So, I decided to write an article to talk about the one arm handstand push up (OAHSPU). I hope many people will be interested. One important thing to know: I haven't succeeded doing this move yet. I train it, I'm getting closer, but I cannot do it at the moment and I will likely need a few more years of training to achieve it. I nevertheless want to share with you my updated discoveries about the OAHSPU.
First of all, I think it is possible to do it. Ridiculously hard, but possible. I also think this is not an "ultimate move". I think that a person who simply want to become strong can do so without trying to learn the OAHSPU, and without risking injuring himself or herself trying it. I also think there are more effective combos to develop one's strength using bodyweight training. Per example, a mix of advanced ring strength, of "perfect one arm push ups" and HSPU (handstand push ups) could make someone very strong while taking less risks than when working on the OAHSPU. If I'm seeking to master the OAHSPU, it's simply because I desire it. I hate limitations, so I try to go beyond them, and I would love to contribute to the world of training. Those reasons were enough to keep me motivated for these last four years.
Let's get at it. What does it take to be able to start working towards OAHSPU? Right off the bat, I'd say you'd need to be able to do at least 20 solid, good quality full range handstand push ups (HSPU). Having a good muscle mass that comes from practicing HSPUs will definitely help to progress towards OAHSPU. There is also assistance exercises to use in parallel of the OAHSPU work. These assistance exercises can greatly help your progression. I'm talking about planche variations, reversed crosses on the rings, the perfect one arm push up and the one arm handstand. Those help to reinforce the muscle groups and connective tissues used in the OAHSPU, and help to increase the necessary control over your own body.
Now, how do you train specifically for the OAHSPU? My recommandation would be to start working with the assistance of the fingers of your other hand, with your feet sliding on a wall. You should be able to do at least 1-2 reps with 3 fingers of the other hand to start with, and then progressively decrease the assistance by using less fingers as you become stronger. Practice on the ground, close to a wall. When you become able to do them freestanding, without assistance from the wall and you feel like you're getting stronger, slowly increase the range of motion so at some point you're able to do them all the way down and up.
One important aspect of the OAHSPU is the form, which is different than a normal HSPU. When you do a HSPU, your body tilt slightly towards the stomach in the first part of the descent, and then go back up straight as you come back up. While doing a OAHSPU, the body also has to tilt, but it will already be tilted on the side because of the weight transfer needed to hold the one arm handstand. I'm not there yet, but it is possible that the body might need to tilt slightly towards the stomach as well. I think that the angle will likely change from one person to another, and maybe even from one arm to the other on the same person, and that the proportions of the muscles used in the movement will change accordingly, especially for the deltoids. So when you practice, pay a lot of attention to your weight transfer and position, it will help avoiding bad surprises in the future.
Coming back on my own experience, let's talk about the progression of the OAHeSPU (One Arm Headstand Push Up, acronym meaning you only go down until your head touch the floor) with feet on a wall. Like I said, when you start working on it, you should be able to do at least one rep using 3 fingers of your free hand as assistance. Train until you can do at least 3 sets of 8 reps with the same amount of assistance, then try taking one finger off. If you succeed taking one finger off, I'd advise you to start doing plenty of 1 rep sets with less assistance (2 fingers), and at the end of your 1 rep sets, do 2 sets of as many reps as you can with more assistance (3 fingers) to help creating movement specific hypertrophy. Do that until you can do sets of at least 4 repetitions with less assistance. Here's an example:
- Learn to do 8 repetitions with three fingers.
- Try to do a repetition with two fingers. If you can't make it, try to do up to 10-12 repetitions with 3 fingers, and verify you're not unconsciously cheating while executing the movement. Try again after, and you should be able to do it.
- Do plenty of one rep sets with two fingers, and try to progressively increase the training volume until you can easily do 5 sets or more. After you did your short sets, do two long sets with three fingers, until you can do at least 4 reps with two fingers.
- When you can do at least 8 reps with two fingers, it will be time to try to do it with one finger. Be very careful, because it is easy to sprain a finger. By the way, I am not responsible on any injury you could get while training your one arm handstand push ups. If you don't know what you're doing, stop doing it and do something else.
- If you succeeded doing one repetition with one finger, progressively increase the volume again, until you can do many sets, like in the previous steps. Don't forget your hypertrophy sets, they will help you to progress better.
- When you can do at least 8-10 reps with one finger of assistance, it's time to start practicing without the wall. It is much harder, and I hope you have a solid handstand!
You can also try to do it on the wall with no finger assistance, but it didn't work for me. The angle of my shoulder compared to my feet against the wall forces my body to twist, and in these conditions I cannot maintain my balance well enough to even try it properly. I doubt anybody will get it on the wall without the finger assistance, and in my opinion it is much better to directly practice freestanding, starting with 3 fingers.
As of today, I'm doing sets of 2 reps with one finger of assistance. I could do 3 reps on the first set, but not on the other sets, and I prefer to avoid spraining my finger so I'm being careful. Here are other people I recommend watching, because they also work on the OAHSPU:
- Jim Bathurst
- Johnny Sapinoso
- Giuliano Stroe
- Vassili TheSupersaiyan
- Matthew Shoffner
- Jeremy Hay
- Paul McIlroy
- Al Kavadlo
- Bud Jeffries
One last word: the most effective training tool you have in your hands is time. Always been that way. Will always be.