Yes, folks, sometimes there are shortcuts in life.
Wanna improve the number of one-arm pushups you can do?
Have you ever tried NOT doing more one-arm pushups?
Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it may be just what the doctor ordered. In fact, this lesson can be learned not only with one-arm pushups, but pretty much whatever other pet lift or exercise *YOU* obsess over to the bold and senseless exclusion of other equally-worthy and helpful exercises (ones whose regular practice will more often than not improve your pet lifts anyway).
I found this out recently after a boring night of doing I don’t even remember what (probably philosophizing over deep thoughts like “What makes teflon stick to the pan?” or “where do babies come from?”). I decided to break up the monotony by testing my one-arm pushup rep max on each arm for poops and giggles and found that I could do not one, not two, but EIGHT one-armers per side with zero warm-up! And this after a solid two years of no regular one-arm pushup practice, representing a too-legit-to-quit 60% increase in my previous rep max on each side (i.e. 5 per side).
Losers, whiners, and Redditors (i.e. losers and whiners) the world over are likely to attribute such unexpected mad gainz to 1. PEDs, 2. genetics, 3. dumb luck, but the real answer is far more compelling and applies directly to YOU and what YOU are doing (or more to the point, *not* doing).
Doing only the movements that you enjoy is similar to eating only cake because you enjoy it more than vegetables, then being pissed off that you look like the Michelin Man. Really?
I get that you like bench presses, curls, and nose-bleed high back squats that don’t come close to parallel, but finding out new and creative ways to do these exercises while avoiding others is progress in a very narrow direction and will catch up to you eventually, and almost certainly in the worst way. Playing with new movements, lifts, and activities will work wonders for your physical development and capabilities and will rear its head in countless ways.
In the time I spent away from one-arm pushups, I did more of the following:
* Crawling of all kinds (obviously)
* Heavy double kettlebell clean and jerks
* Souped-up pike pushups and handstand pushups
* Weighted dips and chinups
* All manner of straight-arm movements – front lever, handstand, back lever, planche, pullover, and weighted side-holds
* Different types of squats
* Rotational movements
Which one helped the most? I have my suspicions (crawling and straight-arm work, I’m looking at you), but honestly, who cares? It was stuff I hadn’t done previously and it all strengthened me in ways that JUST doing one-arm pushups and my other favorite exercises would have. And if you can make your cake taste better by eating vegetables, why wouldn’t you?\
Whenever you start your next program, surprise yourself by taking out a few of your best moves and throw in something completely different. Doing a lot of bench press? Try overhead pressing for a while. Doing a lot of back squats? Try some martial arts squats and see the difference it makes. Throw in crawls, sprints, marches, etc. Twist, bend, flex, and extend yourself in any way you can. Explore what you can do by investigating what you can do. Come back in a few months and hit up your old favorites again and I think you’ll be surprised to see that not only are they still waiting for you, but that they’re better than ever before.
Pictured above is the lovely and talented Jen Sinkler picking up a barbell in a way you’ve probably never tried. She can lift 300 lbs in this manner, and is no-doubt stronger than you for it.