The One Arm Push-Up

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
January 21, 2016

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Video By Brendan Meyers

No self-respecting training montage is complete without one-arm push-ups. The hero isn’t going to rise up and defeat their enemy with a boring old standard push-up. That’s for sidekicks, and their montages are decidedly much less cool.

One-arm push-ups are for those who want to go twelve rounds with the champ, or be just as bad as the boys.

They can also be used to show the academy you’ve still got it.

The muscles involved in a one-arm push-up are, for the most part, the same as those involved in a standard push-up. They work the chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and to a lesser extent, trapezius, rhomboids, teres major/minor, and infraspinatus.

But the cool thing about the one-arm push-up is that it involves a lot more stability and core movement. So while you still get the same tension in your chest, shoulders and triceps, your abs are in the mix a lot more, making it a more complete upper-body workout.

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Video By Corey Hall

You’re also going to get a lot more balance with a one-arm push-up and, unlike its bi-armed counterpart, you won’t be able to shift your weight in a way that will put more strain on your dominant arm.

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See, your arms doing standard push-ups are like tenth graders in a group project: one is always going to end up doing more work than the other. You can try to balance the load as much as you want, but at the end of the day, the stronger one is doing the bulk of the assignment.

One-arm pushups solves this problem by separating the two and forcing the weaker one to do its share of the work if it’s going to have any hope of passing this class.

There’s no way around it, it’s a tough exercise. Even those that frequently work out have trouble with them. They’re not really something you can jump right into.

They take good form and definitely some practice. But they can be a great bodyweight challenge and definitely a good way to shake things up in your workout. So if you’ve got the standard push-up down pat and want to give this classic calisthenics move a shot, here’s how you should go about it.


The one arm push-up is a highly demanding movement. Rushing into it can can win you a one way ticket to snap city. Here are some exercises you want to master before attempting the one arm push-up.

Regular Push-Ups

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Diamond Push-Ups

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Video By Hannibal For King

Assisted One Arm Push-Ups

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Video By Al Kavadlo

Beyond The One Arm Push-Up

And to give you something to work toward (and also just because it’s so damn cool looking), here’s Bruce Lee and his trademark two-finger push-up. (Do NOT try that without proper training. The end result is much less laughable than falling on your face at a sleepover.)

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1 Comment
  1. ShaneR

    A few suggestions for “Beyond The One-arm Push-ups”:

    -weighted; either hold a dumbbell in your free hand close to your chest, or wear a weighted vest
    -jump switch; on the last push, use enough force to “jump” yourself up high enough to switch hands, then keep going

    Either of these adds to the impressiveness of the feat, and of course to the effectiveness of the workout itself.

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