A proper push-up (knees off the floor) is a basic exercise, but for many, the movement is difficult to learn. Women especially complain of difficulty with this exercise. But I’ll tell ya, performing a correct push-up has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with discipline and dedication.
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 push-ups (off your knees). 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 proper stimuli necessary to 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 safer choices.
Perform one of the above options or something similar, lowering the angle every week until you can do a proper push-up on the floor.
Rule 2: Be dedicated
I started working on push ups when I was seventeen. In order to master the movement, I practiced daily. I noticed that my progress stagnated if I took a day or two off while trying to learn the movement. The body adapts to repeated exposure. If you work on push-ups only when you have the energy or for less than three times per week, you may find yourself never mastering the movement. Push-ups require brute strength. Unlike with weight training, one cannot pick up a lighter weight and go about the exercise. If you want to master a push up (off your knees) you’ll have to get accustomed to taking on the full load of your body every session.
Daily practice of a push-up here and there will help and is best for quick mastery. If you commit to 20+ or more attempts per day, cumulatively, done any time of day, you’ll be a push-up pro very soon.
Rule 3: Set a time limit to mastery
I suggest giving yourself a two-month limit, to begin with. If you’re ambitious, one month is not pushing it. If you do several push-ups per day for 30 days, you will no doubt have the exercise mastered by the end of the month. If for whatever reason you cannot practice push-ups a little every day — like if you do upper body weight training and need recovery time — expose your body to push-ups 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.
As with other bodyweight strength exercise, like pull-ups, mastering push-ups requires muscle adaptation and growth. This takes some time. The speed of your mastery depends on your level of dedication. If you follow these three simple rules, you’ll be a pro at push-ups and can set new, more difficult bodyweight strength goals.