How to do a one arm pull up

How to do a one arm pull up

Doing a one-arm has many advantages more difficult climbing. For one, you can drink a beer while doing an arm swing. You can impress your friends at parties or pick up chicks or meathead dudes or whatever you like. If you can do a single arm, you’ll still look strong, even if you’re out of shape. Your biceps and shoulders will be huge. Doing an arm is objectively cool.

But I’m not going to beat around the bush here: the secret to doing the one-armed elusive is that there is no secret. Much like rock climbing, there is no formula for achieving one repetition, but rather a series of steps you can take to set yourself up for success.

Spread over the past few years, I’ve done exactly five one-arms. I’m glad I hit them at various times, but I don’t have the skill locked by any means. It should be noted, dear reader, that there is only a limited relationship between doing an arm and climbing hard. Think about it: how often do you climb and then all of a sudden just hook up with one arm to execute a move? Rock climbing is a complete sport, while doing an arm swing is an isolated exercise. As such, I’ve come across many V14+ or 5.15 climbers, whatever they are, who can’t launch one.

On the other hand, I’ve never met anyone who can complain with one arm about their skills.


  • ABC pull-ups: This exercise was taught to me by none other than Janja Garnbret’s trainer, Roman Krajnik. It’s a two-handed exercise, so it’s great for building core strength. Start by doing a pull-up on a pitcher or barbell. Once at the top, go down to 90 degrees and hold it for five seconds. Lower completely and, without jumping, repeat. You will do this four to five times. Then rest for 45 seconds and do six to eight sets total. Like rock climbing, the exercise involves both pulling and holding, which is crucial for being able to stick and control grips. It also helps increase your time under tension (TUT), which is the amount of time you actively engage a muscle group. Increasing your TUT can help build strength and even tendon health, which will be crucial to ultimately executing that single arm.
    • Variations: Try going down for five seconds rather than holding the lock at 90 degrees. Or add weight to make it harder. Or take some weight off and try to be explosive during your pull up. There are many ways to modify this one.
  • Weighted pull-ups: Another two-handed exercise! Weighted pull-ups are great for developing maximum strength and power. For this exercise, it is important that you warm up completely and gain weight slowly. Add more weight and do fewer reps to increase power, or do less weight and more reps to increase core strength.
      • Note: Many people want to know what percentage of your body weight you should be able to pull to do one arm. From my own experience, I’d say 70% or more seems fine, although I’ve heard many others say 80%.
  • One-arm locks: For this exercise, you may need to remove weight through a pulley system or with your feet in a resistance band. Use both arms to jump into the top position of a pull-up. Then release with one arm and lower with the other. Pick an angle to stop at, then hold it. I generally aim to hold a position for 8-10 seconds. Over time you will want to perform this exercise in different locked positions, but you may want to stick to one angle for a particular session. If you can hold a lock for more than 15 seconds at bodyweight, try adding weight. Note: Avoid holding a lock at the top of the bar. This extreme angle puts a lot of pressure on the elbow and is not as effective as lesser degree lockouts.
  • One-armed negatives: Use both arms to jump into the top position of a pull-up. Let go with one arm then lower with the other. The “negative” should be executed slowly, with complete control throughout the descent. Aim to lower in five seconds or more. You may need to remove weight with a pulley system or put your feet in a resistance band. You can also hold on to something with your other hand (like a band or a scarf) to help control the bottom. Negatives are one of my favorite exercises for training an arm. You can easily pair them with offset or assisted single-sided arms to do the “climb” part.
  • An offset arm: Run one arm while holding on to a sling or band with your other hand to help. The further down you grab the sling/band, the harder the single arm will be. Personally, I prefer static assistance, like that of a sling, to the variable assistance of a rubber band, because it applies more to climbing.
  • An assisted arm: These will be the most applicable to help you learn the skill as they are the most specific. An assisted arm can be performed when you take weight off with a pulley system or put your feet in a resistance band. The main distinction between an offset arm and an assist arm is that you hang freely from one arm rather than using the other to stabilize/balance and assist. Assisted arms therefore help you gain strength in the right form.

Progression steps

I find variety is key. You’ll want to mix up your routine, changing the number of reps/sets performed for each exercise and the amount of weight you add or remove. This is why achieving your first arm is a challenge: performing the same exercises every week in perpetuity will eventually lead to a plateau.

One thing I like to remember is that you must Craft gains occur. They will not happen on their own. This means that you will have to dig deep while performing the aforementioned exercises. If you’re tired, I recommend skipping them at all and saving your reps for when you’re fresh.


Performing assisted arms will help you lock in your form. You may need to experiment to determine what feels easiest to you. Many people prefer to twist in their arm when pulling (think going from a pull-up position to a pull-up position by the time you’ve reached the top), while others prefer to stay more square as it gets easier. applies more directly to most face climbs. Ideally, you would be good at both.


Alex Puccio once did six arms in a row. Sean McColl can do four. There is a video on Instagram of Jongwon Chon turning 20.

And Adam Ondra, the best climber in the world? In 2010, Ondra sent his first 9b (5.15b) with Rebellion, in Siurana. In an interview with, he said he could only do 30 two-handed pull-ups and zero one-armed ones. “Pretty weak in pull-ups, huh?” ” he said. “Climbing is an interesting sport.”

Ondra has progressed over the past decade, both in climbing strength and pulling strength. In Ned Feehally’s book, make beastsOndra said he can now do 16.

For most climbers, one or two arms in a row is more likely to be the end goal. But patience and hard work will be key.

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