I started doing this exercise out of necessity: the floor press. There was a somewhat longer delivery time on a training bench ordered online. Already in possession of my barbell rests, I still wanted to ‘bench press’ – albeit without a bench. I decided to lay down on the floor to press. At the time – many years ago – I didn’t know this exercise had a name: the floor press.
Even when my ordered bench arrived, I continued to do the floor press. Intuitively, I sensed that there were some benefits to this exercise. Of course: the range of motion (ROM) is limited, because your elbows can’t move further back than the floor. But this training with a limited ROM also has several advantages.
OLDER THAN THE BENCH PRESS
I was obviously not the first to press from the floor, devoid of a training bench. When training benches didn’t exist, the floor press was already in vogue. It is therefore an older exercise than the bench press and in a sense the archetype or predecessor of the bench press.
When training benches were introduced, the floor press – like so many old exercises – fell into disarray. And that’s a shame, because the floor press has several advantages over the more modern bench press, as I mentioned.
Lying on the floor, you cannot use a leg drive. The floor press is different from the conventional bench press, so an exercise purely for the upper body, more specifically chest, shoulders and triceps. You can’t let the bar bounce off your chest either.
The biggest and most important advantage, however, is that the limited ROM allows you to specifically practice the lockout phase of the bench press, which is mainly a triceps affair. For example, the floor press is an important auxiliary exercise for the bench press and also a great exercise in itself for larger triceps.
Finally, for people with shoulder problems, the floor press is a way to relieve the shoulders and in this sense a good alternative to the bench press.
At first glance a simple exercise, the floor press is not as easy to perform as you might think.
The safest and easiest is to do the floor press in or outside a power rack, where you can lift the bar from the J-hooks. I train at home with free stands, where the spotters serve as barbell supports.
Basically you position yourself under the barbell as you would with the conventional bench press, so with the bar approximately at the height of your forehead. If you lie too far in front of the bar, it will make it difficult to lift, especially with heavier weights.
Lie completely flat on the floor, without bending your knees. If you bend your knees and start using leg drive, a unique advantage of the floor press is lost.
Make sure your shoulder blades don’t come forward (shoulder blade protraction) when lifting the weight. This usually happens when you position the barbell supports or spotters too high.
With the floor press, you bring the bar towards your bottom chest (leg). Keep your wrists and elbows in line. Once your elbows touch the floor, pause briefly and push the weight back out.
Floor pressing with dumbbells is of course also possible. As with the version on the bench, dumbbells offer more freedom of movement and you can bring your hands together. This makes it a bit more of a chest exercise. As you learned with the dumbbell bench press, keep your elbows inward.
In principle, you can see the floor press as a pure strength exercise, but you can also cut back on weight in favor of more repetitions. This depends on your own personal training goals. The floor press is known as a typical exercise for powerlifters, but as a bodybuilder you can use it for massive triceps.