

You don’t need to be able to do a mountain of regular push-ups (RPU) before working on the one-arm variation. If you can do twelve RPU’s, that’s enough.

Moving forward

I achieved my goal with one day to spare. I consolidated the movement over the next few weeks. I reduced the rep range to 3 x 3 OAPU’s and focussed on good form.

For now, the OAPU is on maintenance. I’m not boldly pursuing progression and I’m happy with small improvements. Narrowing the width of my feet (the narrower the stance, the harder the movement), for instance

Progressing the OAPU

The most challenging iteration is with feet together, like in a RPU. You can also elevate the feet, add weight or progress to plyometric variations.

If you would like help with doing your first OAPU, get in touch. Or, if you have any tips, strategies or questions, please leave them in the comments section below.



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