Floor Press – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

The floor press is a simple and highly effective pressing variation that can be used as a primary pressing movement, accessory lift, or even with injury-prone lifters. The application to most strength, power, and fitness sports is highlighted throughout this article, concluding that this movement can and should be done to enhance the lockout performance, triceps hypertrophy, and overall elbow extensors strength and stability to ensure successful lifts and pressing health.

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Floor Press Exercise Demo

The floor press can be done using a wide variety of bars, dumbbells, and objects, however the most common ways are the barbell, Swiss bar, and dumbbells. When performing this exercise, the lifter assumes a lying position (supine) on the floor with either the feet and legs straight out in front of them or bent similar to the bench press/sit up. Due to the floor, the lifter’s elbows and triceps should make contact first, making the press cover a shorter range of motion. Below is a good tutorial of how to perform the floor press.

Muscles Worked

The floor press is a pressing movement used to increase the size, strength, and performance of upper body, specifically the triceps and chest (due to the shortened range of motion at the shoulder joint). Below are the primary muscles used, as well as some secondary muscles used to assist and support the movement:

  • Pectorals (chest)
  • Triceps
  • Anterior Deltoid (Shoulders)
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Gluteals
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Rhomboids
  • Forearms

Benefits of the Floor Press

Below are some of the key benefits that the floor press has to offer those who embark on this bench press variation. Keep in mind that many of these are typical to most pressing movements, however the shorter range of motion of this movement lends to greater demands placed upon the triceps.

Muscular Hypertrophy

The floor press, like many other movements, can be programmed to increase muscle mass (hypertrophy) with increased training volume at moderate to heavy loads. This is a great exercise to develop seriously large 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 full stretch on the pec) 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.

Upper Body Strength

Similar to the bench press, the floor press can improve upper body strength (and even power…when trained explosively). By programming this lift similar to the bench press, you can work to develop pressing strength and lock out abilities, especially with lifters who struggle with finishing the bench press after the halfway point, or those looking to increase elbow stability and strength (lockouts in most strength and power sports).

Pressing Option for Injury Prone Athletes and Lifters

In the event lifters have issues with their shoulder while pressing, simply cutting down the range of motion in the horizontal press (bench press) motion can save the shoulders yet give a good pressing stimulus. In addition to neutral grip pressing, which limits the amount of shoulder strain, this movement can be simply inserted or swapped for bench press on pressing days. It is important to note that having an injury should not be overlooked. 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. Injuries happen as you progress, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect them (or nagging pains), as overtime those may manifest into serious sidelining issues.

Pressing and Lockout Performance

As discussed above, locking the press out and having the structural (muscle, tendon, and bone) stability to withstand elbow flexion is key to the completion of many lifts within the strength, power, and fitness realm. Movements like the bench press (powerlifting), snatch and jerk (weightlifting), and dips, push ups, muscle ups, thrusters, etc (functional fitness) can all be limited by lack of elbow extension strength and stability. By performing floor presses, you are able to isolate the specific weakness and work to increase your abilities without interference from other muscle groups failures or shortcomings. For example, if you have issues with overhead stability in the jerk (specifically elbows), you can add floor pressing into your accessory work to increase muscle mass and strength of the elbow extensors and stabilizing muscles.

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How to Program the Floor Press

Programming the floor press is very similar to that of the barbell bench press and other pressing movements. If the purpose is to develop raw strength and have great application to lockouts in powerlifting and other pressing lifts, heavier loading for low to moderate repetitions may do the trick (4-8 sets of 2-5 reps). For increased hypertrophy, and greater isolation of the triceps, higher reps ranges with moderate loading can be performed, similar to how one would do bench press programming (4-8 sets of 6-12 reps). Remember, there is no right or wrong way to program these (and many other exercises), which has been clearly shown through the wide variety of programming and coaches out there who have been successful with this lift and its application to hypertrophy, strength, and sports performance.

More Bench Press Tips

Check out these great articles on bench press training and more!

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