The floor press is one of the best bench press accessories for building strength, hypertrophy, and technique. It is used by both bodybuilders and powerlifters, in addition to injury-prone athletes.
What is the floor press? The floor press starts with you lying on the floor. Rather than the barbell going through a full range of motion, the barbell will stop when your elbows hit the ground. The floor press is used to increase lock-out strength in the bench press, with a focus on shoulder and tricep development.
There are several benefits to the floor press, which we’ll discuss in this article. The goal is to make sure you know how to perform this exercise properly, and understand whether it’s a bench press variation that you should implement into your training program.
Let’s get started!
While this article is a complete guide to the floor press, I wrote a separate article explaining the key differences between the floor press and bench press. Go to Floor Press vs Bench Press to read that article.
What Is The Floor Press?
The floor press is an upper-body pressing movement that mimics the range of motion of a bench press.
What makes the floor 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, you’ll 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.
Partial Range of Motion
The floor press is considered a ‘partial range of motion’.
What this means is that you’re only working a specific segment of the movement.
In this case, the focus is on the mid-range and lock-out portion.
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 bench press.
As a result, your shoulders and triceps need to work a lot harder in the floor press than they normally would during a regular bench press.
An Exercise Used By All
Because you can use less weight than a normal bench press but have an extremely high training effect (i.e. the weight feels hard), you’ll see a variety of different strength athletes use this exercise.
Bodybuilders, powerlifters, Crossfitters, and Strongmen all use the floor press to build their elbow extensor strength, increase shoulder and tricep hypertrophy, and reduce the stress on their joints that other exercises may cause.
The floor 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.
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.
The floor press is similiar 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. Might Be 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 though, and you’ll want to make sure to seek proper medical advice if you’re injured or feel shoulder pain.
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 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 in order 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 for which your body will adapt.
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.
Take a look at my article on Is The Floor Press Harder?
5. Can Be Easily Modified To Work More Shoulders Or Triceps
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’re keeping your elbows directly stacked underneath of the barbell.
If you want to use the floor press to target more triceps, ensure you’re keeping your elbows slightly tucked in front of the barbell.
6. Increases Muscular Hypertrophy
If you use a higher rep range (8-12 reps) then 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 levels of control compared with 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 it will 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 your 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 make sure 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 substitute the floor press with a bench press. Rather, I would use the floor press to compliment 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 second bench press day within your training split.
Here’s how I would program the floor press over a 6-week program. The first 3 weeks are focused on hypertrophy development, with the second 3 weeks focused on strength development.
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, or your specific lifting goals.
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 grip that is shoulder-width apart will recruit the triceps 2X as much when compared with 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.
It will also give you a bit 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other frequently asked questions that I receive when it comes to floor pressing:
Is The Floor Press Effective For Chest?
While the floor press does activate the chest as you bring the barbell down to the floor, 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 are restricting the amount of leg drive and upper body arch that you would otherwise get in the regular bench press. As such, the muscles in your upper body have to work harder to stabilize the movement. You can expect to do 5-10% less weight on the floor press vs bench press.
Will 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 regular bench press, your strength should have increased.
Can Floor Press Replace Bench Press?
The floor press should not replace the bench press because the floor press 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.
The floor press has several benefits, including being able to prioritize the mid and top-end range of motion, allowing the shoulder joint to experience less strain, and increasing elbow extensor strength.
Because you can use less weight on the floor press, but still yield a high training effect, the floor press shouldn’t cause as much training fatigue as other exercises.
I would recommend the floor press to beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifter in order to develop top-end strength, power, and hypertrophy.