How to Build Bodyweight Strength: 1-Arm Push Ups and Pistols

Quick Tips

Almost 8 years ago now, I stumbled onto Pavel Psatsouline’s bodyweight strength based book, “The Naked Warrior”.

The Naked Warrior

It was the Summer between my freshman and Sophomore year of college, and I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in strength and conditioning.

I became fascinated with bodyweight training.  One quick Google search led me to Pavel’s book, and I think I read it cover to cover in two days time.

The sad part, I didn’t act on any of his strategies.  It took me a couple of years to finally pick the book back up and re-absorb his methods.  I regret that big time.

Now that I think about it, reading through Pavel’s book was the first time that I was introduced to kettlebells.  They are featured throughout the book as effective loading progressions to make the exercises more difficult.  I didn’t actively pursue kettlebell training for another two years.


Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

The Naked Warrior, provides a much needed look at how to develop raw strength through two simple (but not easy) movements:

  • 1-Arm Push Up
  • Pistol

I can remember reading reviews on the “The Naked Warrior, where customers were angry because the entire Naked Warrior book is based off of only two exercises.  I felt the opposite.  I thought it was extremely refreshing to read a book that was so focused.  One upper body movement and one lower body movement.  Both have tremendous carry-over into the real world and athletics.

Here is a great snapshot of Pavel executing the mother of all upper body pressing exercises, the 1-Arm Push Up…

1-Arm Push Up

1-Arm Push Up

Here is a still shot of the what I believe is one of the greatest lower body movements known to man…

The Naked Warrior Pistol

The Pistol (aka: Single Leg Unsupported Squat)

Both movements require a large muscular contraction, body tension and zen-like focus for completion with great technique.

Pavel’s teachings provide an extremely valuable lesson on methods to build high level strength.

The road to executing these two movements require large amounts of body tension and muscular contraction.  It’s simple and brilliant.

Here I am executing 1-arm pushups and pistols…

Training with 1 leg or arm at a time is a great way to uncover imbalance in strength, stability and mobility.  You might be able to notice, but my left arm is the weaker of the two.

I used to think that drills like the 1-Arm Push Ups and Pistols should be reserved for like circus performers and stuntmen.  Or, maybe they were just something you show off to your friends after a few beers.  But that’s because I didn’t fully understand their value.

Now I understand their value and incorporate these movements into my own training regularly while advocating their use in the training programs of others. Pistols and 1-Arm Push Ups building tremendous strength while teaching the trainee methods that can be used squeeze more out of their training.

Progression is the key here, as it is always the key to success in building a body that is strong, lean and able to move freely.

Not many people can drop down and perform a full bodyweight single limb movement on a whim.  There’s usually a fair amount of ramping up that needs to take place prior.  I understand this completely.  Both of these moves provide amazing bang for you buck, but they are advanced movements.  ADVANCED.

How do you move yourself into the advanced category?  Keep training, that’s how.  Keep working at it daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.

In a future post, I will give you a road map to executing your first 1-Arm Push Up or Pistol.  It’s a lot more simple than you might think.  Successful completion of both requires dedication and consistency.  You just have to keep working at it.

—>  No mention of fitness?  Not even once?

Strong is the New Skinny

You probably noticed that this post never mentioned fitness until right now.  In my opinion, fitness is nothing without the presence of strength.  Strong is the new skinny.  Spend time working hard building up your strength and your body shape will follow suit.

Cheers to harnessing your body to build crazy strength…



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