The one arm pull up is a true feat of strength requiring a combination of strength and technique to master. Few people can perform it. But if you are willing to dedicate the necessary time and practice and follow this progression, YOU can be one of them.
Before you begin your one arm specific bodyweight training, you should be able to complete at least 15 strict pull-up reps. Once you become proficient with your two arm pull ups, add weight and resistance to increase your strength. But remember, you need strength AND technique. Your weighted routine will make you stronger but will not teach you the proper technique for it.
Use these recommended exercises to improve your technique:
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One arm scapula depression
The one arm scapula or shoulder blade depression is a single arm static or active hanging. It is an excellent drill to develop scapular control.
Simply hang by one arm as you concentrate on lowering your scapula which fires the supporting back muscles. In the static version, hang and stretch as the scapula is lowered. Once comfortable with this movement advance to the active (dynamic) version. That means lower then raise your scapula, moving it through the complete range of motion. Each movement begins with an active one arm scapula depression.
Follow up with these bent arm progressions
Typewriter pull ups
To perform this exercise start with a regular complete pull-up. But at the top of the movement, extend one arm straight out to the side, then return to center and extend the other arm and alternate. Always train each arm and each side of your body equally to balance your strength and symmetry.
Archer pull ups
Once you become comfortable with your typewriter exercise advance to the archer, also known as cliff hanger pull ups. Start with both arms straight at the bottom of your movement then bend one arm and pull yourself up as the opposite arm remains straight throughout the entire movement. Straighten the bent arm as you lower yourself to the start position and repeat with the other arm. Remember that the straight arm remains straight as you raise your body up and then lower your body back to the bottom.
Uneven pull ups
These are performed with your hands at different (staggered) heights. Use rings at staggered heights if available, or if you are using a bar, use a resistance band or towel for the staggered grip. As you progress in strength, lower that staggered arm and remember to keep the higher arm close to your body throughout the movement.
With a resistance band
Loop the top of a resistance band over the bar and place one foot in the bottom of the band and perform your assisted one arm pull ups. Remember that the band does not provide even or equal resistance throughout the movement with the greatest support being at the bottom of the motion. If you have a variety of bands available, you can change them out as you become stronger.
Perform your two arm version, but at the top of your movement release one hand and slowly lower your body back to the start position as you resist gravity. At the bottom, place your hand back on the bar or rings, pull yourself up and repeat as you alternate hands.
Mastering this advanced bodyweight exercise requires strength, skill, and dedication to training. The training is demanding and strenuous, so ALWAYS warm up thoroughly before your workout to reduce your risk for injury. If you follow the exercises and training progression outlined here and demonstrated in the video, you will soon be performing those one arm pull ups with ease!