Floor Press For Bigger Chest & Arms

Floor Press For Bigger Chest & Arms

I love the floor press.

If it’s an upper body day in the gym, chances are you’ll see me lying on the floor somewhere next to the benches.

Before the rise in popularity of the bench press, the floor press was the only option. It is the ‘original bench press’, and back in 1899 George Hackenschmidt strict floor pressed 361 pounds at the age of 20 years old.

What Are the Benefits Of The Floor Press?

  1. Pure Upper Body Strength

The floor press negates leg drive and places all of the emphasis on your chest, shoulders and triceps.

  1. Less Shoulder Pain

This was how I first discovered the floor press. Consistently benching heavy was only increasing my shoulder dysfunction and pain. About two years ago I ditched the bench press in favour of solely floor pressing.

The reduced range of motion means your shoulders stay out of the ‘danger zone’ at the bottom. The wider base of support from having the floor behind you also creates a much more stable foundation to press off – eliminating shoulder pain in the process.

The floor press essentially provides all the muscle-building benefits of a bench press without the inherent injury risk. 

  1. Builds Your Arms

In the past two years since floor pressing regularly, my triceps have blown up. There’s a lot of elbow extension involved in the floor press, which creates considerable mechanical tension on the triceps.

The triceps respond very well to heavy loads, and so progressively overloading the floor press with perfect form over time is going to build some serious muscle on the back of your arms.

This is also without the elbow stress that typically accompanies heavy skull crushers.

  1. Improved Lockout

If you typically miss your bench presses in the middle, the floor press will help build your lockout because of the reduced range of motion and pause at the bottom.

  1. Improved Chest Gains?

Many people like myself have found that switching to the floor press has accelerated chest development.

212 Olympia Legend Flex Lewis and IFBB pro Johnnie Jackson, two bodybuilders with some of the best upper bodies of all time, are big fans of the floor press for upper chest development.

Why?

I suspect it’s a combination of the fact there’s no leg drive, less shoulder strain / recruitment (as you avoid the bottom position) and due to the inherent pause at the bottom of the lift – which creates a stronger muscular contraction.

How To Floor Press 

There’s a few ways to do it, but my favourite ones are:

Close Grip Barbell Floor Press 

In this variation, use a grip that’s just outside shoulder width. What I’ve found is that using this grip, as opposed to a traditional bench press grip, has a few advantages:

  • More range of motion
  • Less shoulder stress
  • Increased upper chest recruitment – the slightly narrower grip forces the elbows to come in slightly towards the sides, as opposed to being flared. This allows the upper chest to be in a strong position to perform its primary functions (flexion & horizontal adduction – think of the latter as bringing the arm across the body).
  • Increased triceps recruitment – when you keep the elbows in correct alignment using a closer grip, you’ll overload the triceps further 

Neutral Grip Dumbbell Floor Press

The hardest part of the dumbbell floor press is the set up. It can be a real pain in the ass to get the dumbbells in position, especially when you start going heavy. I’d always recommend having a partner place them on your lap before you ‘rock back’ into position.

Once you’re into position, keep a neutral hand position, and don’t flare your elbows too much. This way you’ll achieve the same benefits as we discussed above with the close grip barbell variation, except you’ll have more even loading between each side.

Floor Press Technique

Besides the three essential cues in the videos, here are some specific technique tips to maximise your floor press:

  • Keep your legs extended and drive the heels into the floor for extra stability
  • Squeeze your glutes and contract your abs to create a strong foundation
  • Lift chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades back and down throughout
  • Pause at the bottom when your upper arm hits the floor while keeping everything tight
  • Explode up and contract your chest hard

Common Floor Press Mistakes

The two big mistakes I see when floor pressing are:

1) Bouncing off the floor – when you do this, you negate the muscle and strength building benefits that can be gained from pausing at the bottom. Leave your ego at the door and keep it honest. You’ll find that you’re actually weaker off the floor than on a bench doing it this way.

2) Not staying tight at the bottom – the pause at the bottom shouldn’t be a time to relax and ‘let go’. You need to keep everything contracted and tight at all times.

How To Program The Floor Press

My preferred training split for many intermediate and advanced trainees utilises the ‘heavy / light’ method, whereby we’ll train in the 3 to 8 rep range on one day, and in the 6 to 12 rep range later in the week.

This works perfectly for programming the floor press.

Day 1, Strength Focus: Close Grip BB Floor Press 3 sets of 3-5

Day 2, Hypertrophy Focus: Neutral Grip DB Floor Press 3 sets of 8-12

Get On The Floor

If your shoulders are beat up, and the bench press isn’t giving you the gains it promised, it might be time to get on the floor.

Give it 12 weeks, set some goals, and you’ll be surprised as to how much your triceps and upper chest will improve, all the while keeping your shoulders safe!

 

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Akash Vaghela
akash@rntfitness.co.uk

Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.