In most cases if I asked someone to get down and perform a Single-Arm Push-Up (SAPU), what I usually see is a lot of twisting and hip dropping but very little elbow bend or shoulder movement. It’s usually more like an “air humping” then an actual SAPU. The key with what I consider to be a proper Single Arm is very much like a regular push up. The body is rigid and tight, with a neutral spine. The body drops and rises as one unit (without rotation), and is only considered to be complete once the chest touches the ground. That’s why it’s an impressive feat of strength when performed correctly.
There are multiple variations and progressions that will assist in your SAPU training, but the Archer Push Up is one of my favorites by far.
Mechanics of the Archer Push-Up: Why it Works
The Archer Push-Up is perfect for creating a variation that places the majority of the body’s weight on one side. The Archer allows you to take a higher percentage of your own bodyweight, with one arm, but also still allows the other arm to assist (slightly). Since the straight arm is extended and at a “mechanical disadvantage”, it can add just enough help while you are conditioning. Eventually you will no longer need the other arms assistance.
This exercise is also incredible for shoulder stability and strength. Both arms are playing an important roll and both of their connecting shoulder blades must create a solid connection with the torso as well as the entire body.
Benefits for the Trunk
Due to the off placement of the body’s center of gravity, the Archer Push-Up creates a rotational load that the trunk muscles have to control. This is exactly why it is so important to keep the entire body tense and connected with itself. The full SAPU has an incredible amount of counter rotation that has to be managed by the internal and external obliques, rectus, transverses, and the deep spinal stabilizers.
Variations and Regressions
You can modify the Archer Push-Up with variations and regressions, as we demonstrated in the video tutorial below.
If you don’t have enough strength to start off with the arm elevated, the exercise can be regressed by placing the assistance arm on the floor instead of an elevated surface. You can eventually work your way up to place the assistance hand on a step, block, platform or any other suitable object. You want to keep the support object between 6 and 12 inches high, so that your body remains at the correct level and angle. Even a kettle bell will work just fine!
Good luck and keep training hard!
Some Supplemental Videos for You:
For some more tutorials on Push-Up variations (and another Archer style exercise, just for fun), check out these previous articles: