Ever Wanted to Do a 1-Arm Push-Up? Here Are Expert Tips to Nail It

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After seeing Brie Larson do a one-arm push-up, I was instantly intrigued. Regular push-ups are definitely challenging, but if you've ever wanted to put your upper-body strength to the limit, mastering a one-arm push-up is the way to go! This move sounds complicated, but it's all about balance. This is usually done by putting one arm in the center of your chest and the other behind your back to make a triangle shape with your body. Doing this puts all the focus on one arm at a time to give your muscles more of a challenge.

If you've never done this before — or you're part of the push-ups-on-your-knees camp — a one-arm push-up can sound super intimidating. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can practice to eventually master this move.

Master a Normal Push-Up First
Pexels | Karl Solano

Master a Normal Push-Up First

You can't run before you walk, and you can't nail the one-arm push-up before a regular push-up, according to Prince Brathwaite, an NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of Trooper Fitness. "Other than the single-arm strength it takes to do a one-arm push-up, one must have significant core strength/stability," Brathwaite said. "Doing exercises that build up intrinsic core strength will be key to building up to a single-arm push-up." These are the moves he told POPSUGAR to start with:

  • Staggered push-up: One arm elevated on a platform.
  • Archer push-up: Bending one arm during a push-up while the other arm remains straight at the elbow.
  • One-arm push-up on your knees.
  • One-arm push-up with your hand on an incline platform (for example, a bench) and feet on the ground.
  • One-arm push-up with resistance bands for assistance. Hang a band from a pull-up bar, and wrap it under your waist to help pull you up.
  • Negative one-arm push-up: Start on your toes, focusing on a slow eccentric descent, then modify to a one-arm knee push-up to get back up.
Build Upper-Body Strength
Unsplash | Victor Freitas

Build Upper-Body Strength

Rob Sulaver, CPT, CSCS, founding trainer at Rumble Boxing in New York City, said to keep in mind the strength it requires to do a one-arm push-up. "We use about two-thirds of our bodyweight when doing a push-up from our toes," Sulaver told POPSUGAR. "So the real trick to being able to do a one-arm push-up is to be able to single-arm press at least 66 percent of your bodyweight."

After you're able to press that much weight, your journey toward being able to do a one-arm push-up is that much easier. Sulaver recommends building your upper-body strength with bench pressing on an incline and a decline and flat pressing with a barbell, dumbbells, or a machine. Using cable flies and dumbbell flies will also help, as well as doing push-up variations. "It takes a bit of practice to get the balance right, but with enough strength and a proper setup, a one-arm push-up isn't nearly as intimidating," he said.

Work on Wrist and Shoulder Strength
Pexels | Andrea Piacquadio

Work on Wrist and Shoulder Strength

While your arms, chest, and back are the most important parts of a one-arm push-up, you also can't do this move without proper wrist and shoulder strength and flexibility. Brett Durney, personal trainer and cofounder of Fitness Lab, recommends that you do a lot of shoulder stability and wrist strength exercises in your daily practice. "Practically all of your bodyweight will be going through your wrists, so it's important to ensure that they are mobile and strong," Durney told POPSUGAR.

Here are his tips to build strength and flexibility in these areas:

  • Learn a range of shoulder stability exercises such as external rotations, kettlebell shoulder rotations, and banded internal rotations to support your efforts.
  • Learn and implement a number of core strength and stability exercises, as these will directly affect your efforts. Ab roll-outs, 8-point planks, and hanging knee raises are all good options.
  • Build wrist strength and mobility by doing planks and wrist curls.
  • Complement the movement with other exercises such as single-arm dumbbell presses and single-arm shoulder presses.
  • Learn the difference between strength and endurance training. Ensure strength protocols are baked into your training routine.
Perfect Your Form on a Wall
Getty | Matt Dutile

Perfect Your Form on a Wall

Jessica Jones, an NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness expert at FitRated.com, emphasized that having good form is key to being able to do a one-arm push-up. "One of the most common form mistakes in push-ups in general is trying to feel the work in the arms," Jones told POPSUGAR. "It's your chest and shoulders that should be doing the work, so be mindful of the feeling of your shoulder blades squeezing together with each descent."

Jones recommends perfecting your push-up form on a wall before you hit the floor. Begin by placing both hands shoulder-width apart on the wall, and start pushing up from the wall. Once you've got a feel for the technique, you can go to the floor and mimic the same movements in plank position."Now that you've internalized the form for the shoulders and pecs, you can place focus on keeping your body from sagging and ensuring your arms aren't flaring out to the sides," Jones said.

When you're feeling ready to try one arm, Jones suggests you work toward this step on the ground at your own pace. The best way to do this is to keep one arm close to your body and slowly move the other one away from your side with each push-up. Remember, you aren't removing your arm entirely out of the way yet.

But when you feel like you're ready to try a true one-arm push-up, Jones recommends you try performing it on a wall first. "Move one arm out to the side until you eventually remove it from the wall entirely," Jones said. "Once you feel comfortable with this, perform the same routine on the floor in plank position."