The floor press is a simple and highly effective pressing variation that can be used as a primary pressing movement, accessory lift, or even by injury-prone lifters. Taking your bench press from a bench to the floor will help to improve your lockout, increase overall pressing strength, and add mass to your triceps. For some lifters, it’s a more shoulder-friendly variation, too.
Many lifters may not know what the floor press is, mainly because it’s popular among hardcore strength athletes. The thing is, anyone — from a gym newb to a seasoned vet — can benefit from this pressing variation. So, we’re going to show you how to do the floor press, along with variations, and outline the benefits.
- How to Do the Floor Press
- Benefits of the Floor Press
- Muscles Worked by the Floor Press
- Who Should Do the Floor Press
- Floor Press Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
- Floor Press Variations
- Floor Press Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Do the Floor Press
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the floor press. Note that in the below instructions, the barbell floor press is demonstrated. However, the steps are nearly identical if you were to use dumbbells or kettlebells (both of which are fine options.)
Photos from Barbell Logic on YouTube
- Start by positioning yourself on the floor underneath the barbell (eyes should be underneath). With the legs either straight or bent, be sure to place the feet, hips, and upper back on the floor, similar to that of a bench press.
- With the body actively gripping the floor, firmly squeeze the barbell and pull the elbows down towards the torso. Once the back of your arms touches the floor, stay tense and reverse the movement so that you’re primed to lift the weight.
- Now drive the weight until your elbows are fully extended. Make sure to not over protract (bring your shoulder blades forward) at the top when completing a rep, as this could throw your positioning and base out of line.
- Lower your elbows back to the floor.
Benefits of the Floor Press
Below are some of the key benefits the floor press. Keep in mind that many of these are typical of most pressing movements. However, the shorter range of motion of this movement lends to greater demands placed upon the triceps.
More Triceps Muscle
Like many other movements, the floor press can be programmed to increase muscle mass (hypertrophy) with increased training volume at moderate to heavy loads. This is a great exercise to develop huge and strong triceps and can be used in place of dips or to accompany a pressing program.
The restricted range of motion (since the elbows hit the floor before the pecs can fully stretch) increased the loading and demands placed upon the triceps to extend at the top, having great carry-over to the bench press and other pressing movements.
More Upper-Body Strength
Similar to the bench press, the floor press can improve upper body strength (and even power…when trained explosively). Due to the shortened range of motion, you can load this movement up with more weight than you could typically press. By programming this lift similar to the bench press, you can work to develop pressing strength and lockout abilities, especially with lifters who struggle with finishing the bench press after the halfway point.
It’s More Shoulder-Friendly
In the event lifters have issues with their shoulder while pressing, simply cutting down the range of motion in any horizontal press motion can ease up on the shoulders while still providing a good stimulus. In addition to neutral-grip pressing, which also reduces shoulder strain due to joint positioning, the floor press can be done in place of the bench press on pressing days.
If you or your athletes/clients have an injury, it is best to get it looked at before swapping exercises and hoping for the best.
Muscles Worked by the Floor Press
The floor press is a pressing movement used to increase the size, strength, and performance of the upper body, specifically the triceps and chest. Below are the primary muscles used, in the floor press movement:
The pectoral muscles (chest) are the primary muscle groups involved in the force production needed to perform the floor press. While the floor press is limited in range of motion at the shoulder joint, the chest muscles are still used (just less than in a normal bench press) to perform the lift.
The triceps are involved in elbow stability and are responsible for the final extension of the elbow to lock out the floor press. In non-barbell floor presses, such as dumbbell floor presses, lifters can manipulate the angle of the elbow to increase triceps engagement further.
Rhomboids and Scapular Stabilizers
The rhomboids and scapular are responsible for stabilizing the barbell and/or loading during the floor press. By performing the bench press on the floor, the lifter can establish a better relationship for scapular retraction and upper back tension, ultimately enhancing pressing strength and performance.
Who Should Do the Floor Press?
In the below section we discuss the various strength, power, and fitness athletes who can benefit from integrating the floor press within strength and accessory training programs.
Strength and Power Athletes
Strength and power athletes use the floor press to increase pressing strength, address lockout issues and sticking points in the bench press, improve scapular stability for bench pressing, train around an injury, increase triceps hypertrophy and strength, and overload the bench pressing movement.
Fitness and General Population
The floor press can isolate specific aspects that may be limiting a bench press, increase upper body strength, and be used to add variety to general pressing programs.
Floor Press Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
Below are three primary training goals and programming recommendations when programming the floor presses into workouts. Note, that these are general guidelines, and by no means should be used as the only way to program the floor press.
To Gain Muscle
The floor press can be used to increase muscle mass in the triceps and chest, and can be a great way to overload the triceps specifically. To build muscle mass in the triceps and chest you can train a variety of rep ranges. For best results, add variety into your training program using rep ranges of five to 10, 10 to 20, or 20 to 30 reps for a total of three to five sets.
To Gain Strength
The floor press can be used to address lockout strength and build triceps and chest mass (mainly triceps) by training with heavier loads for fewer reps. Start by performing floor presses with three to five reps for three to eight total sets, depending on the training goal. This is a great bench press variation use on non-bench press days in more conjugated systems.
To Improve Bench Press Technique
The floor press is a good regressed version of the floor press that can help educate lifters on specific cues like tensing the back, proper foot placement, and maintaining stability. Start by performing 5-10 reps using slow and controlled eccentrics for two to three sets.
Floor Press Variations
Below are three floor press variations that can be used by coaches and athletes to keep training varied and progressive.
Dumbbell Floor Press
The dumbbell floor press is a challenging unilateral floor press variation — as you’ll need to balance each dumbbell individually — that can be done to address muscle imbalances, increase stabilization demands, and allow for more individualization of pressing angles if an athlete has discomfort during a fixed barbell position.
Floor Press with Chains/Bands
The floor press can be done using chains and resistance bands, similar to most other barbell movements. Adding bands/chains to the sides of the barbell and placing about 60-70% of a lifter’s max on the bar can help to increase overall strength and muscle, improve the rate of force development, and help lifters develop better a better bar path in the press.
Concentric Floor Press
The concentric floor press requires a lifter to be placed within a rack or an area that allows the barbell to be supported at the bottom of the floor press movement. This allows the lifter to disengage at the bottom so that they can focus all of their efforts on the pressing portion of the movement. Like the Anderson squat or pin press, the concentric floor press increases the need for concentric strength of the triceps and pectorals, which can equal stronger and more powerful lockouts in the bench press (not to mention increased size and strength of the upper body).
Floor Press Alternatives
Below are three floor press alternatives coaches and athletes can use to increase chest and triceps strength and muscle hypertrophy.
The board press is a bench press variation that has a lifter stopping a few inches of the body, by way of placing a board (that can vary in widths) on the chest. In doing so, this partial range of motion press can target many of the same joint angles as the floor press and strengthen the triceps and ranges of motion that may be sticking points for pressers who have issues finishing the lift.
The Spoto bench press is similar to both the floor press and the board press, as it is done by stopping an inch (or two) off the chest, slightly pausing, and pressing the barbell upwards towards the original position. While stopping short of the chest is not a valid lift in powerlifting, this floor press variation can strengthen the triceps, address sticking point weaknesses, and increase a lifter’s shoulder stability and pressing balance in the press.
The bench press from pins, or pin press, is another partial range of motion bench presses done by having the lifter set pins at various heights, and press upwards. By setting the pins off the body, the lifter must develop maximal concentric strength to move heavier loads; which can help lifters who have issues in the first one to two inches of the bench press as it leaves the body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you do floor presses with kettlebells?
Yes, and you should try it. The kettlebell floor press reinforces proper wrist positioning, scapular stability, and lowering of the weights. This is a great warm-up movement to educate a lifter on maintaining scapular and wrist stability during the bench press.
Should you lie on a pad when doing floor presses?
While a pad is unnecessary, some lifters find it helpful if the ground is too hard or causes discomfort. That said, not using a pad is more common, as the feeling of the ground on the back provides good feedback to the lifter to maintain tension and a back arch during the press.
Are floor presses better than bench presses for chest growth?
When looking to increase chest size, movements like bench presses, push-ups, and flyes are training staples as they allow for a wider range of motion (helpful when gaining muscle size). If someone has issues with pressing heavier loads, and has a sticking point during the lockout, they can use the floor press to address that and increase overall pressing strength and abilities (which, over time, will also help with chest growth). In short, both can be beneficial depending on how you program them and the purpose for which they are trained.