How To Do The One Arm Pull-Up

Strong man is doing a One Arm Pull-Up

Pulling yourself up with one arm is for, the majority of people, an impossible task. It requires you to have insane pulling strength. You need a lot of patience and dedication if you want to accomplish this power move. I can say this because I achieved the one-arm pull-up myself some time ago. In this post, I will cover the training method that I used and share some tips. So you can become a master at the one hand pull up too!

Explaining The One Arm Pull-Up

Before we cover the progressions and exercises, let’s break down the move. The main muscles you use in the one arm pull up are your lats and your biceps. Your core is just like any other calisthenics exercise also involved. To pull yourself up, you not only need insane pulling strength. Also, prepare your joints before doing this power-move. Do not expect your body to perform this move without any specific training. It takes time for your joints before they can handle such a tough move like this.

Before We Start With The One Arm Pull-Up

Okay, before you jump right in and try to pull yourself up. You need to be able to do at least 20 strict pull-ups. With correct form, I mean no kipping and no half repping. Chin over the bar and no cheating around. Please stick to these requirements. Your body needs time to prepare itself. You can get seriously injured when you start rushing things. Take it slow.

And, of course, this should be a no-brainer. Before every workout, do a proper warm-up. Loosen up your muscles and let your blood flow.

Let’s start!

One Arm Pull-Up Progressions 

If you passed the previous conditions, you are ready for the one hand pull-up. Let’s talk about progressions first. If you can do at least 15-20 pull-ups, you will probably be able to complete the first few progressions with ease. But, I recommend you still do them. These will prepare your body and joints for the real one arm pull-up.

#1 One arm scapula pull-ups

This first progression should not be a challenge. The one arm scapula pull up is more of an exercise to prepare your body and joints. It is also a good warming-up exercise.

To do this exercise, you start in a dead hang position. From here, you draw your scapula down, but without bending your arm. Hold this for a couple of seconds and let go. This exercise really shows you which muscles you need to engage when doing the one arm pull-up. Even though it is easy, you should not skip this exercise.  

#2 Archer Pull-Ups

The archer pull-up is a harder variation of the wide pull-up. You place your hands on the bar as wide as possible. From here, you pull your whole body up towards one hand. You use your other hand for assistance. Your chin must be over the bar to complete one repetition.

You can make this exercise more challenging by simply allying less assistance with your other hand. Grip the bar with only your fingers instead of your entire hand. If this exercise gets too comfortable, progress to the next progression.

#3 Band Assisted One Arm Pull-Ups

This progression is beneficial in achieving the one arm pull up. It got me from zero to two reps in a very short-term period. I really like to use resistance bands, because you can decide for yourself the difficulty of the exercise. If you need more resistance, go with a stronger resistance band. It is also a great method to track your progress. As you get stronger, you will decrease the assistance until you eventually can do it without a resistance band.

#4 One Arm Pull-up With Kipping

The last progression to a clean one-arm pull-up is to use momentum when pulling. Normally you should never use momentum when exercising. But, it is okay to kip here. That is because, over time, you will get stronger. Therefore your form will improve, and you will use less momentum. It just takes some time. You are really close to achieving the one arm pull up.

One Arm Pull-Up Exercises

Now we are done talking about the progressions. It is now time to cover some exercises to speed up the progress. I start with the easier exercise. The more you train this exercise, the more comfortable you will get with them.

Let’s start with the one arm dead hangs.

#1 One Arm Dead Hangs

This first exercise is really straightforward. Just hang with only one hand. It may sound easy. But as a matter of fact, it is much harder than you think. Believe me, try it. 

The goal of this exercise is to hang as long as possible. You will not only increase your hanging time, which is essential for the one arm pull up. But, it also strengthens your grip strength and your straight arm strength. 

At first, you may be struggling a bit when performing this exercise. However, by doing this exercise a couple of times a week and improvement will come in no time. To make this exercise more challenging, you can simply attach more weight on to you. The easiest way is to use a Weighted Vest.

#2 Resistance Band Assisted One Arm Pull-Ups

I already talked about this exercise. So I will not go into too much detail. Wrap a resistance band around the bar and grab with your non-pulling hand the rubber band. Pull yourself up you will notice that you will get assisted by the resistance band. Make the exercise harder by switching to a lighter band or changing the way you grip the resistance band.

Keep in mind not to choose a too strong resistance band. It can be comfortable. The exercise needs to be challenging.

#3 Negative One Arm Pull-Ups

If you want to learn a difficult skill, such as the handstand push-up or, in this case, the one arm pull up, doing the negative version of this specific exercise will be extremely useful. 

Grap the bar with your pulling hand. Jump up and hold yourself up for as long as possible, then lower yourself back to a one-arm dead hang. This motion should be slow and controlled. Jump back up and repeat this process.

#4 Half reps

The full one arm pull-up is probably too hard for you, otherwise, you would not be reading this blog post right now. So instead of the full range of motion, you only do half. This is much easier. After some time, this exercise will get easier, and you will be capable to complete a repetition with the full range of motion.

People who just started with training for this move will probably not be able to do this exercise. For those, I recommend focusing on easier exercises. 

#5 Train your back

Besides the above-mentioned exercises, training your back, in general, will also help to gain the strength to do the one-hand pull-up. Work out your back with different pull-up variations. I suggest you even implement weighted calisthenics, such as weighted pull-ups and chin-ups. 

#6 Bicep exercises

Just like the exercises for your back, you should also work on your bicep strength. Your bicep is the second most involved muscle when performing this move. Train your biceps to make the one arm pull-up easier. These exercises do not have to be calisthenics related. Just dumbell bicep curls are also a great exercise for the one arm pull up. Here is a great list with calisthenics biceps exercises.

Some Extra Tips & tricks

Grip strength: besides having a strong back and biceps, a strong grip will also ease you to pull yourself up. The more muscles you have in your wrists, the easier the one arm pull-up will be. I recommend you do some grip strengthen exercises to speed up the progress. Exercises like the one arm dead-hang are ideal for gaining more grip strength. Do a couple of these exercises at the end of your workout. You will see improvement in a matter of weeks.

Lower body fat percentage: this may sound a bit weird, but it is actually really logical if you think about it. The less fat you have to carry, the lighter you are. The lighter you are, the easier a bodyweight exercise gets. Therefore shredding yourself down to around 10% body fat will make the one arm pull-up much easier.

Frequency: how many times should you practice this one arm pull-up? I suggest you train this move 2-3 times a week. Do not overtrain this exercise. The one arm pull-up is an insanely difficult and intensive skill. Take some days off to give your back and bicep muscles rest. Rest is just as important as exercising itself.

One Arm Pull-Up Program

That concludes the discussion on the one-arm pull-up. However, if you desire a well-structured, detailed guide on how to accomplish the one-arm pull-up, then you may want to explore the Berg Movement App. Sondre Berg created a complete training module exclusively dedicated to the one-arm pull-up. You can try it out for free during the trial period before making any payments. Do let me know your thoughts on it!

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