The floor press is a useful exercise to build strength, improve training technique, and work on your upper body strength.
Most people who use this exercise include bodybuilders, weightlifters, and even those who are recovering from injuries. It is designed to target the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
You would never forget leg day, so why should you forget chest day?
When done right, the floor press is an incredibly effective exercise for everyone - from pro-athletes to those kick starting their fitness journey. However, the floor press does offer some drawbacks if it is not done properly.
Some may not feel any benefits from it at all, and some may feel pressure on their shoulders and elbows. It is therefore important for your fitness journey and safety to do the floor press properly.
If you are wanting to understand how the floor press works, its benefits, and whether you should do it - you’ve come to the right place! Whether you are new to the exercise or you don’t think you are doing it properly, we have the answers for you.
What is The Floor Press?
Often mixed up with the bench press, the floor press mimics its actions but does not require a bench - it’s all on the floor.
It involves lying on the floor underneath a barbell, and doing a series of exercise variations to focus on the upper body.
Floor Press vs Bench Press
The most obvious difference between both exercises is that the bench press is completed on a bench, and the floor press is completed on the floor.
The floor press is essentially the old school version of the bench press. Both look fairly simple to do, but actually involve a lot of skill and attention to detail to prevent injury and get the most out of the exercises.
This difference means that there is a difference in motion between both - the bench press offers more freedom of movement that the floor press.
The bench press allows the user to lift more weight, as the feet are planted on the ground which provides more driving force. The floor press, on the other hand, mostly requires the person to have their legs flat against the floor.
The bench press also requires the user to touch the barbell to their chest, which provides a recoil for them to use the impact to push back easier. This is what makes the bench press stand out better for chest strength.
Whilst the bench press focuses on the chest, the floor press is more targeted towards the shoulders and triceps. The bench press doesn’t involve any rest for the arms, whereas the floor press requires the arms to rest against the floor. This makes the exercise much harder, as there is no lower body drive. This means that it focuses the strength and reliance mostly on the shoulders and triceps.
This is why a floor press is known as an explosive exercise. The bench press provides a bounce, almost like a trampoline, that helps the user rebound easier. The floor press doesn’t have this bounce, and therefore doesn’t promote the tension and elastic muscles that the bench press promotes.
Each rep essentially starts from the first step, which is why the floor press is all about constant and repetitive explosive power.
How To Floor Press
The floor press is the distant cousin to the bench press, and whilst you will almost always see one person doing the floor press in the gym, it’s not as common as the bench press.
Due to the potential difficulty of the exercise and the risk of injury, it is imperative to get the exercise done properly.
There are two main ways of achieving the floor press, either with or without a rack. Here is our step by step guide on how to master the floor press with both options!
Option 1: Floor Press With Rack
- Position the Rack Set
The rack or squat cage needs to be set around 2 feet from the ground. The pins need to be low so you can grab and lift them easily.
- Position Yourself
This is probably the easiest part of the whole exercise. Lie down with your knees bent upwards and your feet planted on the floor. Your head and eyes need to be just in front of the barbell, with your shoulder blades pulled back and down.
Some people do the floor press with their legs stretched out, but bending them helps to align the spine and provides more stability. This will also help you to maintain the position of your shoulders.
- Time to Lift
Now’s the time to lift. Assuming that you have appropriately stretched prior to the floor press, clench your fists several times before taking hold of the barbell. Lift the barbell from the rack pins, and pull it out so it is over your chest.
- Lowering the Bar
Lower the bar as you would with a bench press, but keep lowering it until your elbows touch the ground. Make sure your chest is raised through this, as it will work on strengthening your chest muscles and provides more stability for your shoulders.
Also, don’t let your elbows hit the ground with force! You will need to rely on your shoulder muscles and triceps to prevent this from happening, as smashing your elbows to the ground can cause pain and injury.
Once your elbows touch the ground, this is the time so pause for 1-3 seconds. A pause doesn’t mean relax, however - your muscles still need to have tension for the next step.
- The Drive/Explosion
This step is the hardest part of the exercise, and is where the “explosive” element comes in. You now need to drive the barbell above your chest until your elbows have locked into a straight position. This is why you cannot rest in the previous step, because you need the muscle tension to push the weight back up.
Repeat these steps until your rep is finished, and then place the barbell back in the rack.
Option 2: Floor Press Without a Rack
- Height Replacement
It is possible to do a floor press without a rack, as long as you have the appropriate height on the barbell that mimics the height of the rack. Larger weights provide more height, but you can also use bumper plates.
- Position Yourself
Lie down in the floor press position, with your legs bent and feet on the floor. Roll the bar over your legs prior to bending them, and stop when it is hovering over your hips.
- Lifting Prep
Before you lift, prepare your upper body. You will need to hold the bar with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and lift your chest.
- Moving the Bar
With the bar above your hips, push your hips upwards to drive the bar higher (to where the rack would be). This is similar to performing a glute bridge, so if you want to incorporate other areas of your body in the floor press, this is a good way of doing so!
Make sure your forearms are perpendicular to the ground before lifting properly.
- Time to Lift
Move the bar so it is over your chest, as with a regular floor press. Lift it above your chest until your arms are extended and elbows locked, and then slowly lower it until your elbows touch the floor.
Like with a regular floor press with a rack, pause for 1-3 seconds with muscle tension. Repeat until you have finished the rep.
- Finishing the Rep
Once you have finished the rep, slowly move the bar to the original position over your hips. This requires a lot of core strength and tension.
Other Floor Press Exercises
As with most exercises, the floor press offers a variety of different sequences and rep formations to target specific parts of the body. For example, a floor press without a rep also targets the glute muscles. It also provides a bit more flexibility with how you choose to lift the bar.
A close grip floor press is another popular exercise. It involves holding and lifting the bar with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. This is said to benefit the triceps even more than the chest and shoulders.
Does The Floor Press Work?
If you are looking to improve your upper body strength, the floor press is a really beneficial exercise.
We’ve mentioned that the floor press targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but here is how it actually works these areas.
The chest muscles are probably the least-used muscle in the floor press, but is a really important part of the exercise. Without a lifted chest, the shoulders are too relaxed to lift.
Imagine lying on the floor with a collapsed chest, trying to lift something until your arms are stretched out. It’s going to be uncomfortable and you will have minimal strength.
If you want to incorporate your chest muscles even more, angle your elbows so they are directly underneath the bar rather than tucked in. This will open up the chest muscles.
However, this is not always recommended for every floor press rep, as you will have more control over the weight with your elbows slightly tucked in.
The triceps are targeted when you move your elbows from the floor to the “locked” position, where they are extended above you.
They are also used more when you tuck your elbows in front of the bar.
The shoulder muscles are as actively used as the triceps. The front part of the shoulder, or the anterior delt, is what primarily drives the elbows upwards into their extension.
If you have your chest elevated and your shoulders tensed accordingly, the floor press will actually work to loosen any knots around your shoulder blades.
Floor Press Benefits
1. Muscular Hypertrophy
Muscular hypertrophy is about increasing the mass of the muscles. The floor press can work to increase muscular hypertrophy through an increased training rate and with heavier weights.
If you want to improve your strength and increase the mass of your tricep muscles, the floor press is perfect for focusing all of the power on your upper body. This is because the range of motion is restricted, so there is no other place for the pressure to go other than your triceps and shoulders.
To achieve muscular hypertrophy, it is recommended to use a higher rep range of between 8-12 reps.
2. Good For Post-Injury
Athletes and lifters can often be prone to injury if they have been training for years, and the floor press can actually work to help their recovery. If the injury in question is shoulder related, the floor press is brilliant as it doesn’t require much motion from the shoulder.
The shoulder doesn’t have to rotate in a particular fashion, and therefore doesn’t have as much stress on the joint. This differs to a bench press, which has a great range of motion and has the potential to twist the shoulder muscles more.
This is one of the reasons why injury-prone lifters and athletes like to use the floor press, as it isn’t unsafe for the shoulders if it is done correctly.
3. Improves Lockout
The lockout is all about extending the elbows until your arms are holding the bar above the body. Some people may struggle with this at first, but the floor press actually works to improve this lockout strength as the elbows won't bend past 90 degrees.
The floor press targets the elbow lockout specifically, so this can improve other lifting exercises such as powerlifting or weightlifting. This will, in turn, improve the muscle around the elbow which can be good for conditions such as mild tennis elbow.
4. Improves Upper Body Strength
As explained before, the floor press works on the chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles.
The explosive exercise is perfect for improving upper body strength, as the limited range of motion (compared to the bench press) requires muscle tension - therefore encourages muscle mass growth and strength.
5. Easily Modified Variations
There are several exercise variations other than the regular floor press, all of which are designed to target specific muscles. Sometimes, all it takes is changing the position of your elbows.
If you want to target your triceps, you need to tuck your elbows slightly in front of the bar. If you want to target the shoulders and chest, your elbows need to be completely underneath the bar.
6. Improves and Encourages Control
As explained before, it is imperative to the exercise and your safety to not allow your elbows to smash into the floor. This is quite obvious, but still needs to be stated! Your elbows should simply touch the floor, pause in that position, and then drive the bar upwards.
With the floor press as opposed to the bench press, there is no impact for you to bounce off. The bar does not touch your chest, so all of your strength and focus is required to maintain control. This control is to prevent your elbows from smashing into the hard ground, and subsequently improves your strength and tones muscles.
To help with this, you need to practice slowing the drive of the bar on the way down. Also - and this is also obvious - remember to breathe!
Floor Press Drawbacks
As with any exercise, the floor press does have its drawbacks that have to be considered.
Due to the nature of the exercise and how particular it is to do, some people may not actually feel the effects from it. As with any form of fitness, you will only begin to feel change and results after doing the exercise routinely for a period of time. The floor press doesn’t actually require the heaviest of weights for it to be successful, which is why some people may not think the exercise is doing anything.
If you feel as if you don’t feel anything in your chest, firstly remember that the floor press uses the chest muscles the least out of the three main muscle users. Secondly, there’s a chance you may be doing it wrong, or it’s a sign that you can increase the weight. Always make sure that your chest is elevated - your upper back shouldn’t be completely flat against the ground, as this further limits the range of motion.
The floor press, if done incorrectly, can cause pain on the shoulders and elbows. As we have explained before, there’s a risk of the elbows giving in and smashing into the ground. It can also prove to be painful on the shoulders if the spine isn’t aligned properly.
Should I Do It?
The floor press is a fairly tough exercise, but it can be done by anyone. It is always best to follow a video tutorial or, better yet, to follow the help from a professional at the gym who can give you individual instructions.
The floor press uses less weight than a bench press due to the limited range of motion, and is more of an exercise to target specific muscles and improve discipline than an exercise with the goal of increasing the weight. As the weights don’t have to be heavy, this means that a range of people can use the floor press as an exercise regardless of skill level.
So, in short, yes! You should try the floor press. It’s a great exercise for building upper body strength, improving technique, targeting specific muscles, and improves control. It is also really beneficial for those wanting to get back into fitness after a shoulder injury, as it isn’t too intense on the shoulder muscles.
Frequently Asked Questions
What muscles does the floor press work?
The floor press works the chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles. The chest is probably the least used muscle out of the three, but is a prime mover in the exercise.
There are different variations of exercises depending on the placement of the hands and elbows which target the muscles differently.
What’s the difference between floor press and bench press?
The main difference between both exercises is that the bench press requires a bench, and the floor press does not. The bench actually provides a large range of movement, as the floor press requires the user to stop moving once their elbows touch the floor.
The floor press is essentially the old school version of the bench press, and whilst it isn’t used as often, there will always be someone doing it in the gym.
Both exercises are tough, but as the bench press allows for more movement, it can be used for heavier weights. This does not mean that the floor press is easier because the weights are lighter, however, as this particular exercise requires complete control and tension of the muscles to control the bar.