Before you begin working toward a one-arm pull-up, I urge you to spend plenty of time getting comfortable with the two-arm variety. Focus on getting to the point where you can perform at least 15 clean overhand pull-ups in one set without using momentum. Ideally, you should do closer to 20. This is the foundation for your one-arm pull-up. Once you’ve got that foundation, your next task is to get comfortable hanging on the bar with just one arm. This requires a serious amount of grip strength as well as strong, stable shoulders. Focus on keeping your lats and shoulders engaged while you hang. In the beginning, just holding on for a few seconds may be very challenging. Eventually, you can work up toward longer one-arm hangs. A 30-second one-arm hang is a good target to aim for before moving ahead to anything more ambitious.
Starting at the top position of a pull-up with your chin above the bar, brace your entire body and carefully remove one hand. I suggest practicing this move with an underhand grip, as doing so allows you to keep the bar near the center of your body, which will make for better leverage. Though the burden of supporting your entire body weight appears to rest solely on one arm, your chest, lats, and abdominals are also an important part of the equation. The first time most people try a one-arm flex hang, they immediately fall as soon as they take the other hand away. Don’t be discouraged if that happens to you during your first few attempts. To help stay up, don’t just think about your arm; focus on squeezing your whole body tight, especially your abs.
One-arm pull-up training can be very stressful on the elbow and shoulder joints in particular. You’ve got to respect your body or you will pay the price. As such, we recommend practicing these progressions just one or two days per week for the first few weeks, eventually building to three days per week at most.
While a one-arm pull-up is definitely achievable, it won’t come easily. It’s a tough nut to crack, and training for it can be a humbling experience. Even if you’re already strong, learning the one-arm pull-up requires lots of patience and skill-specific practice. The one-arm pull-up is a show of pound-for-pound prowess unlike any other. Only those who possess the rare combination of patience, strength, and determination have a chance to join the ranks of the elite men and women who’ve performed a pull-up with just one arm.