The bench press and floor press are two popular upper body pressing movements to develop serious strength and muscle. In this article, we wanted to compare and contrast both lifts to better facilitate your strength, muscular hypertrophy, and pressing performance.
The Bench Press
The bench press is a gem of an exercise, allowing us to load the upper body with an insane amount of loading, increase muscle hypertrophy, and compete in competitions (powerlifting). Below is a great video demonstrating the bench press, how to perform it correctly, and more. Note, that for the sake of this article we are comparing the barbell bench press with the barbell floor press, for the sake of keeping things apples to apples (barbell vs barbell) rather than dumbbell pressing, odd variations, etc.
The Floor Press
The floor press, which was covered extensively in a previous article, is a segmented (shorter range of motion) variation of the bench press, with the intent to target the top half of the movement. The benefits of the floor press are covered as well, which states increased triceps mass and strength, better lockout performance, and makes the case for the floor press as a shoulder saving pressing option. In the below video you can see the proper setup and execution of the barbell floor press.
Floor Press vs Bench Press
In the below sections we will determine which exercise (barbell bench press or barbell floor press) is best for eliciting the desired training outcome(s).
When it comes to building serious strength, both of the movements can play a pivotal role. The bench press is the fuller range of motion lift that allows for the chest, triceps, and anterior shoulders to press the barbell, where as the floor press limits the amount of chest involvement (limiting loading and overall synchronization of muscle groups). Increasing your floor press can boost your bench press, however to build a bigger chest, arms, and press, the bench press generally will be your best bet, however adding in the floor press as a variation press of accessory lift will take your strength to the next level!
The bench press targets the pectorals/chest to a greater extent than the floor press simply because of the increased range of motion of the press (increases the stretch and loading place upon the chest). While the floor press can increase chest strength and mass as well (especially if the bar settles closer to the chest (kind of like in a board press), generally we will find more chest involvement in the standard bench press than the floor press.
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, lockout in the bench press may be holding their pressing PRs back, which may suggest weak triceps and lock-out strength when a lifter fails once the barbell is a few inches off their chest.
Seeing that the competition lift in powerlifting is the bench press, it is quite 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 pressing performance.
Bench pressing isn’t inherently bad for your shoulders, just like squatting isn’t inherently bad for your knees. Rather, the issue comes when people press wrong, too heavy, too often, or simply neglect some normal wear and tear without properly repairing those training pains. For lifters who are predisposed to shoulder injuries, the floor press is a better place to start as it restricts range of motion and offers a feedback mechanism (the floor) for the lifter to properly lock the scapular into place. Regardless of which press you choose, proper clearance by a medical professional and thoughtful progressions should be made before loading either movement up.
Want a Bigger Bench?
If you desire a bigger bench, I recommend you perform both the bench press and the floor press, which will help to diversify your pressing strength. Additionally, take a glance at the below articles discussing training chest, bigger bench presses, and more!
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