Just about everybody had to do push-ups at one point or another during school. They are a staple calisthenic exercise. One-arm push-ups, however, are a little more special. Beyond being an impressive strong-man move, they actually yield benefits regular push-ups do not, says Oregon-based fitness coach Ben Cohn. In some cases, these benefits are simply higher levels of what regular push-ups dish out. In others, the one-arm variety offers things its two-fisted cousin lacks.
Like other body-weight exercises, a one-arm push-up builds muscle by loading your muscles with resistance from your body weight. According to the Hyperstrike personal-training website, a one-arm push-up exercises the abdominals, core, chest, shoulders and triceps. It also loads the legs, hips and buttocks.
Yoga teacher Kerry Collette points to triangular stances as a way to build balance before trying more difficult two-point balance poses. A one-arm push-up forms a triangle with the hand and both feet as its points. Beside the muscle training of the actual push-up, balancing and stabilizing while in a one-arm push-up stance works your balance and the muscles responsible for maintaining it.
One-arm push-ups build muscle as a form of resistance exercise. Although resistance exercises don't burn calories as efficiently as cardiovascular training, they do contribute to weight loss by boosting your metabolism. Harvard nutritionist Walter Willett writes that the higher a body's muscle content, the more calories it burns at any activity, even resting. In this way, one-arm push-ups help you lose weight even as they help you gain muscle.
Cohn notes that there's something to be said for simply being able to do a one-arm push-up. This is the kind of thing you see action heroes do during the training montage at the movies. If you can do one, or more than one, it can help you smile on a bad day or motivate you to accomplish even more challenging physical feats.