Why Floor Press? It's Not a Bench Press...But It Can Help Improve It!

Everyone knows that Monday is International Chest Day. Granted, today is Wednesday, but hey, you might read this on ICD, so let's unpack the floor press and why it's worthy of throwing in your bench press rotation. 

What is a Floor Press


Or, if you prefer dumbbells...

Most of the same coaching points apply as it would to a regular bench press: keep the upper back tight, try to bend the bar as you lower it, drive your back into the floor as you press away, and make sure you have a spotter. The main difference is the floor stops your elbows at 90 degrees. This has three main training benefits.

No Stretch-Shortening Cycle

This is a fancy way of explaining the reactive concentric contraction (shortening) that happens when a muscle is quickly stretched before returning to its original length (here is the Wikipedia page if you want to delve into that more). It's why you see people bouncing a little at the bottom of a squat or bench press: the muscle reactively contracts and this provides an extra "umph" of power during movement. Floor press takes out the SSC at the bottom because the elbow run into the floor before the pecs are stretched out to the point of creating a SSC. This challenges the triceps, and to a lesser degree the pecs, to really kick in to press the bar back up. So, if triceps are your weak link, try a floor pressing for a while and see how that impacts your regular bench. 

Less Risky for Shoulders

In a traditional bench press, when the bar hits the chest (hopefully not crushing it...) most people's humeruses (upper arm bones) will naturally glide forward in the socket. Depending on the extent of this humeral glide, the tendons that cross the shoulder joint can get irritated and inflamed and then you wind up with a pissed off shoulder. If you've already created an angry shoulder, floor pressing is a great way to still press, but provide relief to the front of your shoulder while it recovers.*

Heck, even if you want to avoid shoulder injuries down the road and you're not married to bench pressing- meaning you're not competing in powerlifting or you don't particularly care about your bench press numbers- you can floor press exclusively and still reap the upper body strength benefits pressing heavy things provides. (Bonus: and you get double the shoulder safety if you use dumbbells and a neutral grip.)

No Bench Required

Ok, this is kind of a long shot, but let's say you go to the gym (on Monday, no less) and it is packed and there are no available benches. Well, floor pressing, either with barbells or dumbbells requires no bench so you can do it just about anywhere you can find floor space (obviously the barbell version will need some sort of rack, though if you can bench at least 135, you could conceivably floor press with a barbell anywhere too.)

There you have it, three compelling reasons to toss the floor press into your training repertoire. I also have to say this is my first bench press related article on SAPT's blog. Wow, it took me a while... 

This has nothing to do with floor pressing but I thought it was funny. from knowyourmeme.com

This has nothing to do with floor pressing but I thought it was funny. from knowyourmeme.com

* If you have shoulder pain and pressing aggravates it, don't you think it'd be a good idea to not press for a few weeks? Just sayin'... However, I won't leave you out in the cold, if you want to keep pressing around the pain, here's a great article on tips of how to do that and, hopefully, rehab your shoulder in the process.