In the world of strength training and bodybuilding, the bench press has long reigned as a cornerstone exercise, celebrated for its effectiveness in building upper body strength and muscle mass.

However, nestled within the shadows of gym routines lies a less heralded but equally potent exercise: the floor press.

While it may not boast the same popularity as its gym-floor counterpart, the floor press offers unique benefits and challenges that make it a valuable addition to any fitness regimen.

This article aims to shine a spotlight on these two exercises, comparing and contrasting the floor press with the bench press. Both exercises have their roots in the quest for greater strength and muscular development, but they differ significantly in execution, muscle engagement, and overall impact on the athlete’s body. By delving into the mechanics, benefits, and applications of each, we seek to provide a comprehensive understanding that will help fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike make informed decisions about incorporating these exercises into their routines.

Whether you’re a seasoned lifter looking to switch up your regimen or a newcomer eager to learn the ropes, this comparative exploration will offer valuable insights into two of the most fundamental exercises in weight training. So, let’s press on and explore the distinct worlds of the floor press and the bench press.

Oh look, a neat little table of contents.

What is a Floor Press?

The floor press, often considered the predecessor to the bench press, is upper body exercise like the bench press, except you do it lying flat on the floor.

It primarily targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders. Here’s how it’s executed:

Starting Position: Lie on your back on the floor, knees bent with feet flat on the ground. Hold the barbell or dumbbells directly above your chest with arms fully extended, gripping the weight with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Movement: Lower the weights slowly towards your chest. The range of motion ends when your upper arms or elbows gently touch the floor. This limited range is a distinctive feature of the floor press.

Lift: Push the weight back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms. The focus should be on engaging the triceps and pectoral muscles to drive the movement.

What is a Bench Press

The bench press is a staple exercise in strength training, targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It is performed on a flat bench, which allows for a greater range of motion compared to the floor press.

This best AI image I could make, cut me some slack.

Starting Position: Lie back on a flat bench. Grip the barbell with hands a bit wider than shoulder-width. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, and keep your back slightly arched.

Movement: Unrack the barbell, bringing it directly above the chest. Lower it slowly until it lightly touches the mid-chest area.

Lift: Push the barbell back to the starting position, focusing on using your chest muscles. The full range of motion and the stability of the bench allow for greater muscle engagement and development.

Key Differences in Mechanics and Execution

While both exercises appear similar, key differences set them apart:

Range of Motion: The floor press limits the range of motion as the movement stops once the elbows touch the floor. This contrasts with the bench press, where the barbell can descend further, allowing for a deeper stretch in the pectoral muscles. However, in a floor press, as I’ll talk about, you can more easily manipulate the angle.

Muscle Engagement: Because of the differences in range of motion, you’ll get slightly different muscle engagement

For example, in a bench press, you can activate the pecs more in a stretched position, whereas in a floor press, you can hit it more easily in the contracted position. For complete muscle development, both are important.

Stability and Safety: The floor press offers greater stability as your back is fully supported by the floor, reducing the risk of arching too much or losing balance. The bench press requires more control and stability throughout the body to execute safely and effectively.

With a floor press, you also don’t need to have a bench.

Benefits of the Floor Press

The floor press, while often overshadowed by the bench press, offers a range of unique advantages that make it a valuable exercise for various training goals and populations. Here, we explore some of these key benefits:

Enhanced Humeral Adduction and Pectoral Contraction

One of the standout benefits of the floor press is its ability to facilitate better humeral adduction, the movement of the arm towards the body’s midline.

This is crucial for fully contracting the pectoral muscles. The limited range of motion allows lifters to focus more intensely on squeezing the chest muscles at the top of the lift, promoting a more effective pectoral engagement than sometimes achieved with the bench press.

You can see this in action in this video of me doing an angled single-arm floor press

 

Accessibility and Simplicity

Unlike the bench press, which typically requires a bench and a barbell setup, the floor press can be performed with just a dumbbell and a flat surface. This simplicity makes it an accessible exercise for those who may not have access to a full gym setup. It’s ideal for home workouts or minimalist training environments, ensuring that effective chest and tricep training is achievable almost anywhere.

Reduced Shoulder Strain

The floor press is particularly beneficial for individuals with shoulder issues or those looking to reduce shoulder strain. The limited range of motion prevents excessive shoulder extension, which can be a source of discomfort or injury in the bench press. This makes the floor press a safer alternative for those with pre-existing shoulder conditions or for lifters who are rehabilitating from an injury.

Increased Tricep Activation

Due to the reduced range of motion and the stopping of the arms on the floor, the floor press places a greater emphasis on the triceps. This is particularly beneficial for those looking to strengthen and build their triceps, as well as for athletes who require strong triceps for their sport, such as throwers or wrestlers.

Safety and Control

For solo lifters, the floor press offers an element of safety that the bench press may lack. Since the range of motion is limited by the floor, there’s a natural stopping point which reduces the risk of dropping the weight on oneself. This makes it a safer option for those who train without a spotter.

Benefits of the Bench Press

The bench press is a classic exercise in strength training, revered for its effectiveness in building upper body strength and size. Here are some of the key benefits that make the bench press a staple in many workout routines:

Comprehensive Pectoral Development

The bench press is renowned for its ability to comprehensively work the entire pectoral muscle group. The fuller range of motion, compared to the floor press, allows for a deeper stretch and contraction of the chest muscles, leading to more significant muscle development and strength gains.

Increased Muscle Activation

The bench press engages a wide array of muscles, including the pectorals, deltoids, triceps, and even the latissimus dorsi to a certain extent. This makes it an excellent compound exercise for overall upper body development.

Variability and Progression

The bench press offers various modifications, such as incline, decline, and close-grip bench press, each targeting different muscle groups. This variability not only helps in targeting muscles from different angles but also aids in continual progression and overcoming plateaus.

incline bench press

Functional Strength and Athletic Performance

The bench press is highly beneficial for athletes, particularly in sports requiring upper body strength and explosive power. The exercise mimics pushing movements common in many sports, thereby enhancing functional strength and performance.

Measurable Progress

One of the advantages of the bench press is the ease with which progress can be measured. The ability to incrementally increase weight allows for clear tracking of strength gains, making it a favorite among those looking to build strength systematically.

It’s Fun!

The bench press is often seen as a benchmark of strength in many gym cultures. It’s also, generally, fun to do.

Equipment and Spotter Availability

If you workout at a busy gym, the bench press might be taken. If you workout at home, you won’t have a spotter. In either case, it’s tough to win unless you have a gym partner.

Applying to Your Program

Incorporating the floor press and the bench press into a workout regimen requires understanding their benefits and how they fit into different training goals. Here are some tips on how to effectively integrate these exercises into your routines, catering to both beginners and advanced lifters.

Incorporating the Floor Press

For Beginners: Start with lighter weights to get a feel for the movement. Focus on form, particularly on keeping the elbows tucked and wrists straight. The floor press can be a part of a full-body workout or an upper-body split.

For Advanced Lifters: Use the floor press to overcome plateaus in bench pressing, particularly for improving lockout strength. It can be used as a primary lift on upper body days or as an accessory exercise after bench pressing.

Frequency and Volume: Incorporate the floor press 1-2 times a week, adjusting volume and intensity based on overall training load. It’s a great exercise for hypertrophy phases as well as strength cycles.

Incorporating the Bench Press

For Beginners: Begin with the bar to master the technique. Focus on a full range of motion and stable, controlled movements. The bench press can be a key exercise in upper body workouts.

For Advanced Lifters: Experiment with different variations (incline, decline, close-grip) to target different muscle groups and address weak points. Incorporate periodization by varying the intensity and volume throughout your training cycle.

Frequency and Volume: For balanced development, include bench pressing 1-2 times per week, depending on your overall program. Pay attention to recovery, as the bench press can be taxing on the shoulders and chest.

General Tips

Warm-Up Properly: Regardless of your level, warming up the muscles and joints involved in these exercises is crucial for performance and injury prevention.

Mind-Muscle Connection: Focus on the muscles you are working. This is especially important for the floor press, where the range of motion is limited.

Progress Gradually: Increase weight and volume over time to avoid injury and ensure consistent progress.

Listen to Your Body: Modify these exercises to suit your individual needs and limitations. If you experience pain (beyond normal muscle fatigue), reassess your technique or consult a professional.

 

About the Author

David William Rosales is a writer and strength coach. He’s the head trainer and editor at Roman Fitness Systems. In addition to helping run RFS, he’s also the head editor for
prohockeystrength.com., the official website of the Strength and Conditioning Association of Professional Hockey. You can also check out his Instagram, he’s pretty easy on the eyes.

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