Honest question. How often do you see someone pumping out a set of one arm pull ups at your gym? Probably never. And if you have, you probably react in one of two ways – you’re either very impressed or very jealous.
Using just one arm to propel your body into the air is a true feat of strength. Heck, there are millions of people who can’t even do this with both arms, let alone one.
One arm pull ups are insanely hard to accomplish, like the pinnacle of strength advanced. That said, they require an immense amount of pre-requisite ability and training. But now that we’ve got the discouraging news out of the way, here is a step-by-step program to help you master the one arm pull up progression.
Step #1 One Arm Lat Pulldowns
In order to do a one arm pull up, you’ll need to improve your arm strength. Using a lat pulldown machine, attach a single handle cable accessory and get ready.
You’ll want to improve your single arm lat pulldowns to the point where you can bang out a few reps at more than bodyweight – preferably 20% more than your current weight. For example, someone weighing 150 pounds should be doing 170 pound single arm lat pulldowns for a handful of repetitions.
The goal here is building strength, so opt for low reps, maximum weight. Three to five sets of five repetitions should suffice. For more information on doing lat pulldowns, read this exercise guide from BodyBuilding.
Step #2 Alternate Arms Pull Ups
Now that you’ve gotten one arm lat pulldowns under control, it’s time to put in some work on the pull up bar. But rather than bust out a set of fifteen to twenty regular pull ups, try lowering yourself with one arm, then pull yourself back up using both arms – alternating which arms get the emphasize of the exercise with each repetition.
With some practice, you’ll have a strong understanding of how close you are to completely the real deal. Not only that, doing these negative rep, alternating arm pull ups will undoubtedly help you build muscle for one arm pull ups. Before continuing, make sure you can complete six to eight repetitions with good form.
Step #3 Tackling The One Armed Pull Up
When first attempting a one armed pull up, hold the wrist of the lifting arm with your free arm in order to maintain stability. At the top of the repetition, remove your grip using the supporting arm and lower yourself back to the starting position without it’s guidance. The stronger you become, the less reliant you will be on that supporting arm.
Another challenging variation is to hold the bicep of your lifting arm with your free arm. This position still gives you some much needed stability, but not nearly as much as with holding the wrist of your lifting arm. You’ll still want to remove your grip using the supporting arm at the top of each repetition however.
How To Do A One Arm Pull Up
Now that you’ve made it this far, it’s time to do the real deal. Hang from a pull up bar with one arm fully extended and complete the exercise using the following tips.
- Execution — Swing your off-arm on your first rep in order to build momentum to propel yourself up to the bar. After that, move your other arm out of the way and use the skills you’ve learned above to crank out a couple more reps. Use a spotter to push you through if you need to.
- When — One arm pull ups will undoubtedly be the hardest exercise you do on back day, so do them in the beginning of your routine while your body is still fresh.
- How — One arm pull ups aren’t exactly a movement where people pick a number of repetitions and try to reach it. Instead, trying going until failure on each set, even if you can only complete a single rep.