The floor press is one of those exercises where everything you need to know is in the title. It’s a bench press variation where the lifter lies with their back flat against the floor, usually with a power rack to hold up the barbell. The floor cuts the distance the bar travels in half, so you can address sticking points during the midpoint of the press.
Grip width is another key difference. Lifters will often use a wider grip for floor press than the shoulder width grip they’re used to on conventional. Wide grip helps account for the fact you can’t achieve a full elbow tuck when the floor limits your depth.
It’s a great accessory for the flat bench if you have a shoulder injury or you’re struggling with your lockout. In this article, we’ll go over what it’s good for and who should use it.
The floor press is most often recommended for athletes struggling with the lockout portion of the bench press. When an athlete stalls out about halfway up, the floor press allows us to target that specific weak point and address it directly.
That’s because the main difference between bench press and floor press is how the floor press limits your upper body range of motion.
Stalling during the concentric motion of the bench press (i.e. the actual pressing part) is usually caused by poor tricep development. This makes sense when you remember that your triceps do the most work at the top half of each rep. If you have strong pectorals by comparison, weakness won’t appear at the beginning of the press. It’ll happen midway through, instead.
With the floor press, the bottom of the rep (when your elbow touches the ground) puts you right at the same point where you’d stall out on a normal bench.
The limited range of motion in a floor press is also beneficial for athletes with shoulder injuries. Your shoulders move the most during the bottom half of the bench press, but in the floor press, you’re only doing the top half.
Your triceps are also doing most of the work when you’re on the floor, saving your shoulders from the extra load.
Powerlifters focus on explosive force, which isn’t really possible with this variation. The floor press takes your pecs mostly out of the equation while simultaneously removing the leg drive usually associated with heavy benching.
While any pressing movement is a pain if your elbows hurt, the floor press might be especially bad. Since the whole point is to target the part of the bench where your triceps are under the heaviest load, your upper arms and elbows still have the majority of their ROM to work through.
Some powerlifters think the benefits listed above are enough to justify swapping one out for the other. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. I know that in powerlifting, bench press always reigns supreme, but I honestly don’t think I’m that biased about this.
Ignoring pain in a certain ROM is a temporary solution to what could be a permanent problem if left untreated. That’s not to say you should just grind through it if your shoulders are killing you, by the way. But if you’re using floor press to avoid dealing with shoulder pain, you’re setting yourself up for reinjury down the road. Same goes for dumbbell floor press.
Even if you’re not injured, I still don’t recommend abandoning the flat bench altogether. The floor press just plain doesn’t put enough stress on your pecs to build much (if any) muscle, nor does it help build strength in the chest to a significant degree.
If your goal is strictly hypertrophy, rather than strength-building, then a dumbbell bench press might make a more suitable long-term replacement to the barbell bench, though I would still argue the overload created during a flat bench press followed by dumbbell bench press will likely yield the greatest results.
Starting an injured lifter’s road to recovery with a floor press is a great option, but gradually transitioning back to a regular bench press should almost always be the goal. This can be accomplished via progressing to other variations such as a swiss bar bench press, pin press, tempo bench press, etc. once they can be performed pain free.
Many lifters believe that they’ll never be able to bench pain-free again post-injury and others believe that bench press will simply always cause pain. If this sounds familiar to you, give us a call. We’ve coached hundreds of lifters who thought that they’d never be able to bench press again to massive, pain-free PRs.
I firmly believe that this idea of benching being bad for your shoulders simply comes from a lack of education on proper technique, and our team is more than equipped to help teach you how to properly bench pain free.