I got a one arm handstand in 14 weeks.
Well… sort of.
When I decided to learn the one arm handstand (OAHS), it did take me just 14 weeks of dedicated work. I stopped everything else and just focused on getting my OAHS.
But I’ve been practicing handstands and other hand balancing skills for pretty much my whole life.
If you’ve got some experience with handstands, working toward the OAHS can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and I’ll show you the steps to get there in this article.
Even if the OAHS isn’t in the cards for you right now, though, this experience taught me a lot about myself and how to approach my general training, and there’s a lot you can learn from that too. Keep reading to see how this approach to training can improve everything else you’re working toward.
First Thing’s First: Why Are We Even Talking About the One Arm Handstand?
If you know anything about what we teach here at GMB, you know we’re all about teaching people the skills and attributes they need to be able to live and play without pain or restrictions.
The OAHS is not that.
It’s an incredibly challenging–and rewarding–skill to learn, but is it necessary for most people? Definitely not.
So why are we even talking about it? Two main reasons:
1. We all need to strive for something
No matter what level you’re starting from, having something to strive for will help keep you motivated in the long run.
The OAHS may not be the thing that motivates you. Maybe your dream is to do a planche, or a front lever, or even just a smooth push-up–whatever floats your boat, having bigger aspirations will help you keep working toward something.
Seeing what’s possible with OAHS practice will, hopefully, serve as a good motivation for working toward whatever goals you may have.
2. The One Arm Handstand is a powerful example of cycling goals
When I trained for the OAHS, many people didn’t believe that I stopped practicing everything else, but I really did. I had a singular goal at that time, and I didn’t want anything else getting in my way.
And since I trained for two hours a day to achieve my OAHS, I really didn’t have time for anything else.
But at the end of 14 weeks, I hadn’t lost any of the other skills I had trained before. I could still whip out chin-ups and muscle-ups on the rings, even after not touching them for over three months.
This is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when you cycle your training.
Some Ground Rules on How to Do a One Arm Handstand
Chasing the OAHS is not for everyone, and if you don’t have a pretty solid handstand to start with, it’s probably not the right goal to be working toward right now (though once you nail that handstand, the OAHS is a great goal! See our handstand tutorial for help).
In this video, I’ll go over some important details and advice for starting this journey.
Like I said in the video, I’m not a professional hand balancer. (If you’re looking to get into a more serious and professional-oriented hand balancing practice, I recommend checking out Yuval Ayalon, Yuri Marmerstein, Sammy Dinneen, or any of the other amazingly talented hand balancers out there).
But even if, like myself, you have no aspirations of becoming a circus performer or the like, there are a lot of benefits from working on the OAHS.
Here are some of the pointers I covered in the video to help your journey be as successful as possible:
- Don’t rush.
- Gaze between your index finger and thumb.
- Start facing the wall.
The physical benefits are, obviously, pretty huge with the OAHS, but the mental benefits might be even more powerful. Going through this journey will teach you patience and perseverance like few other skills. Let’s tackle this beast!
One Arm Handstand Progressions and Positioning
Your body positioning focus is of utmost importance with the OAHS, and these little details made all the difference for me when I was learning this skill.
In regular handstands, body positioning is essential to success, but with the OAHS, because you’re balancing on such a small surface, if even one piece of this picture is off, you won’t be able to perform the skill. So, as you practice the progressions below, keep these positioning points in mind.
Let’s look at each of these positioning and progression points in detail.
Everything in the OAHS stems from your hand placement. Here are the most important points:
- Work on a firm surface, so if you’re in a place with soft mats or carpet, you can use a wooden cutting board (my preferred surface), or a carpet tile (used in the video).
- Start with your hands relatively close together. If you can’t do a regular handstand with your hands close together yet, go back and work on that for a while before working on the OAHS.
- Your index fingers should be facing forward, and your shoulder should be over your hands.
- You’ll start your OAHS work with your hands in this position. Jump into a regular handstand, then go into a straddle.
This next step is important for getting the feel of shifting your weight to one side.
- The tendency will be to shift too dramatically, letting the shoulder go past the hand. Don’t do this! Push down and through the floor, then shift the weight slightly to one side, keeping the shoulder over the hand.
- This is a very slight weight transfer, and you should be able to stack a straight line from your hand all the way to your hip.
- Go in one direction, come back to center, then go in the other direction.
Here’s where things start to get fun 😉 You’ll really start to feel like you’re working toward that OAHS with this step.
- As usual, start in a straddle handstand with your hands close together.
- Do the same slight weight shift we just did, but now start to drop your hip toward that side.
- Be careful not to rush it. Remember that your shoulder should remain above your hand, so the movement should be coming from your hip.
This step is probably the one you’ll work on for the longest, as you’ll slowly learn to balance your weight on one hand.
- Rather than throwing your arm out to the side (which will only make you lose your balance), you’ll go through the weight transfer and side flexion, then tent your fingers.
- Start with all fingers tented, then go to two fingers, then to one finger, then finally, bend your finger so that your hand is floating just above the ground.
- For each progression, you’ll know you’re ready to move to the next level when you’re not putting too much pressure through your fingers anymore.
This is the final step before the full OAHS. Don’t rush!
- Don’t pull your shoulder back, but rather extend at the elbow.
- Keep your one finger in contact with the ground, and think about rolling out to the side, then coming back in.
- Do not–I repeat, do not–throw your arm out to the side. Take it slow.
Full One Arm Handstand
The moment of truth! This is what all your hard work has been leading up to.
- Go through all the steps we just covered:
- Start in a straddle handstand with your hands close together.
- Shift your weight to one side.
- Drop your hip slightly on that side.
- Tent your fingers, moving through all the progressions to make sure you’re ready today.
- Extend the arm with the one finger on the ground.
- Finally: Continue the rolling motion, extending the arm out further. Don’t pull the shoulder back or throw your arm out to the side, but rather, move slowly and just continue the motion you’ve been working on.
Using the Wall
The wall is a great tool when you’re working on the OAHS.
- Wall up the wall into a handstand, then straddle your legs.
- Go through all the progressions on the wall: Weight shift, side flexion, tenting, arm extension, etc.
- Use the wall as a base of support as you nail down your technique on each progression.
I recommend using the wall to practice the highest level you can, then coming off the wall and dropping your practice down a level. This will give you a good base for success.
How to Have the Greatest Success with Learning the One Arm Handstand
The best and fastest way to learn has always been to seek direct coaching. That’s what I did when I decided to learn the OAHS, and it’s still what I recommend for most people, because the value of a great coach simply can’t be oversold.
But if you don’t have access to a direct coach, this tutorial provides the steps that will help most people achieve this skill.
Your best chance at success is consistent practice.
There is no magical progression toward the OAHS, or any skill. Consistent effort over time is what you need to build the skills you want. And that is the most valuable lesson you can learn from this process.