Q&A: Transitioning to One-Arm Chinup

How did you get started doing one-arm chinups? Did you ever do weighted pull-ups, or just slowly shift your weight to one arm over time?

And do you think some of the other exercises you did helped with the OAC? Back lever seems like it’s probably a good complement.


I did do weighted chinups for a while with an 80 lb aqua bag, and long before that I had done regular pullups with most weight shifted over to one arm. While I think those exercises helped build sufficient foundational strength for one-arm chinups, I wasn’t able to go directly from those to one-arm chinups.

When I started seriously attempting one-arm chinups (recently, in July) I actually couldn’t do a single one. My point of failure (by far) was the biceps, and in particular whatever stabilizer muscles were getting used around the biceps. In the weighted chinups and even the “weight-shifted” pullups, the back can a lot of load off the biceps, and the stabilizers barely get used.

What ended up getting me over the hump was doing one-arm hangs at the highest (elbow at ~30-degree angle) and lowest (elbow at ~90-degree angle) positions of the one-arm chinup. After I built up a bit of endurance on those, I was able to do an one-arm chinup with my non-working arm holding onto the forearm of my working arm. And once I got to several reps of those, I could do a proper one-arm chinups.

Just a word of caution that the holds can be brutal on the biceps when you’re first starting out. When I started, I felt like I might tear a bicep if I pushed myself too hard. So it’s definitely worth keeping your non-working hand close to the bar in case you need to grab on and take the load off your working bicep.