When you think of a great chest workout, what comes to mind? If you’re like most, you’re all about jumping on that bench and cranking out some flat or incline bench presses. But have you ever considered hitting the floor and doing the same thing? While it may seem a bit unorthodox when compared to most other chest exercises, the floor press can be an effective way to perfect your benching technique while boosting power and muscle growth.
Let’s review the differences between the floor press vs bench press along with how you can start using floor presses in your weekly chest workout to improve results.
- What is a Bench Press?
- What is a Floor Press?
- Floor Press vs Bench Press
- Benefits of Using Floor Press
- Limitations of the Floor Press Workout
- How to do the Floor Press Correctly
- Who Should Do the Floor Press Workout?
- Sample of a Floor and Bench Press Workout Plan
Considered one of the classics and proudly holding a spot in the big three of powerlifting moves next to the squat and deadlift, the bench press and dumbbell press is a super effective way to target the chest, front deltoids, and triceps.
Thanks to the bench itself, you can achieve a full range of motion, especially with scapular mobility during the chest press. When you angle the bench at an incline or decline, you shift the focus on to the upper or lower part of the pectoral (chest) muscles. Despite popular belief, there are no upper chest muscles or lower chest muscles; it’s all one big muscle, but you can shift the workload to target different sections of that muscle.
Mimicking the movement pattern of a bench press, the floor press takes the bench out of the equation. The floor press targets the same muscles, but the triceps are activated to a greater extent, especially if you perform the close-grip variety.
A floor press does require a stable surface for the barbell. We recommend using a low set squat rack so that you can lift the barbell up and away. If you’re using a lot of weight and going for all-out power and strength, we highly recommend this option.
However, it’s also possible to perform the floor press directly from the floor if your chest is able to fit underneath the barbell when using 45-pound plates. This would be better for lighter weight sets with a lot of repetitions. Another easy and safe option is to use the dumbbell floor press.
While similar, there are a few key distinctions between these two exercises; let’s compare the floor press vs bench press.
Muscle Activation: While both the bench press and floor drill press activate the same muscle groups, there is a greater emphasis on different areas depending on the exercise you’re using. The bench press will focus more on the chest while the floor press requires greater involvement from the triceps.
Variety: Assuming you have an adjustable bench, the bench press allows for greater variety in your workouts. You’re able to set the bench at a decline, flat, or incline. It’s also easier to use additional training gear such as resistance bands attached to the sides of the barbell. A floor press, on the other hand, can only be performed at one angle with no way of changing it up.
Safety: This one may be up for debate, but most industry experts would agree that the floor bench press is safer than the bench press. This is not to say it’s better, but that the risk of injury is lower. Starting from the floor and working from the floor, you don’t have to worry about a heavy barbell crashing down from a high or awkward angle. If you’re using dumbbell during a floor press, you can simply toss them aside.
While the bench press is a standard in any chest workout, here are a few reasons to consider adding a floor press to the mix:
Static Range of Motion: While you’re not achieving a full range of motion like you would with the bench press, you can rely on the fact that each and every rep will be brought to the exact same level. This consistency in your range of motion can help you focus on power and strength gains without worrying about whether or not you went down far enough.
Go Heavy: The most obvious benefit of the floor press is that you can load up more than you normally would for a bench press. Since you’re limiting the movement to a half-press, you can safely increase those weight plates and focus on lower repetitions with more sets.
Focus on Strength: Continuing with the point above, since the floor press allows you to use more weight than normal, you’ll be able to focus on building up your power and strength. Studies show that using a heavier weight (85% to 100% of your one-repetition maximum or the greatest amount of weight you can move with perfect form one time) for fewer repetitions, more sets, and controlled speed is going to trigger gains in strength.
The floor press isn’t perfect; while we do recommend adding it in as a complement to your chest workout, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Limits Range of Motion: While it can be a blessing, it can also be a curse. The limit in your range of motion during a floor press means that this exercise should be an accessory or complement to a complete chest workout. You would never want to only perform floor presses and call it a day.
Requires a Spotter: If you go solo at the gym, the floor press is going to push you outside of your comfort zone because you’ll most likely need a spotter for the lift-off portion of the exercise.
Tapping into the benefits of the floor press requires proper form and execution. If you’re already great with the bench press, this should be a relatively easy transition. If not, no worries. Here’s how to perform the floor press correctly:
- Place a barbell on a squat rack or barbell rack that is near the ground.
- Lie down on the floor and position yourself underneath the barbell.
- Move your hands to a shoulder-width grip.
- Push your body into the ground for stability.
- You can bend your knees and keep your legs extended straight out.
- Have a spotter help you with lifting the barbell off of the rack so that your shoulders remain in place.
- Keep the elbows tucked as you slowly lower the barbell toward your stomach.
- Pause and press it back up.
- Note: Moving the barbell faster when pushing it up is better for power gains.
The floor press workout is going to be ideal for the following types of people:
- Newcomers to weightlifting who want to learn foundational movement patterns
- Those who want to focus on safely increasing strength and/or power
- Muscle-focused lifters who want to push the muscle to the point of complete fatigue
- Patients of rehab who want to safely restore function to an injured area (e.g., the elbow)
- Lifters who want to focus on building power from a short distance
You’re sold on the floor press and you want to add it into your Chest Day workout? Here are two sample workouts based on the goals of strength and muscle growth.
For each exercise, aim to use between 80% and 90% of your one-repetition maximum. Spend two seconds lifting the weight, one second pausing at the contraction, and one second lowering the weight in a controlled fashion.
- Incline Bench Press: 5 sets of 4 to 7 repetitions
- Floor Press: 5 x 4 – 7
- Chest Dips: 3 x Failure (do as many as you can)
For this workout, use between 60% to 70% of your one-repetition maximum. Spend two seconds lifting the weight, no time pausing at the contraction, and two seconds lowering the weight in a controlled fashion.
- Barbell Bench Press: 4 x 8 – 12
- Dumbbell Fly: 4 x 12 – 15
- Floor Press: 3 x 8 – 12
While the bench press gets all of the attention when it comes to chest building exercises, the floor press also has a lot to offer as far as boosting power and strength while supporting muscle growth. Due to its limitations, the floor press is best used as a complement to a complete chest workout, not as the sole focus.
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