Exercises You Should Try: One Arm Push-up

I didn’t quite understand the “packed/neutral neck” position as a baby…

Today’s entry is a series that I will post from time to time.  In each installment, I will present one exercise and highlight its benefit to a program.  The topic I present could be a mobility or warm-up exercise, resistance or plyometric exercise, speed drill, or anything in between.  The purpose of this series is to give the reader a look at some exercises that may be totally new, challenging, or present a variation/ correction to an exercise that is already performed in their program.

Exercise:  One Arm Push-Up

Technique Cues: Neutral neck/ neutral spine, shoulders back and down (during the set up) , place two hands on bar/ floor in a standard bilateral push-up position and remove one arm.  The bar (if necessary) should be lowered and touched to chest at or slightly below the nipple line (similar to the bench press), the arm performing the exercise should replicate the normal mechanics of a push-up (scapula musculature resisting elevation/shrugging), scapula moving freely on thorax,  humerus less than 90 degrees of abduction based on desired outcome, etc).


1) Unilateral Upper Extremity Horizontal Pressing Strength

2) Anti-Extension Core Stabilization (because one must resist gravity pushing the hips toward the floor)

3) Anti-Rotation Core Stabilization (because of decreased points of stabilization–gravity pushing contralateral should to floor)

4) Rotator Cuff (RC)/ Scapular Stabilizer (SS) Musculature Activation to Ipsilateral Arm (because of decreased stability)

Note: Most may already know benefits 1 and 4 from above, but 2 and 3 are often forgotten when it comes to the push-up.  During a standard push-up and its variations (as in this exercise) gravity is pushing the hips and low back toward the ground.  Therefore, in order to  stay in neutral alignment the athlete must activate his or her anterior core musculature to stay neutral (hence anti-extension).  Likewise, since one of the original four points of stability (two arms/two legs)  is being removed from the exercise, gravity will cause that shoulder to move toward the ground in a rotary fashion.  The athlete must strongly activate the abdomen, glutes, and legs to resist this rotation.  Lastly, I would like to discuss in further detail benefit 4.  The rotator cuff and scapular stabilizer musculature can be thought of as the “core” of the shoulder.  Much like the abdominal’s role in stabilizing the spine, the RC and SS have a primary function of centralizing the humerus inside the glenoid (ball and socket), as well as allowing for proper scapulohumeral rhythm.  Most may think that the RC is only meant to internally and externally rotate the arm, and that the SS’s only move the scapula, but this is only part of their function.    That is what is great about this exercise.  As you can see in the video below, I am not able to perform the exercise from the floor (like I used to when I was a baby), so by using a pin in a power rack or a smith machine, it is easy to regress the exercise.  In other words, I can start from a higher position, and as I get stronger (or want to increase the intensity) I can lower the bar.  If I am going for more volume (high reps/ sets), I can again raise the bar or pin.  The benefits and uses of unilateral training have been well documented, so I will not go into much more detail.  Take my word for it though; if you are only performing bilateral training in your program you are missing a crucial piece

Please select the link below for a video example and give the exercise a try…I think you will like it.


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