The floor press is one of the best bench press variations for building strength, hypertrophy, and technique. It is used by both bodybuilders and powerlifters. In addition, it is a great option for athletes recovering from injury.
The floor press can be performed with different pieces of equipment for different purposes, including barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells.
What exactly is the floor press? The floor press starts with you setting up on the floor instead of on a bench. Rather than the dumbbells moving through your full range of motion, the movement stops when your elbows hit the ground. The floor press increases lock-out strength in the bench press, focusing on shoulder and tricep development.
There are several benefits to the floor press, which we’ll discuss in this article. The goal is to ensure you know how to perform this exercise properly and understand if it’s a bench press variation you should add to your training program and, if so, how to do so.
Let’s get started! While this article is a complete guide to the floor press, there is a separate article explaining the key differences between the floor press and bench press.
What Is The Floor Press?
The floor press is an upper-body pressing movement that mimics a bench press but with a reduced range of motion.
What makes the floor dumbbell press unique is that instead of lying flat on a bench press, you will lay flat on the floor with either your legs bent or straight.
As you bring the barbell off the rack or the floor, you will begin to lower the weight to your chest in a controlled fashion. The range of motion ends when your elbows touch the floor. Most people will pause in this position for 1-2 seconds before driving the barbell back to the starting position.
Having your feet on the floor will provide more stability through leg drive. Having your feet straight ahead will require more stabilization from you and feel more challenging.
Partial Range of Motion
The lying down dumbell press is considered a ‘partial range of motion’ movement.
This means you’re only working on a specific movement segment.
In this case, the focus is on the mid-range and lock-out portion of the press.
A Tougher Exercise Than You Might Think
Most exercises that incorporate a partial range of motion, such as the boarded bench press, allow you to lift more weight than you normally would be able to.
However, the floor press is special because even though it’s a partial exercise, you will typically use less weight when compared with the full range of motion bench press.
As a result, your shoulders and triceps need to work much harder in the floor press than they normally would during a regular bench press.
To floor press, you need a clear gym floor area and equipment that is suitable for pressing. This could be a barbell but could also be a dumbbell or kettlebell. A bench is not required. Some lifters may lift off a rack, but this is also not required.
What equipment you choose to floor press with will depend on your reason for floor pressing or potentially what equipment you have access to.
Who Should Do The Floor Press?
Barbell or dumbbell floor pressing is an effective exercise for strength sport athletes, those who train for general health and well-being, as well as people working through injuries that may affect the shoulder, pec, or triceps.
The barbell or dumbbell floor press is an exercise that can effectively be used by all-strength sport athletes, including bodybuilders, powerlifters, Crossfitters, and Strongmen. Floor press exercises help to build their elbow extensor strength, increase shoulder and tricep hypertrophy, and reduce the stress on their joints that other exercises may cause.
You can use less weight than a normal bench press but have an extremely high training effect (i.e. the weight feels hard) due to less leg drive, arch and increased core stabilization required.
It is a particularly useful variation for programming a CrossFit class where the number of benches may be limited compared to the number of class participants.
Read next: Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without A Bench
Anyone Rehabbing Their Shoulder or Pecs
Performing a dumbbell chest press on the floor means the shoulder and pec muscles are worked through a reduced range of motion compared to the standard bench press, which can be beneficial for those managing shoulder pain or pec injuries. Always consult your medical professional before engaging in an exercise routine or selecting this specific exercise.
In addition, those who get elbow pain from exercises such as skull crushers may be able to develop their triceps through floor pressing with no elbow pain.
Anyone Looking to Improve Health and Well-being
For the person training for general health and wellbeing, floor pressing requires less equipment and less technical skill, whilst the reduced range of motion limits the impact on the shoulder joint. For these reasons, it is a great pressing option for the person who wants to be time efficient and feel confident they are moving well and safely while requiring less load and equipment to complete a good upper body workout.
The floor chest press was included in my article on the Best Bench Press Variations. Check it out for more exercises to include in your bench press programming. I also recommend reading Bench Press Progressions.
What Does The Floor Press Work?
While the chest is the least active muscle group in the floor press, it’s still used as a prime mover.
You’ll have the chest most active as you bring the bar down, as it has a role in stabilizing the bar path and decelerating the barbell before your elbows hit the floor.
Additionally, your chest will be more active if you choose to heave your elbows directly stacked underneath of the barbell rather than have a slight elbow tuck.
I would suggest having a slight elbow tuck during the floor press unless for some reason, you purposely wanted to use this exercise to target your chest muscles. However, in my opinion, there are better exercises to target the chest muscles than the floor press.
Take a look at my article on 9 Highly Effective Bench Press Alternatives.
The shoulder muscles, especially the anterior delt (the front part of the shoulder), are the most active during the initial drive upward as the elbows leave the floor.
Your level of shoulder activation will also largely be determined by the length of your arms. If you have longer arms, the floor press will activate your shoulder muscles to a larger extent.
You’ll know if you have longer arms if they measure 38% or greater of your overall height. If you do have long arms, you’ll want to read my article on 5 Tricks To Bench Pressing With Long Arms.
The tricep muscles are most used to extend the elbow in the final lockout portion of the floor press.
Because the floor press reduces the range of motion to only focus on the lockout portion, the triceps are highly active in this variation.
They will also be more active if you choose to have more of an elbow tuck, where the elbows are placed in front of the barbell.
For these reasons, the floor press is a very effective exercise for building tricep muscle mass.
Read more: The floor press is similar to the Larsen Press.
Floor Press Benefits
There are 7 benefits to performing the floor press. Use these benefits to determine whether the floor press is something that you should implement into your training program.
1. A Good Variation for Post-Shoulder Injury
While the shoulder muscles are quite active during the floor press, the shoulder joint doesn’t have a large range of motion to go through.
As such, there is less stress at the level of the joint that would otherwise be present during a full range of motion bench press.
This is why the floor press is used by some strength athletes to prevent or rehab shoulder injuries because it’s viewed as a ‘safer variation’ for the shoulders.
Each shoulder injury is different, and you’ll want to seek proper medical advice if you’re injured or feel shoulder pain.
The Floor Press was included in our other article on the best close-grip bench press alternatives.
2. Great for Improving Lockout Strength
If you struggle in the lock-out phase of the bench press, then you’ll want to implement variations that target the top-end range of motion specifically.
The floor press is a good candidate for training lock-out strength because the elbows are restricted on going beyond 90-degree flexion.
As such, the entire movement is focused on the top half to the top-third range of motion, which is the exact portion of the lift that needs to be prioritized if you struggle to lock your elbows at the top of the lift.
Don’t continue to train your areas of strength, you’ll get stronger by training your areas of weakness.
The floor press was rated as one of my top bench press progressions to take your lift from a beginner to an advanced level.
3. Removes the Arch & Leg Drive From the Movement
The floor press removes the bench press arch and leg drive from the movement altogether.
While you certainly want to master how to use a bench press arch and proper leg drive while lifting, during the floor press, you’re trying to limit the contribution of these techniques to make the lift harder.
In the absence of the arch and leg drive, the upper body is challenged to a greater extent.
As such, you don’t need a heavy weight to feel like the movement is a high effort. You can use a lower weight and still have a large stimulus to which your body will adapt.
To further decrease leg drive in the floor press, extend your legs directly in front of you.
4. Great for Working Mid-Range Sticking Points
While the floor press is used to develop a stronger lockout, it can equally be used to break through sticking points in the mid-range of motion.
This is particularly the case if you choose to pause each rep for 1-2 seconds with your elbows on the floor.
By pausing (and I recommend that you do), you will need to generate force from a dead stop while the weight is de-loaded on the floor.
This will inevitably bring up the strength of the mid-part of your lift once you’ve trained this way for a significant amount of time.
Read more: Take a look at my article on Is The Floor Press Harder?
5. Can Be Easily Modified to Work Shoulders or Triceps More
As I mentioned previously, by manipulating the position of your elbows, you can easily target different muscle groups.
If you want to use the floor press to target more shoulders (and chest), ensure you keep your elbows directly stacked underneath the barbell.
If you want to use the floor press to target more triceps, ensure you keep your elbows slightly tucked in front of the barbell.
6. Increases Muscular Hypertrophy
If you use a higher rep range (8-12 reps), you’ll be able to use the floor press to build hypertrophy.
This is especially important if you need to increase muscle mass for your shoulders and triceps specifically.
Most lifters like using the floor press to drive muscle growth because, as I stated before, you don’t need a lot of weight to get a high training effect from this exercise.
7. Increases Eccentric Control
The floor press forces you to exert greater control levels than other bench press variations.
This is particularly the case if you are the type of lifter who ‘bounces’ the barbell of your chest while benching.
In the floor press, you don’t have the opportunity to ‘bounce the barbell’. You need to bring the barbell down with control, and if you don’t, then your elbows will smash onto the floor, causing a lot of discomfort.
As a result, you need to practice decelerating the barbell on the way down rather than relying on the rebound that you get from ‘bouncing’.
How To Floor Press
Here’s how you should set up the floor press:
1. Get the Rack Set
You’ll need a squat cage for this exercise. Set up the pins low since you’ll need to be able to grab the barbell while you lay on the floor.
2. Position Your Upper Body
As you lay underneath the weight, you’ll want to have your eyes slightly in front of the barbell. Just like any other bench press variation, you’ll want to ensure that your shoulder blades are pulled ‘back’ and ‘down’ in order to stabilize the smaller muscles in your shoulder.
3. Set Your Legs & Grip
While you might see some people do the floor press with their legs straight, I recommend having your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. This will ensure additional stability through your torso and make it easier to hold your shoulder position. Your grip should be the same that you use for the regular bench press.
4. Take Off
Prior to taking the barbell off the rack, squeeze your hands and lats as hard as you can, take a deep breath, and pull the barbell out over your sternum.
5. Lowering the Barbell
As you lower the weight to your chest, ensure that you thinking about keeping your chest high (not letting it collapse) and have your elbows slightly tucking in front of the barbell.
When you feel your elbows on the floor, pause for 1-2 seconds. However, don’t let your hands or lats relax. You want to ensure you’re still maintaining tension on your muscles rather than letting this be a position where you ‘rest’.
Note: if you smash your elbows on the ground, it can cause elbow pain in the long run. Make sure you implement a ‘light' touch with your elbows.
7. Drive the Barbell Up
After pausing, drive the barbell upward to lock the elbows. You want to think about applying maximum force during this phase, especially as your elbows leave the floor.
How To Program The Floor Press
I would not recommend substituting the floor press with a bench press. Rather, I would use the floor press to complement your other pressing movements within your overall training program.
Depending on how many times per week you bench press, I would use the floor press on your secondary or tertiary bench press day within your training split.
Here’s how I would program the floor press over a 6-week program:
Focus the first 3 weeks on hypertrophy development and the second 3 weeks on strength development.
While we know the hypertrophy adaptations are possible under many rep ranges, the floor press tends to be performed at higher rep ranges. It would be typical to see this for the above-mentioned hypertrophy phase, including rep ranges of 8-12, for example.
In the second part of the 6-week program, reps could be reduced to 3-5 rep range to focus more on strength development.
To learn more about how to increase your bench press, check out our article How To Improve Your Bench Press by 50lb
Other Floor Press Variations
There are a few other floor press variations that you can implement depending on whether you want to target more or less of your triceps, your specific lifting goals, or your access to equipment. You do not need to have access to a barbell to experience the benefits of floor pressing.
Floor Press In Glute Bridge Position
Typically, you will see the floor press performed with either foot on the floor or legs extended.
A third setup position involves feet on the floor with the hips extended into a bridge position. This variation allows the lifter to engage and work their glutes throughout the enter-pressing movement.
Close Grip Floor Press
A close grip floor press is the same exercise, but you’ll take a grip that is shoulder-width apart.
It’s been demonstrated that a shoulder-width grip will recruit the triceps 2X as much as a grip that is double the distance (Lehman, 2005).
Therefore, if you want to take the chest and shoulders out of the movement altogether, use the close-grip floor press.
Dumbbell Floor Press
The dumbbell floor press can be used if you don’t have access to a squat rack to set up the barbell variation or if you don't have access to a barbell.
Dumbbell floor pressing also gives you more flexibility to position your hands and elbows in a more natural movement pattern. Therefore, you can also use the dumbbell floor press if the barbell variation feels somewhat uncomfortable.
Dumbbell floor press work will also require more of the shoulder stabilizing muscles to support the movement than barbell floor pressing.
You may experience some movement of your shoulder blades if you prefer to press to full extension and into protraction.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Floor Press
The single-arm dumbbell floor press has all the advantages of dumbbell floor pressing and improves core stability.
We recommend using this movement as a warm-up before benching or floor pressing or as an alternative during a rehabilitation phase of training, as you won’t require a heavy load to elicit a training effect.
To experience the ultimate single-arm dumbbell floor press, extend your legs out in front to challenge your core more than any press you have done before.
Related Article: Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press: How To, Pros, Cons
Swiss Bar Floor Press
This variation will require a specialty bar called a swiss bar. I wrote an entire article on the Swiss bar bench press.
When you use the Swiss bar during the floor press, your hands will be in a neutral position, which will cause your elbows to tuck more while pressing.
As a result, your triceps will be more activated in this variation versus the regular floor press.
This variation is used more with football players or combat athletes, as these sports require athletes to develop strength and power in a close-hand position.
The board press is an alternative bench press variation that also reduces the range of motion, while a lifter maintains the same setup as their competition bench press, including their arch and leg drive.
To learn more about why you would use board pressing in your bench press programming, read my article Why Do Powerlifters Use Boards for Bench Press (5 Reasons)
A similar bench press variation that also works the bench press without leg drive is the Larsen press. This bench press variation takes the lift through its entire range of motion, and care needs to be taken to look after the shoulder.
Tips For Dumbbell Or Barbell Floor Pressing
Here are some useful tips for doing floor press work:
- If you don’t have a rack, ask a spotter to help you get the weight into position.
- If you have been floor pressing for a while, increase your core activation by having your feet directly in front of you or performing a single-arm DB floor press (once you have mastered the feet flat on the floor version).
- Carefully control the descent of the barbell or dumbbells to not bang your elbows on the floor. This will help your competition bench also.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other frequently asked questions that I receive when it comes to floor pressing for powerlifting:
Is the Floor Press as Good as Bench Press?
Whether the floor press is as good as the bench press depends on your goal, current training ability, and equipment access. For a competitive powerlifter, specificity is king, and to be prepared optimally for competition, you will want to continue on a full range of motion bench pressing. For training your lockout, with fewer equipment requirements, the floor press is a fantastic option or addition to a training program.
Is the Floor Press Effective for Chest?
While the floor press activates the chest as you bring the barbell down, the pec recruitment is minimal compared with the regular bench press. If you want to target your chest to a larger extent, perform the regular bench press or other exercises such as dumbbell press, pec flys, or machine press.
Why is the Floor Press Harder Than Bench Press?
The floor press is harder because you restrict the leg drive and upper body arch you would otherwise get in the regular bench press. As such, the muscles in your upper body must work harder to stabilize the movement. You can expect to do 5-10% less weight on the floor press vs bench press.
Will Training the Floor Press Increase Bench Press?
If you struggle with the lockout portion of the bench press, then the floor press is an excellent exercise to overcome this area of weakness. If you train the floor press for a substantial amount of time and then return to the traditional bench press, your strength in the lock-out portion should have increased.
Can Floor Press Replace Bench Press?
The floor press should not replace the bench press because the floor press with dumbells is only a partial range of motion. As a result, you’ll only be working the top-end range of motion, and the bottom-end portion of the lift will not be worked. This is why you need to train both the bench press and floor press, either by rotating the exercises over consecutive training programs or by adding in both movements within the same training program.
Can You Do Floor Presses With Kettlebells?
The floor press can be done with kettlebells! Expect this to feel more challenging than a barbell and even dumbbells, as more stabilization will be required.
Should You Pause the Floor Press?
You will gain more from your floor pressing if you pause for 1-2 seconds when your elbows touch the ground. Producing force from the dead stop will help overcome a potential mid-range sticking point, help you practice speed and force generation on the way up, and has the additional benefit of reducing the chance of banging your elbows into the ground for more touch-and-go sort of rep.
Should You Lie on a Pad When Floor Pressing?
You may feel more comfortable laying on a pad rather than the floor when you floor bench press. If that's the case, there's little harm in doing so. Just be mindful that it may alter the sensation of your neck, upper traps, and feet pushing into the floor and potentially reduce it some, depending on the thickness of the pad.
Read More: Bench Press Accessories
The floor press has the specific benefits of prioritizing the mid and top-end range of motion, allowing the shoulder joint to experience less strain, and increasing elbow extensor strength and muscle mass-building capacity.
You can use less weight on the floor press, have access to minimal equipment and still yield a high training effect.
For the above reasons, I would recommend the dumbell bench press on the floor to beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters to develop top-end strength, power, and hypertrophy.