The floor bench press is exactly what you think it is – the bench press while on the floor (basically the reverse motion of a push-up) – but it is so much more than that. While most bodybuilders and strength athletes today will use the bench press for the majority of chest training, the floor press used to be the gold standard.
Ever see that one guy in the gym that is lying down on the ground doing a floor press and wonder why he doesn’t just go on the bench?
Nearly every couple of weeks we get this same question so we have decided to create a guide to help everyone understand the benefits and potential pitfalls of a floor press.
No, that guy doing bench press on the ground is not a crazy person – he is, in fact, training his upper body to be stronger, more powerful and, in the process, increasing his bodies versatility to training.
In my opinion, there will always be a place for old-school bodybuilding exercises like the floor press. Along with others, like good mornings, the floor press are exercises that gave rise to bodybuilding, powerlifting and other strength circles.
Let’s break down everything you need to know about the floor press.
Floor Press Vs. Bench Press
The floor bench press is a relatively simple exercise to start doing, but a very difficult exercise to perfect. Just like the bench press, there are dozens of very finite details you need to implement into your form and training protocols in order to truly maximize your performance.
When comparing the floor press versus the bench press the most obvious difference is the lack of a bench in the floor press. While a bench press requires you to position your back on a narrow bench, the floor press is completely free of benches.
This sets up many potential benefits but it also gives rise to some pretty obvious pitfalls. As with any athlete, you should never become completely obsessed with one exercise.
The floor press is a great exercise to add to your training program but before we get into how to do the floor bench press and how to add it into your program let’s cover some basic benefits and pitfalls.
Floor Press Benefits
Personally, I love the floor press. It’s a great exercise for developing power and strength in a very specific range of motion. I am a big fan of variability and anytime you can add new exercises to your program, build a wide range of motion and improve training protocols is a good idea.
When adding the floor press into your program there are a few important benefits to keep in mind:
Train for Power
The floor press is a great exercise for developing power. Since the exercise does not require you to complete a full range of motion you can rely on the power from the triceps to push a large percentage of the weight around.
This also means that you should be using higher weight and lower rep schemes (we will explain this in more detail later).
Consistency in Range of Motion
This is perhaps the biggest benefit, but also a potential downfall. When in a traditional bench press your arms and shoulders are free to contract past the center of the upper body. In a floor press, your range of motion stops when your elbows and arm hit the ground.
This means that every rep you complete will have a consistent range of motion – it does not change.
When it comes to increasing strength – consistency is always king. This means you can increase the weight your upper body is handling week by week in order to grow stronger. Your muscles should adapt very quickly to the floor press since the range of motion is nearly always the same.
Benches are Not Needed
This one is pretty obvious. Since you are bench pressing from the floor this means you do not need a bench. If you are making a home gym you will have noticed without a doubt that the bench is one of the most expensive items you can purchase.
If you are feeling keen to grow stronger but don’t have the budget or means of using a bench in your gym you can always complete many of the same exercises without a bench – just as you would in the floor press.
Potential Pitfalls of the Floor Press
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with the floor press. Just like any exercise, there are always some potential pitfalls that you should be aware of before you start floor bench pressing.
Lack of Scapular Mobility
The biggest downfall we can see. As any good bench press athlete will know the key is always to lock in your scapula on the bench – usually in retraction and depression.
The bench allows you to do this with ease. Yes, it can still be completed on the floor but your range of motion will certainly suffer and since you cannot control the weight with your back as much, you will not be able to overload (use high weight) like you would on the bench press.
Lack of Variability
Being stuck in one range of motion is good for a couple weeks to months. Having your range of motion the same will help with the consistency of your training but when it comes to pushing your limits you will always need a wide range of variability tools.
The floor press is not an exercise that comes with a wide range of variability tools. While on a bench press you can change the incline in order to hit different systems of muscles. The only variability you can implement on a floor press is the style of resistance you use – whether that be dumbbells, kettlebells or a traditional barbell.
How to Do the Floor Press
Now that you have a good understanding of the benefits and downfalls of the floor press its time to break down the most effective way to complete the floor press. Let’s break this down into a series of steps.
1. Back and Pelvic Position
Start by lying on your back and raising your arms to the barbell above you. Slightly anteriorly tilt your pelvis in order to raise your ribs to the sky. Your heels should be planted flat on the ground with a 90-degree knee angle.
This will help to ensure you don’t slide anywhere and you can put pressure through your feet to help with the press.
2. Grip Width and Eccentric Contraction
The floor press can be used in a variety of grip widths but the most effective will about 1-2 inches in from the first notch on your barbell. Imagine you are completing a normal bench press – lowering the bar to your chest and pulling your scapula together in the process.
When your elbows and posterior arm touch the floor (gently) you can then pause (for power training) or you can press immediately from the floor to force yourself into the concentric phase.
3. Concentric Contraction
Now looking up through the barbell you should press the weight away from the ground, focussing on the triceps and middle chest.
Your triceps will do a large percentage of the work in this exercise so be sure to focus on these muscles as your primary contraction source.
Complete – you have now successfully completed one rep of the floor press. Not sure if this is the right exercise for your training program? Below we describe who should be doing the floor press.
Who Should Do Floor Presses?
With the exception of a few exercises or movements, everyone should have a versatile skill set in training and a wide range of exercises they can draw from in order to grow stronger.
With that said, when it comes to the floor press there is a certain type of athlete that will benefit most from this exercise.
The floor press is a great exercise for any powerlifter. Since the primary movement in this exercise is built to develop power you will notice many of the strongest people in the gym utilizing this exercise.
If you are a powerlifter I would suggest using this as one of your accessory pushing exercises and placing it into a week where you are overloading the muscle.
My favourite athletes. Strength athletes love a wide range of movements and exercises and the floor press is no exception. If you have been training to improve your bench press or overhead press, the floor press is a great accessory exercise to help you put on more strength – especially in the triceps.
Those Who Want to Increase Bench Press
At the expense of being completely obvious, the floor bench press has clear benefits for increasing bench press.
Especially because most people who struggle with the bench press have weak triceps and not weak chest muscles, the floor press can be a great way to work through these deficiencies.
If you are looking to increase your bench press or how to integrate more strength exercises into your current training regime I would urge you to check out our basic floor bench press program.
Floor Bench Press Program
Increase size and strength of the triceps, boost mass in the chest and develop a wider set of pushing movements all with one basic exercise – the floor bench press. Here I will break down the best ways to integrate the floor press into your current program and even provide you with a sample workout to follow.
The floor press should be looked at as an accessory movement to your traditional lifts. This means it should come into your program about 1-2x per week, depending on your overload structure.
Yes, the floor press can be used as an overload exercise for weeks where you want to specifically target pushing movements of the triceps but I would suggest it be better used as an accessory exercise.
Pair with other exercises that will help develop the chest in a wider range of motion – exercises like dips and overhead presses but do not forget to treat your elbow (with ice, compression and rest) after these workouts as this is a lot of stress for that joint to handle.
I would suggest at least 36-48 hours between workouts where you integrate heavy floor presses.
Everyone wants to lift heavy – I can respect that. But what I respect more is the guys who have been lifting for years without injury. In order to get on their level, you must understand intensity.
You cannot always train heavy. You cannot always train with high reps. In order to grow stronger, you must understand that intensity should be a huge factor of concern.
Intensity dictates the amount of weight and resistance you are handling through your exercise. The floor press is an exercise where you can overload and complete heavy reps, but it is also an exercise where you will need to be careful and avoid injury.
I would suggest you maintain your floor press intensity in the range of 60-90% of your max. This is not an exercise where you should be doing one rep max’ – there is really no added value to this.
Below you will find sample workouts that include the floor press as an accessory exercise to your main lifts (overhead presses and dips).
Now that you understand the basics of how you should be implementing the floor press into your current training regime here are a few sample workouts.
|WORKOUT 1 (POWER)|
|Parallel Bar Dips||8||3||31X1||50%||3m|
|WORKOUT 2 (STRENGTH)|
|Incline Db Press||12||3||4110||60%||3m|
CSEP – CPT, Expert in Exercise Physiology
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.