How Long Does it Take to Learn One-Arm Push Ups?

Ever wondered, “How Long Does it Take to Learn One-Arm Push Ups?”

We all know that progression is the name of the game.

However, certain bodyweight moves seem to be much harder to achieve.

The one-arm push up is an extremely difficult calisthenics move to perform.

But it’s something that most of us would love to be able to do.

So, let’s look at how long it takes to learn the famed one-arm push up.

Plus, I’ll provide you with some progression tips to hopefully get you there quicker.

How Long Does it Take to Learn One-Arm Push Ups?

It depends on your level of ability when you first start out. Some people can learn to do one-arm push ups within a few weeks, whereas others may take years. The majority of people who regularly perform bodyweight training typically take between 2-4 months to learn one-arm push ups.

Are You Learning The Right Type of One-Arm Push Up?

Sylvester Stallone - Rocky

The first time I saw someone performing one-arm push ups I was simply amazed.

But, looking back now, I was only a kid at the time, and they weren’t exactly done with great form.

I’m talking about Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky movie.

Okay, Sly has had a seriously impressive physique throughout his life, and even still as a senior.

However, when I watch the Rocky training montage nowadays, it seems like he’s performing some type of hybrid, plyo, twisting one-arm movement.

Admittedly, even doing this requires a great deal of strength, flexibility, and mobility, but it’s not a true one-arm push up in my book.

You can check out Sly’s “one-arm push ups” at 51 seconds on the following video.

What is the Correct One-Arm Push Up Form?

A Man Performing One-Arm Push Ups

From my research, and my own attempts at one-arm push ups, it appears the majority of people (myself included) aren’t using correct form.

For me, the perfect one-arm push up would involve an exact replica of the standard push up, while balancing on only one upper limb.

The vast majority of us tend to have an extremely wide foot position.

The wider the feet the easier the one-arm push up is.

There are those who advocate having your feet together in order to achieve a true one-arm push up.

However, this tends to bring in another form of “cheating”.

When your feet are together this causes the inevitable twist of the upper body and the hips.

So, the side of your body of the supporting arm will be a lot closer to the ground than the other side of the body.

Some people will be able to do one-arm push ups within a couple of weeks by adopting this “twist”, while also having their feet spread wide.

This may be deemed as acceptable for some, but not for me.

In fact, I would view this as one of the many progressions towards a perfect one-arm push up, but more on that in a moment.

So, the feet spread, hip-twisting variety is good, but you’re not quite there yet.

I believe that the feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, but the body should come down straight, as it would with a standard push up.

Once you’ve achieved this, you have learned the one-arm push up, and in my mind you’re a beast!

The Road to One-Arm Push Ups

I note that many people typically ask how many standard push ups they should be able to do before moving onto one-arm push ups.

Now while I agree that your push up game should be on-point before even attempting one-arm push ups, it’s not that simple.

There is no smooth transition from normal push ups to one-arm push ups.

So, you may be able to perform 60 perfect form push ups, but can’t even muster a single rep when it comes to the one-handed variety.

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Although, strength is a major factor, your mobility and flexibility also play a pivotal role.

For me, it was wrist flexibility that I needed to constantly work on.

A good test is to see if you can hold a barbell in the rack position, as you would when performing cleans or front squats.

If you’re unable to hold a bar in this position (or even a broom handle) then you’ll need to work on wrist and shoulder mobility first.

I would also say that being able to perform close-grip push ups is a much better precursor to one-arm push ups.

You should work towards having your hands closer-and-closer together until eventually your index fingers are touching.

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Only once you can complete 20-30 consecutive, strict-form, close-grip push ups are you ready to tackle one-arm push ups.

Remember to ensure that your elbows stay close to the body and don’t flare out to the sides.

The reason that close-grip push ups are ideal preparation is due to the similar hand position of one-arm push ups.

With one-arm push ups you’ll want your pushing hand directly below the body, as opposed to out to the side.

Practice Incline/Elevated One-Arm Push Ups

Once you’re able to do 20-30 close-grip push ups with perfect form you’re ready to move onto the next step.

Incline or elevated one-arm push ups are a great way to work on your balance and mobility, while reducing the amount of strength-work required to perform a rep.

Your hand should always be higher than your feet.

In order to make the incline one-arm push up harder you’ll want to lessen the angle of the body by placing your hand closer to the ground.

So, initially you should start out with your hand on a solid platform, such as a window ledge or mantelpiece.

To make the exercise harder, you perform the same move with your hand on a chair or bench.

In order to progress from here you’ll then place your hand on a platform that is 12 inches high, and so on.

Basically, the closer your hand is to the ground, the less angle created by your body, and the harder the exercise becomes.

Bruce Lee’s Two-Finger One-Arm Push Ups

The Progressions to One-Arm Push Ups

Doug Pruden - Most One-Arm Push Ups in a Minute World Record

I would class elevated one-arm push ups as skill work.

Basically, you’re learning how to balance and support yourself on one hand without really using much of your strength.

Obviously, you’ll start needing more strength the closer your hand gets to the ground.

However, much of the “strength work” you’ll do will be entirely on the ground.

The main way to learn one-arm push ups and progress is by using self-assisted one-arm push ups.

This will involve having your supporting arm either further ahead or much more out to the side.

A great example of this would be the archer push up.

As the name implies, your arms will be in a similar position to an archer holding a bow.

So, your pushing hand will be planted on the floor, arm bent at the elbow, which is kept close to the body.

Whereas your other arm will be “holding the front of the bow”, so your arm is straight and held out to the side.

You could also place your assisting arm on a slightly raised platform.

The idea here is to continue working on this technique, while learning to rely less-and-less on the assisting arm.

Eventually, you could have just the fingertips of your assisting arm on the floor, while your supporting arm bears the brunt of the work.

Progressions For You to Check Out

When it comes to bodyweight training, Al Kavadlo is pretty much “The Man”.

Al has covered pretty much everything I’ve mentioned here, plus he also moves onto negative one-arm push ups.

You can check out Al’s article, The One-Arm Push Up and Beyond.

I also really like Dan Jeong’s progressions to one-arm push ups, although I don’t completely agree with the numbers that he states.

That being said, if you’re regularly performing 75 reps of various “ arm out-the-side” push ups, you will definitely be building up the prerequisite strength, balance, and mobility for one-arm push ups.

Here’s Dan to run through his one-arm push up tutorial:

The “Ultimate” One-Arm Push Up Progression

I’ve recently reviewed The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics.

The program focuses on the “8 Fundamental Moves”.

These are the 8 moves you’ll need to learn in order to master just about any advanced calisthenics move.

And the one-arm push up happens to be one of the fundamental moves.

Program creator, Jeff Cowan, provides a step-by-step blueprint to achieve one-arm push ups.

He created The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics with the beginner and intermediate trainee in mind, so his progressions cover the most basic of exercises.

That being said, I love the way he lays out the progressions, and you’ll definitely be able to learn one-arm push ups within 2-3 months following his techniques.

Jeff’s progressions are:

  • Wall Push Up
  • Incline Push Up
  • Kneeling Push Up
  • Halfway Push Up
  • Normal Push Up
  • Elbows-in Push Up
  • Diamond Push Up
  • Wide-Grip Decline Push Up
  • Decline Diamond Push Up
  • Uneven Push Up
  • Uneven Lever Push Up
  • Wall One-Arm Incline Push Up
  • One-Arm Straddle Push Up
  • Half One-Arm Push Up
  • One-Arm Push Up
  • Decline One-Arm Push Up

To discover more about how to learn one-arm push ups, as well as the other “fundamental moves”, check out my review of The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics.

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