The floor press is a truly underrated exercise for the upper body. Its versatility allows you to perform it as a main pushing movement or as an accessory lift to an already complete upper body program.  More than just being a primitive relative of the bench press, you build your core, chest, and triceps strength with this tension generating movement, from the ground up and tremendously reduce overextension of the lumbar area from too much arching.  

For lifters with shoulder mobility issues, floor presses are a great exercise. Aside from being an excellent supplementary lift to the bench press, these are gentler on the shoulder joints while increasing tension put on the triceps and improving one’s pressing strength. It can be performed virtually on any flat surface, especially when the gym is pretty packed.

This article is all about the floor press and its shining glory among accessory upper body exercises. Learn more about its benefits, floor press tips, muscles worked, variations, and alternatives. Most importantly, learn the proper step-by-step process of the floor process while keeping knowledge of the common beginner mistakes you should avoid.

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:

  • How To Floor Press
  • Benefits of Floor Press
  • Common Floor Press Mistakes To Avoid
  • Floor Press Muscles Worked
  • Floor Press vs Bench Press
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
  • Floor Press Variations
  • Floor Press Alternative Exercises
  • FAQs About Floor Press

How To Floor Press

What You’ll Need: 

  • Barbell: Floor presses come in different variations. In this article, we will be focusing on barbell floor presses that make use of a bar and weight plates according to the lifter’s personal preference. You could opt for an Olympic or standard bar, whichever you’re more accustomed to.

Alternative Equipment: 

  • Dumbbells: A more accessible equipment for floor presses are dumbbells, which make a great alternative for a bar. Dumbbell floor presses are performed in a bilateral approach, so make sure to pick a weight you can carry on each arm at the same time.
  • Kettlebells: Kettlebells also work for floor presses. This even comes with its own variations. Kettlebells prove to be more challenging because of their asymmetrical shape. Aside from targeting your chest and triceps, kettlebells will do a great job of strengthening your forearms and grip power.

Step 1: Set Up The Equipment

The barbell floor press is best performed in a power rack or squat bar where you can pin safety bars on both sides. Place your J-hooks or safety pins on a level that your arms can reach while maintaining a slight bend on the elbows. 

For the plates, choose lighter weights for high repetitions and heavier weights for strength training sessions. For the dumbbell floor press, angle the weights slightly instead of making them strictly straight.

Step 2: Position Yourself Underneath The Bar

Once you set up your desired height for the bar, slide yourself underneath with knees bent, and your feet planted firmly on the ground.  Aim for your eyes to be aligned with the bar. Bend your knees with feet flat for more stability, or straighten your legs to fully overload your upper body. 

Next, grip the bar with an overhand grip and your chosen stance. You could go for narrow/close, moderate, or wide. The moderate grip is the traditional grip with the hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Make sure to have the bar sitting on the meat of your palms and not directly parallel with your thumbs. 

Step 3: Perform The Concentric Phase

After finding your position, unhook the barbell and fully extend it over your chest. Retract your shoulder blades, then slowly lower the bar until your triceps or elbows touch the floor but not to a full stop. Aim for the bar to be aligned with your nipple line and keep your elbows at 45º and close to your sides; not flaring out.

An optional step in the concentric phase is pausing at the bottom of the movement. This increases the tension on the triceps and allows you to gain more control over the movement, which then results in more strength in your upper body.

Step 4: Perform The Eccentric Phase

Slowly raise the bar back to the starting position until your elbows are fully extended. Avoid over-protracting and keep your shoulders on the floor at all times during the movement. Think about pushing your body deeper into the floor instead of raising the bar over your chest.

3 Benefits Of Floor Press

1. Increased Tricep Mass

By incorporating the floor press into your pressing program, you’d likely see a serious improvement in your tricep’s muscle mass. This makes a great alternative to Bodyweight Tricep Exercises. You can even carry over these benefits to your bench press and other pressing movements.

2. Improves Upper-Body Strength

The floor limits the range of motion in the bar or dumbbell floor press, which then works on the triceps more. By doing so, you’re developing your strength in your upper body, as well as your lockout form, a factor highly critical among powerlifters. With your newly developed strength, you can go through the top half of the bench press smoothly, avoid getting pinned and come out victorious.

3. Easier On The Shoulders

Our shoulder joints are both functional and fragile. We use our shoulders for a lot of activities, putting them under a lot of stress. One fantastic exercise that can help you ease your way into presses is the floor press. Compared with a regular bench press, floor pressing puts less pressure on the shoulders while still providing your muscles with good stimulus.

Common Floor Press Mistakes to Avoid

Poor Wrist Positioning

Novice lifters may think that they can get away with any grip positioning since it’s “the lift that counts,” but your grip has a great impact on your performance. As you grab the bar, let it sit on the meat of your palm. This means the hands are slightly angled. The same principle applies to the dumbbell floor press. The dumbbells should look slightly angled; not straight across the chest or directly parallel with the thumbs.

Flaring Elbows

This ruins your stability and positioning. Your body also compensates for having weak triceps or upper back by seeking stronger muscles like your shoulders. As your shoulders move, your elbows wing out. First, lighten your load. Then, find the right angle to target your chest and triceps. Lastly, always remember to tuck in your elbows during the entire movement.

Letting Gravity Take Over

This neglects to target the right working muscles and dismisses the exercise unproductively. Always pull down with intention rather than letting the bar fall with gravity. You can also try doing slow concentric. By slowing the lowering phase by 3 to 5 seconds, you can have better control of the movement and apply zero momentum.

Loose Upper Back on Set-Up

This increases the chance of injury or tweaking a pec muscle. To fix your form, always pin your shoulder blades down from the starting position, and don’t let your shoulders lift off from the floor during the lift. Also, engage your core to help strengthen your back.

Floor Press Muscles Worked

The floor press focuses on targeting the muscles in the upper body, as follows:

  • Pectorals
  • Triceps
  • Rhomboids
  • Scapular stabilizers

The chest muscles are the primary movers in the floor press exercise, although with less activation compared with the traditional bench press. The triceps work to stabilize the elbows and also help with the elbow lockout. When using dumbbells, you can manipulate your elbow angle for more tricep activation.

The scapular stabilizers and front delts assist in loading and stabilizing the bar. This promotes better scapular retraction, pressing strength, and better performance overall. It also increases upper back tension and strength, which you could apply to other exercises.

Floor Press vs Bench Press

The floor press may look closely similar to the bench press for obvious reasons, but they somewhat differ in the muscles targeted and in their nature as an exercise.

The bench press is a compound movement that acts as the main exercise. It has undoubtedly a longer range of motion and wider grip, which effectively targets the chest, triceps, and shoulders. Among all the working muscles, the pecs are activated the most. 

When it comes to the floor press, the leg drive may be completely negated by having the legs straight and with no tension. Removing lower body assistance may be the main difference between a floor press and a barbell press on a flat bench. This helps develop maximal press strength, which then can help you increase lockout strength. As it limits chest activation, it puts more work on the triceps. The floor press is known to be safer for the shoulders with a restricted range of motion.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs

For Muscle Building

The floor press primarily targets the triceps and chest. To achieve hypertrophy in these areas, choose among these programs: 5-10 reps, 10-20 reps, or 20-30 reps. Perform your preferred program for 3 to 5 sets. Incorporate this program into your upper body workout once or twice a week.

For Strength Training

Strength gains acquired during the floor press have a significant impact on your lockout strength for general pressing movements. To gain strength, opt for a heavy load with reduced reps. Perform 3 to 5 reps of 3 to 8 sets. Take sufficient rest of 2 to 5 minutes in between each set.

Floor Press Variations

Whether you want to challenge yourself or regress into simpler versions of the exercise, these variations will give you options with your floor press so you can strengthen your upper arms and improve your lockout.

Floor Press w/ Bands or Chains

For this exercise, you could use a chain or Resistance Bands, depending on the level of intensity you desire. Add 60 to 70% of your maximum lift to increase strength and improve your ratio of force development. When done properly, this variation helps develop a better bar path for your bench presses.

Spoto Press

To perform this exercise, stop 1 to 2 inches off the chest with a slight pause at the bottom of the movement. The objective is to strengthen the triceps, address weaknesses, improve pressing balance, and develop shoulder joint mobility.

Concentric Floor Press

This variation requires hook support on each side for each side of the Barbell so you can disengage at the bottom half of the movement. The idea is to focus on the pressing portion of the lift by working on increasing the concentric strength – particularly targeting the triceps and pec muscles. This results in a more powerful lockout and an increase in upper body size and strength.

Floor Press Alternatives

No bar doesn’t mean quitting on the floor press altogether. It’s still possible to perform floor pressing with alternative equipment such as dumbbells and kettlebells. The following exercises will allow you to explore the floor press in creative methods. 

Dumbbell Floor Press

The dumbbell floor press requires you to grip, balance, and press a dumbbell in each hand. This proves to be more challenging than balancing a single steel bar in your hands. On a positive note, this helps address muscle imbalances and find individualized pressing angles to solve discomforts, which are usually discovered during the bilateral regular bench press.

Floor Tate Press

This exercise targets the triceps and ultimately helps improve lockout strength and technique. You can carry over its benefits to the regular bench press and have an added exercise to your pressing arsenal.

Kettlebell Floor Presses

The KB floor press is a supplemental exercise for upper body strength and comes as a great alternative for many lifters facing shoulder issues. The unilateral nature of this exercise (balancing each kettlebell with a neutral grip) strengthens each arm, which makes a key difference from a normal bench press.

Frequently Asked Questions

The floor press exercise focuses on the top half of a pressing movement while limiting the range of motion at the bottom. As it reduces the extension of your elbows downward, it compensates by letting you add more weight to your bar. The floor press is ideal for many lifters aiming for more tricep activation or those with shoulder issues.

The floor press can give you leverage in the following ways:

  • Lift heavier loads compared with traditional bench press
  • Learn the proper technique for a full lockout
  • Address shoulder pain issues
  • Press heavyweights with lower chances of a shoulder injury

The floor press is effective in toning the upper arms, gaining maximal strength through less range of motion, and mastering full extension for the more traditional barbell bench. The floor press is also gentler on the shoulders while allowing you to press as much weight minus the excessive arching of the back.

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