Floor Press Vs. Bench Press — Is One Better Than the Other?

Spoiler alert: They both rock, but for very different reasons. Here's what you need to know.

If you’ve been lifting for even a minute, you’ve probably heard of the bench press — a powerlifting movement that lifters of all backgrounds work into their training for more upper-body mass and stronger pressing mechanics. It wouldn’t be a shocker, however, if you’ve never heard heard of the floor press, a near-identical movement that has you press from the floor. The former is a more utilitarian movement, bosltering strength and size while being sport-specific. While the floor press is more particular, it’s still deserving of the limelight.

Below, we’ll go over the differences and similarities of each movement and show you how to do them. 

The Floor Press Vs. Bench Press — Main Differences

Both exercises are bench press variations, with the key difference being that the bench press is done on a workout bench and the floor press is done with the lifter lying on the ground. It’s a simple change, but it makes both exercises pretty different. 

Man performing bench press
bob boz/Shutterstock

The most significant difference between the two exercises is the range of motion you can press with. By lying on a workout bench for the bench press, your elbows are free to travel past your torso, which allows you to stretch your chest muscles further. For bodybuilders, or other lifters focused on muscle gain, the traditional bench press is the way to go. An increased range of motion translates to more tension not the muscle, and tension equates to growth.

On the other hand, the decreased range of motion is what attracts strength athletes to the floor press. It allows them to lift more weight, acclimating the muscles involved in the bench press to heavier loads, and it lets the lifter focus on the top half of the bench press. If a powerlifter has issues locking out the bench press, they can add the floor press into their program to isolate that specific sticking point. 

To sum it up, the floor press is a specific movement that strength athletes will benefit from. It is not, however, the best choice when it comes to adding mass. 

The Floor Press Vs. Bench Press — Similarities

For one, both moves are bench presses. One is done on a bench and the other is done on the floor, but we bet you could figure that out all on your own. 

Mechancially speaking, both exercises are horizontal presses — meaning your arms extend out in front of you and not overhead (like with the military press). Both movements also target the same muscles, which are the chest, triceps and shoulders primarily. Though, the floor press targets the triceps to a greater degrees since they’re in play from start to finish due to the reduced range of motion. 

Both moves are great strenght-building exercises, though the floor press is more specific and focuses on the top half of the bench press. You can lift a lot of relative weight with both the bench press and floor press, and perform them for lots of volume.

The Floor Press Vs. Bench Press — Performance Differences

In the below sections, we will determine which exercise (bench press or floor press) is best for eliciting the desired training outcome(s).

Maximal Strength

When it comes to building serious strength, both of the movements are effective. The bench press allows for a longer range of motion, allowing the chest, triceps, and shoulders to press the barbell, whereas the floor press limits the amount of chest involvement. Increasing your floor press can boost your bench press. That said, to build a bigger chest, arms, and press, the bench press generally will be your best bet. The floor press is more of an accoutrement to an already complete workout program

Chest Hypertrophy

The bench press targets the pectorals/chest to a greater extent than the floor press simply because the longer range of motion of the press increases the stretch and loading place upon the chest. In contrast, the floor press can increase chest strength and mass as well, there’s generally more chest involvement in the standard bench press than the floor press.

Triceps Hypertrophy

On the flip, the floor press targets the triceps to a greater extent than the bench press because of the decreased range of motion in the press (minimizes chest engagement and places greater loading on the elbow extensors/triceps). For many lifters, locking out the bench press may be holding their PRs back. Usually, weak triceps are the culprit in a lackluster lockout, and that’s because the tris are the muscle that fully extend the elbow. If you’re specifically looking to target the triceps for a stronger bench press lockout, the floor press is your best since it’s basically the same exercise.

Powerlifting Performance

Seeing that the competition lift in powerlifting is the bench press, it is obvious that the lifter must perform the bench press to succeed in the sport. That said, using the floor press in training to target sticking points or muscular weaknesses can be very effective in maximizing bench press performance.

Shoulder Health

For lifters who are predisposed to shoulder injuries, the floor press is a better place to start as it restricts the range of motion and offers a feedback mechanism (the floor) for the lifter to lock the scapular into place properly. Regardless of which press you choose, you should always consult with a doctor before loading either movement up.

How to Do Each Exercise

Here’s a step-by-step break down for both the bench press and floor press. 

The Bench Press

  • Lay face up on a bench, and slide back until your eyes are in line with the barbell. 
  • Grab the barbell with both hands, and space your hands about shoulder-width apart. You may find a slightly wider grip to be more comfortable. 
  • Plant your feet firmly on floor, arch your lower back slightly, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your shoulders should feel locked in place.
  • Lift the barbell out of the rack, and then lower it to your chest, keeping your elbows pointed out at 45 degrees. 
  • Once the bar is touching your chest, just below your nipples, exhale and drive the bar up. 
  • Be sure to push through your feet so that your glutes, hamstrings, and quads are all engaged. The more weight you lift, the more important this step will be.

The Floor Press

  • This exercise is best done in a power rack. Set the J-hooks so that your arms reach them when you’re laying on the floor. Then, lay a barbell across the hooks and load it up.
  • Now, your set-up is nearly identical to your bench press: line up your eyes with the barbell, assume a shoulder-width (or slightly wider) grip, plant your feet, arch your lower back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. 
  • You’ll likely be using heavier weight, so be sure to lower the bar slowly and with control. Descend until your triceps touch the floor. You don’t want to relax the muscle — keep them on the floor while remaining tense.
  • Explode up, driving through your feet, until your elbows are fully locked out.  

More Bench Press Training Tips 

Both of these movements are worth adding to your workout program. Now that you know about both the floor press and bench press, here are some other similar articles from BarBend.

Featured Image: bob boz/Shutterstock