In almost any program ever created, push-ups are in it. Why? They require no equipment, easy to accomplish, and you can get a pretty gnarly chest pump from it. But often times, they are butchered, people have found ways to make one of the most simple exercises look like a train wreck. Although great people have written plenty about doing the perfect push-up, people still do not listen or just have no idea. So, maybe me writing about it, will help a few folks out.
Just like the push-up, I am going to try to simplify this great movement as best I can. I picked three key ways to make your push-up better.
This is everything! If your setup sucks, you will suck. You want to set yourself up for success, not failure.
Shoulders over the inside of wrists
Hips inline with shoulders
Feet Hip Width
These three set-up cues should do the trick. Shoulders over inside of wrists will make it easy to descend correctly and keep your elbows over your wrists as you go down. Keeping the hips in line with the shoulders will limit the loss of stability from core - which nobody like seeing saggy hip push-ups. And keeping the feet hip-width makes it easy to keep overall stabilization.
I find myself saying this almost every time when teaching an athlete. But if you set up correctly, it will make it easy to put yourself in the right position. When a person doesn't fall forward, they end up in a crazy trap position. This means, rather than getting that chest swole, you’re just increasing the size of your traps. Which is cool, but not why we are doing push-ups. So, fall over your hands and leave the traps alone.
Once you reach the top of your push-up you need to press that floor away from you. I tell people to push through their armpits to get those serrati wrapping around. Taking a long breath out usually helps drive that upwards rotation of the scapula and that core to do its thing.
Put all of these together and make magic happen. Setup correctly, fall forward, and push away!
If floor push-ups are tough for you, I recommend elevating the surface you are pushing up from. A bench, stairs, barbell, or any surface that you have. That elevated surface will help keep the form constant as opposed to doing them on your knees - which only creates bad habits and potential back pain.