How to Progress to One Arm Pushups

by Katie Duzan

About Katie Duzan

Work for WRG on projects such as eHow and Livestrong. Really enjoyed the livestrong project, but contract ended, so I would love to pick back up on sports-related writing. I also love writing about autism, as it is so close to my heart and I am learning so much about it myself.{{}}


One-arm pushups are one of the ultimate indicators of toughness and strength. Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky" showed his strength and stamina by performing these challenging pushups. The maneuver is extremely difficult, and requires both upper body strength and balance. In order to perform this pushup, you need to progress through several steps, taking the time to master each one to build up to a one-arm pushup.

Step 1

Lay down flat on your stomach with your hands facing forward and push up until your arms are straight and you are balanced on your toes. Keep your body completely straight, making sure not to bed at the waist. Hold the position for 20 seconds to complete one set. Once you can do three sets consecutively, continue to the next step.

Step 2

Master a regular pushup. To do a full pushup, start on your belly like in plank position, and lift yourself to the top of plank position, keeping your body completely straight in the process. Slowly lower yourself back until you almost touch the ground. Lift yourself back up again. That is one repetition. Perform 20 repetitions to complete a set. Once you can do three sets with little rest between sets, move on to the next progression to achieve one-arm pushups.

Step 3

Move your hands in closer. Position your hands so that your index fingers and thumbs come together to make a diamond. Do your pushups with your hands in this position. Continue working on this exercise until you can complete three sets with 20 repetitions each.

Step 4

Switch to a raised one-arm pushup. Using a bench, desk, counter or some other raised, flat surface balance yourself in an elevated pushup position using only one hand. Put your other hand behind your back so you're not tempted to use it to help. Complete one-arm pushups on this elevated surface, and when they get easy, switch to a lower surface to increase the difficulty. Again, 20 repetitions make a set, and you should be able to perform three sets in a row with only short rests between them before moving forward to the next exercise.

Step 5

Try one-arm assisted pushups. To do an assisted pushup, start out in regular pushup position, but with one arm elevated on a basketball or medicine ball. Continue performing these one-arm assisted pushups until you can do three sets of 20 repetitions each.

Step 6

Do typewriter pushups. Begin typewriter pushups with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. As you lower yourself toward the ground, shift your body weight over one hand. Lift up to the starting position, then lower yourself over the other hand on the next lowering. Once you can do three sets of 20 typewriter pushups, move on.

Step 7

Do one-arm pushups. After you've progressed through all the exercises to prepare you and build your strength for one-arm pushups, you are ready to try the full exercise out. Start in the same way you start a regular pushup with one hand behind your back. If you try one-arm pushups and aren't successful, repeat the progressive exercises until you have built up your strength to complete the one-arm pushups.

Items you will need

  • Basketball
  • Medicine ball
  • Bench
  • Desk

Photo Credits:

  • basketball image by Kimberly Reinick from

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or