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.
In this floor press exercise guide, we will cover:
- Floor Press Form and Technique
- Muscles Worked by the Floor Press
- Who Should Do Floor Presses
- Benefits of the Floor Press
- How to Integrate Floor Presses into Your Current Training Program
- Floor Press Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
- Floor Press Variations and Alternatives
- and more…
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 and/or other pieces of equipment as well.
Step 1: Setup Underneath the Barbell With a Strong Base
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.
Note, that this relationship with the floor is essential to the floor press. Often, individuals who struggle with this on a bench may find it easier to develop greater back tension in the floor press in the early learning phases.
Step 2: Grip the Floor, Bring Elbows Downwards
With the body actively gripping the floor, firmly squeeze the barbell and pull the elbows down towards the torso, on a slight angle to ensure that the back muscles and posterior shoulders are being activated.
Be sure to pull the barbell to the base of the chest (just above the sternum) so that the elbows are roughly 45 degrees from the torso.
Step 3: Make Gentle Contact With Floor, Then Press
Once you have gently made contact with the back of the elbows to the floor, remain in tension and reverse the movement so that you go into the concentric pressing phase of the floor press.
Note, that lifters can pause at the bottom of the press (which I prefer) to help increase stability, control, and gain a deeper understanding on how to develop and maintain tension and strength throughout the full lift.
Step 4: Lock Out, Prep for Next Rep
Once you have returned to the top of the movement, repeat for the prescribed repetitions, rest, and repeat.
Make sure to not over protract at the top when completing a rep, as this could throw your positioning and base out of line.
Muscles Worked – Floor Press
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, 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 an normal bench press) to perform the lift.
The triceps are involved in the stability of the elbow and 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 further increase triceps engagement.
Rhomboids and Scapular Stabilizers
The rhomboids and scapular are responsible for stabilization of 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 Floor Presses?
In the below section we discuss the various groups of strength, power, and fitness athletes who can benefit form integrating the floor press within strength and accessory training programs.
Strength Athletes and Powerlifters
Strength athletes and powerlifters can use the floor press to increase general pressing strength, add muscle mass and strength to the triceps, and help to improve maximal performance in the bench press and overhead positions if their weaknesses are at the end stages of elbow extension.
While bench pressing is not highly sport specific to the snatch, clean, and jerk, the floor press can be used to increase general upper body strength, triceps lockout strength, and muscle hypertrophy.
Fitness and General Training
The floor press can be used in isolate specific aspects that may be limiting a bench press, increase upper body strength, and be used to add variety to general pressing programs. Be sure to review the benefits of the floor press in the section below.
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.
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.
How to Integrate the Floor Press into Your Current Training Program
In the below section we discuss how coaches and athletes can integrate the floor press into current training programs.
Main Strength Lifts
The floor press can be done as a main strength lift for the day, similar to that of the barbell bench press. Lifters can program heavy floor presses in a similar model as the standard barbell bench press, and can even integrate pauses, chains, band training, and more.
The floor press can be added into accessory training blocks to increase muscle hypertrophy, reinforce proper pressing mechanics, and enhance muscular development of the upper body (specifically the triceps and chest), using the barbell, dumbbell, or other loaded means. Refer to the below section for sets, reps, and weight recommendations.
Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
Below are three primary training goals and programming recommendations when utilizing the floor press into specific programs. Note, that these are general guidelines, and by no means should be used as the only way to program floor press.
Strength – Reps and Sets
For strength building sets, athletes can perform lower repetition ranges for more sets.
- 4-6 sets of 2-5 repetitions, resting 2-3 minutes
Hypertrophy – Reps and Sets
Muscle hypertrophy can be accomplished by adding training volume (more reps), time under tension, and/or training towards fatigue.
- 4-6 sets of 6-12 repetitions, resting 1-2 minutes
Muscle Endurance – Reps and Sets
Some lifters may want to train greater muscle endurance (for sport), in which higher repetition ranges and/or shorter rest periods are recommended.
- 2-3 sets of 12+ repetitions, resting 60-90 seconds between (this is highly sport specific)
Floor Press Variations
Below are three (3) 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 that can be done to address muscle imbalances, increase stabilization demands, and allow or more individualization of pressing angles if an athlete has discomfort using a more fixed barbell position.
Floor Press with Chains/Bands
The floor press can be done using chains and resistance bands, similar to most other barbell pressing (and squatting/pulling) movements. Simply adding bands/chains to the sides of the barbell and placing about 60-70% of a lifters max on the bar (if the goal is speed strength) can help to increase overall strength and muscle, improve rate of force development, and help lifter’s develop 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 for the barbell to be supported at the bottom of the floor press movement. Like the Anderson squat or pin press, the concentric floor press increases the need on concentric strength of the triceps and pectorals, which can equal to stronger and more powerful lockouts in the bench press (not to mention increased size and strength of the upper body).
Dumbbell Bench Press Alternatives
Below are three (3) 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 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 with issue finishing the lift (lockout).
Partial Barbell Bench Press
The partial bench press is similar to both the floor press and the board press, and is done by stopping an inch (or few) off the chest, slightly pausing, and pressing the barbell upwards towards the original position. While stopping of the chest is not a valid lift in powerlifting, this floor press variation can strengthen the triceps, help to address sticking point weaknesses, and increase a lifter’s shoulder stability and pressing balance in the press.
Bench Press from Pins
The bench press from pins is simply a partial range of motion bench press done by having the lifter set pins are 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 be helpful for lifters who have issues in the first one to two inches of the bench press as it leaves the body.
Featured Image: Mike Dewar