the elusive one-arm pull-up

The weighted pull-up thread started me thinking about these again. Can anybody here do them?

I’m talking a about true, free-hanging one-arm, not the “false one-arm” where you grab your wrist with the free arm–as long as you have a halfway decent grip, false one-arms aren’t particularly difficult.

On a good day I can do 6 reps with +60 in the two-arm pull-up, yet I can only do a barely controlled negative with my stronger arm.

I have seen a couple of climbers execute them, and I think it was french climber Fracois LeGrande who did 50 consecutive one arm pull ups. I am a rock climber, so I have been able to do a standard pull up with and 25% of body weight for 5 reps on a consistant basis. One arm dead hangs for 20+ sec. are no problem either, but it also might be that I am 5’10’’ and 150 lb. I think its possible for a person to aquire this skill, but there is not much practical use for it. One climb to date requires a one finger, one armed pull up, but that’s it as far as climbing goes. It would be cool do be able to do though.

Poliquin made a blanket statement in one of his articles concerning the one-arm pull-up. I can’t remember exactly what he said but basically anyone that can do this is a genetic freak.

I think a couple of articles on T-mag have mentioned this subject, and suggested using mixed-grip pull-ups using towels to train for one handers. Have you do a reasonable one handed negative pull-up? I think this could potentially be a useful training tool. Personally, I can’t do one, and I don’t feel like I was ever close to being able to do one even when I could do thirty regular pull-ups with strict form. Truly a remarkable acheivement. Best of luck!


With my weak arm, I can go from dead hang to 3/4 way up, at which point I stall out.

I injured my right side in an arm-wrestling contest a week ago. I’ll get back to you in a few days.


Definately rock climb if you ever want to be able to do a one-armer. I’m a rock climber myself. Although I did take many years off, When I was 17 I was extremely close to being able to do a legitimate one-arm pullup. I could go 3/4s of the way down and pull myself up, but I just quite couldn’t go full range of motion. If you want big stong forearms and a big back, rockclimb a lot, and eat a lot :wink:

I can generally do a 1 arm chin with either hand although i tried today and missed about 3/4 of the way up.
My stats are as follows
85 kgs about 185 pounds i think
bodyfat is prolly 12% although im not sure, sometimes my abs look really good and sometimes you cant see them, depends on lighting i guess.

To the folks who can do a one-arm or come close:

what percentage of bodyweight can you pull for 5 reps?

I think I remember the Poliquin article mentioned: he talked about someone who could do several one-arms with a 45-pound plate held in the other hand!

I can just hang there by one arm…does that count for anything?

I’ve done a single parallel-grip chinup with an additional 100lb load, and I’m nowhere near capable of doing a concentric one-armed rep.

With my strong arm I can pause in the middle of an eccentric and hold it for a couple seconds, but… that’s about it.

I’ve actually developed a specific plan to work toward a one-rep concentric, but I’ve choose not to do it yet, focusing on my weaker areas instead.

My best is a parallel grip double, full range, with that 100 lb. plate Ike was talking about. At the time I weighed 181.

I don’t know what I can do for five, I’d rather use a lower weight and make the movement harder.


Machine: I dont consider myself a genetic freak by any stretch of the imagination. Poliquin said that 1 in 100 000 trainees has the genetic potential to do a single one handed chinup. I think that statement is total bullshit. Think about it … if 1 in 100 000 have the potential… that means that if 1 percent of the population train for it, one in 10 million of the general populace could perform one. What a load of shit, i know one other person and i sure as hell dont know 20 million people (10 million for each of us).

Knowing my abilities relative to others i think that 10% of people could do it if they really tried. Of course my estimates often suck, maybe 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 no where near 1 in 100 000 though.

Just posted but stupid thing said it was lost… grrrrrrrrrrrr

here is the gist of what i was saying…

Im not sure what i am capable of for a single set of 5. I would rarely do a single set to failure or test a 5 rep max. I think my 5 rep max would be just under 135lbs (73% of my bodyweight), I can do a couple of sets of three with 135 so its probably my 4 rep max…

I recently did 2 sets of 2 with 155 lbs… the second rep did not actually feel that difficult but i would not have been able to do a third.

I would have tried 180 but I am psychologically not ready for it, also sometimes I feel the forces going through my joints is too high and that injury is about to happen. I hurt my acromioclavicular joint doing dips with bodyweight + 180?

Many years ago, when I was in high school, I could do a good form one-arm chin (supinated grip). At the time, I could do maybe 10 to 12 regular two-arm pullups. I weighed 145 lbs at 6 ft height. 10 years later, at a much stronger 180 lbs (same height) I could do 20 - 25 regular 2-arm pullups, but could not get a one-arm. Now (more than 10 more years later), at 205, I can get 20 two-arm pullups, a single with 100 extra pounds, and a good solid triple (almost 4) with 80 extra pounds, but I can barely budge off the bottom with one arm. I know several people who have done legit one-arm pullups, but they are almost universally lighter in weight. I don’t know anyone in the 200 lb + category who can do one. Of course, in most gyms, you rarely see anyone doing pullups at all, much less weighted or one-arms. People look at me like I’m some sort of Neanderthal throwback when they see this gray-haired old man strap on a couple of plates for weighted pullups. I guess they’d rather use the gravatron.

random thoughts…

I’ve been thinking about this.

Does it make sense that in order to be able to achieve a 1 arm pull/chin, you’d need to be able to complete a pull/chin two-handed with 200% of bodyweight?

Also, I know it doesn’t readily transfer, but I reckon you may be able to get an idea of how close you are by doing one-arm pull downs without cheating like a whore. you’d probably need to be able to pull down like 210%+ of bw to be able to do a one arm chin.

Probably more than anything, I suspect this ability is tied very tightly to the nervous system. I think that parts of your body essentially shutdown entirely when only one arm is holding the bar.

Hi there!

I can do 33 normal pull-ups and 1 one-armed with both hands. My personal record on weighted pull-ups is one rep with 65 kgs w/ bodyweight of 75 kgs.

My goal is one rep with 200% of bodyweight. When I reach that mark I think I`ll be able to do some reps w/ one hand.

Check this out. She covers… just about everything.


Damn Tenu 33 pullups is a lot. I did 26 ages ago before I had ever done the one hander, but 33 is in another league, Looks like i got something to shoot for. How tall are you?

Do you chin better for reps at a lighter or heavier weight?

what about relative to bodyweight?
Its sounds funny but when my bodyweight was lower i could not chin aswell. Dont know why, it makes no sence really

hi, one of the guys from bootcamp did 43 pullups!! i’m talking strict pull-ups!! even our D.I. was amazed! but he didnt beat the record though, it was 50.and i thought he was a mutant!! myself,i could do BW@175+100x3. never tried 1 arm though, but now i am:)