Updated: 3 Rules to Push-Up Mastery

A proper push-up (knees off the floor) is a basic upper body exercise. But for many, the movement is strenuous and difficult to learn. Women especially often struggle with how taxing the exercise can be. But, believe me, performing a correct, no-knees push-up has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with discipline and dedication. Follow the rules below for progressions from beginner to push-up master, and soon, you’ll be doing advanced push-ups with ease.

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Rule 1: Get off your knees

Doing push-ups on your knees creates an unnatural movement pattern that makes it difficult to transition to proper, off-the-knees push-ups. Get off your knees, tighten your abs, breathe out on the way down, and feel your arms working. Taking the proper position will create the stimuli necessary to strengthen your arms and master the movement.

If you need a modification on your way to performing a push-up without your knees, a wall, a bar, or a bench are excellent choices. If using a wall, bar, or bench, be sure to lower the angle every week until you can do a push-up on the ground.

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Rule 2: Be dedicated

I started working on push-ups when I was seventeen, and I tried to practice daily. My progress stagnated if I took a day or two off during this early-exposure period. I had more strain when I returned to the exercise. This occurs when exposure to an exercise is cut off soon after being introduced, and the body returns to what it’s most accustomed to: not doing the new exercise.

To prevent regression when beginning push-ups, don’t do the exercise only when you have the energy to do it or for less than three times per week. If you do so, you may find yourself never mastering the movement. Practice daily, and try to commit to 20 or more push-up attempts per day, cumulatively, and you’ll be a push-up pro before long.

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Rule 3: Set a time limit to mastery

Set a one or two-month limit to achieve proper push-ups. If you do several push-ups per day every day, you will no doubt have the exercise mastered in one month. If cannot practice push-ups a little every day, for whatever reason, expose your body to the exercise at least three times per week (20+ reps per day or per workout). At a three-day per week rate, you can master a proper push-up in two to three months.

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BONUS RULE: Set higher push-up goals

Don’t stop at basic push-ups. Aim for mastery of push-up variations, such as side-to-side, plyo, staggered, and pike push-ups. If you set an advanced push-up goal before attempting basic push-ups, you may master the basic movement faster. I incorporate this logic with all my fitness goals, and it’s often a fast-track to learning a plethora of advanced exercises.

As with other bodyweight strength exercises, proficiency at push-ups requires muscle adaptation, which takes time. Adaption is brought on by exposure, consistency, and repetition. The speed in which you master push-ups is dependent on your level of dedication. If you follow the above simple rules, you’ll be on your way to push-up mastery in little time.

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MEET SYLVIA PETRO — THE BROKE, FIT SINGLE MOM: As an athlete of over 15 years, and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created this site to aid not only broke single parents to a life of fitness, but anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the road to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; informing readers about mastering both of those building blocks is my goal.

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