The One Arm One Leg Pushup

Part II: 11 Tips for Achieving the One-Arm One-Leg Push-Up

In Part One I explained that just like Nigel Tufnel’s amp that goes to eleven, more pushups aren’t always better. Sometimes, less is more and building up to the one-arm one-leg push-up (OAOLPU) is an excellent alternative to simply adding reps onto your push-up routine. It’s worthy challenge that will keep most people busy for a long time.

When people first attempt the one-arm one-leg push-up they either struggle to balance in the starting position or when they descend to the first sticking point they lose it and hit the pavement like a bag of wet cement.  Achieving your first legit rep is a lot more involved than simply doing pushups and lifting an arm and a leg.

Eleven Tips For Conquering The One-Arm One-Leg Push-Up (This list goes to eleven)

  1. Get Stronger Abs: develop a stronger midsection and the ability the maintain a strong contraction while breathing for up to 15 to 30-seconds.  Exercises like traditional planks, crunches and sit-ups simply won’t cut it.  You’ll need advanced and much harder ab work to get the job done such as mastering the gymnasts’ hollow position.
  2. Learn the Set-Up: learn how to hold a strong isometric contraction in the starting position. The setup for the OAOLPU requires very precise hand and foot placement as well as shoulder positioning, grip and power-breathing.
  3. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Learn how to hold a strong isometric contraction at your sticking point(s) while breathing. Then, find ways to make the sticking points even harder such as elevating your feet.
  4. Hinge & Wedge: Learn how to press from a strongly contracted lat while maintaining a packed and stabile shoulder. No shrugging allowed. This involves learning hinge at the hips toward the pressing arm in such a way that your upper arm is wedged against your torso.
  5. Start with The One-Arm Pushup: Avoid the one-arm, twisty, side-press exercise made popular in the Rocky movies, it’s too easy and won’t help you conquer the one legged version. The strict one-arm push-up requires your chest to remain parallel to the floor throughout and to touch the opposite shoulder to the floor before press back to the starting position.
  6. Know Your Angles: It may take some time to learn the proper body angles while descending and pressing. Imagine laying atop a table that is balancing on two legs; your loaded hand and foot are the two remaining legs of the table. Distribute your bodyweight so that it approaches perpendicular to line between your loaded arm and foot.
  7. Make Some Noise:  If you watch a StrongFirst SFB (Bodyweight Instructor) perform the One-Arm One-Leg Push-up you’ll hear an audible hissing noise that is the unavoidable result of high pressure breathing. Through specialized power-breathing techniques you can manipulate intra-abdominal pressure. The change in intra-abdominal pressure will trigger certain reflexes that you can then use to your advantage during the hardest parts of the movement.
  8. Pump The Brakes: Learn to use tension like the brakes on your car. Just as you need to use your car’s brakes the most while going down a steep hill and less when traveling uphill the same is true for the OAOLPU. Use too little tension during the descent and you’ll crash, use too much tension during the press and you’ll be driving with the parking brake on.  You must develop a feel for how to appropriately dial the tension up and down at the right times to provide just the enough tension to be helpful.
  9. Your Vector Matters: One common mistake is pushing down and away from yourself at an angle instead of directly down through the floor. You can get away with poor angles with both arms and feet on the floor, but the angle you direct your force requires more precision as you remove bases of support.If you do not push straight down, you will be wasting precious energy and making a hard technique unnecessarily harder.
  10. Be a Cheater: Learn to cheat the one arm or one-legged version in variety of ways. Utilize regressions such as performing the one-arm-one-leg push-up with your hand on an elevation such as a counter-top. Over time master the technique on lower and lower elevations such as a park bench, stair case or curb before progressing to the version on the floor.  Other ways to cheat include wearing a belt and having a partner pull up on it to help you through your sticking point or placing an object under your stomach, chest or hips to practice partial reps.
  11. Get a Good Coach: Hire someone who has already achieved the technique to coach you through it. A good coach has failed more times than you’ve imagined trying and will can accelerate your learning process by spending time on what matters, avoiding unnecessary mistakes and identifying things only an expert can. Who could possibly be more qualified than the man who literally wrote the book on the One-Arm One-Leg Push-Up, Pavel Tsatsouline. If you can’t afford Pavel’s coaching or can’t make it to workshop/cert he’s teaching personally look up someone like myself who has complete his SBS or SFB Bodyweight Strength Instructor Certification at StrongFirst.com and check out his book “The Naked Warrior” that covers OAOLPU progressions in great detail.

So… what are you waiting for? If you’ve healthy shoulders and solid mastery of push-ups this challenge is definitely for you. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding, can be done anywhere.

Coming Soon

Part III: Vitamin J, Kelp Juice and the One Arm One-Leg Push-Up Training Plan

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