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Barbell Floor Press Exercise: How To, Benefits, Variations

Some lifters go into full panic mode when every flat bench is occupied on Bench Press Monday. However, the savvy lifter never worries because there is plenty of space on the floor. Because there’s no reason to fret or lose your temper when you’ve got the best press you’re not doing, the barbell floor press. Plus, a little dirt and on your back never hurt anyone.

The barbell floor press is a great pressing variation for gym rats of all levels of experience. The move helps improve muscle hypertrophy, strength, bench-press technique and is a great variation for people who are suffering from sore shoulders.

Here we will go into what it is, how to do it, the benefits of the floor press, some common mistakes, and some other floor-press variations to build your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

The Barbell Floor Press Explained

The barbell floor press is similar to the bench press — except you’re lying on the floor. The floor shortens the range of motion so there is less shoulder external rotation. This makes it the perfect pressing exercise for those will sore shoulders. With the bench press, you get lower body drive, but not with the floor press as you’re entirely relying on the pressing power of your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Due to this shortened ROM, the barbell floor press places more emphasis on the triceps and less on the chest. If your triceps are holding you back, this will help. The move is performed with your leg straight or with feet on the floor. Both are correct, it comes down to a matter of personal preference,

How to Do the Barbell Floor Press

Note: It’s best to either have a spotter for this or performed in a squat rack (or both).

  1. Get your eyes underneath the bar with your legs either straight or bent with your upper body entirely on the floor. This ensures you’re not too close or far away from the rack.
  2. Take your preferred grip of the bar, unload the bar, engage your upper back, and let the bar settle in your hands.
  3. Lower the barbell slowly toward your lower chest until the back of your arms touches the floor and pause for a second or two.
  4. Push the weight up until your elbows are fully extended. Then reset and repeat for reps.

Barbell Floor Press Muscles Worked

The barbell floor press is a pressing movement that targets upper-body strength with minimal lower-body involvement. The following are the main muscles used in the floor press.

  • Pectorals: for pressing strength.
  • Anterior deltoid: for pressing strength.
  • Triceps (all three heads): Pressing and lockout strength.
  • Rhomboids and scapular stabilizers: Helps keep the bar on a better pressing path.

Barbell Floor Press Benefits

Some gym goers might give you strange looks when you’re pressing without a bench. But who cares? They’re the ones missing out on these four important benefits.

  • Lockout strength: Roughly the final third of most pressing exercises is mostly done with the triceps. This is what is commonly known as lockout strength. Lockout strength is often a weakness when it comes to bench and overhead pressing and even strongman events. The floor press is a great exercise to strengthen this weakness and has great transfer to all lifts that need triceps lockout strength.
  • Bigger chest and triceps: When performed for more sets and reps, the floor press is a great pressing variation to add muscle and strength to the chest, shoulders, and triceps without excessive strain to the shoulders.
  • Improved upper-body strength: Similar to other partial ROM lifts as rack pulls and box squats, the barbell floor press is an excellent exercise to target a certain portion of your lift. With the floor press, you can potentially handle heavier loads in the top half of the press to further strengthen your triceps, chest, and shoulders.
  • Injury workaround: The barbell bench press is great but it’s hard on the shoulders. Because the floor reduces shoulder external rotation, this is a great lift for those with sore or painful shoulders. The shoulders are vulnerable when in abduction and external rotation which the shoulders find themselves in the bench press.

How to Barbell Floor Press Without a Squat Rack

Probably the most difficult part of the barbell floor press is the setup. Getting the barbell sufficiently off the ground to get under it and lift it up requires either a squat rack or a spotter. If you have neither the dumbbell, kettlebell, and landmine floor press variations below will work. But if you’re still keen on the barbell floor press, there is another way demonstrated in the video below.

Pressing from plates or blocks allows you to get under the bar to press safely and to easily get in and out of position. Yes, the range of motion is slightly reduced in the name of safety, but it beats the injury alternative.

Common Floor Press Mistakes

The barbell floor press is less technical than the bench version and things like eyes underneath the bar, wrists in line with elbows, and engaged upper back is needed for the barbell floor press too. Here are some things to look out for on the barbell floor press to get the best out of this great exercise.

  • Upper arms not touching the ground: Except for the block floor press demonstrated above going through the full ROM will best train your chest and triceps. Stopping short all the time can put undue strain on your elbows.
  • Too much load: Lifters forget their lower body is not involved in the floor press and use their regular bench press weight. As this lift is entirely focused on the upper body reduce the load, to begin with, to build strength and technique.

Barbell Floor Press Workout Programming

There are three great reasons to do the barbell floor press. One is to gain muscle. Two is to build strength and three is to improve your lock-out strength for your regular bench press. Here are some programming suggestions, depending on which goal you choose

Hypertrophy

Two keys to gaining muscle are load and increasing time under tension. So, work in the higher set and rep range performing three to four sets of between eight and 15 reps. If you lift with tempo with a pause on the bottom, your chest and triceps will thank you. Because you’re on the floor performing this with another exercise that trains the chest and triceps works well. For example,

1A. Barbell Floor Press: 8-15 reps

1B. Bodyweight Pushup Variation: 10-20 reps

Rest 2-3 min between supersets.

Strength

You’re looking at increased load versus lifting for hypertrophy and no lifting with tempo. Load and good technique are the focus here. Work in lower rep range between three to six reps and the higher set range of around four to six sets. Performing straight sets with a two to three minutes rest between sets works well.

Training the barbell floor press for strength will also help improve lockout strength for your regular bench press.

Floor Press Variations and Alternatives

The barbell floor press is the variation where you’ll use the most weight but it’s not for everybody. Here are four variations you can do if you find the setup difficult or need to strengthen imbalances.

The Barbell Floor Press May Be the Best Move You’re Not Doing