Floor VS Bench Press – Introduction
When it comes to the floor press vs. bench press exercise – which is better?
The bench press is a vital barbell exercise.
It’s one of the most effective chest and triceps exercises and the second lift contested in powerlifting.
It’s such a popular exercise that Monday is known as National Bench Press Day in gyms worldwide!
But, compared to exercises like squats and deadlifts, the bench press is a relatively new exercise and has only been performed widely since the 1940s.
Before this time, if you wanted to do any horizontal pressing, you did an exercise called floor presses.
Floor presses have lost a lot of their popularity, but they’re still an excellent exercise.
For some, floor presses may even be better than bench presses.
This article compares floor presses with bench presses so you can choose the best one for your needs and goals.
What Is the Floor Press?
Very simply, the floor press is a horizontal press performed while lying on the ground.
Like the bench press that most exercisers are already familiar with, there are several variations of floor presses, including:
- Barbell floor press
- Dumbbell floor press
- Alternating arm dumbbell floor press
- Single-arm floor press
- Narrow grip floor press
- Wide grip floor press
- Bridge floor press (done with the hips off the floor)
Floor presses work the same muscles as bench presses: the pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, and triceps.
Because of this, the bench press and floor press are essentially interchangeable.
How to Do Floor Presses
The floor press is a straightforward exercise that’s easy to learn.
Follow these steps to doing floor presses correctly:
- Rest a barbell on the J-hooks of a squat rack set to about knee height.
- Lie on the floor with your eyes are directly under the bar.
- Your legs can be straight or bent as preferred.
- Hold your barbell with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
- Pull your shoulders back, and press your upper back into the floor for shoulder stability.
- Unrack the bar and hold it over your chest, arms straight.
- Bend your arms and lower the bar down until your triceps lightly touch the floor.
- Extend your arms and push the weight back up.
- Continue until you have completed all the prescribed reps.
- Re-rack the bar and rest
The Barbell Floor Press
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Floor Press vs Bench Press – Differences and Benefits
So, which should you choose; floor presses or bench presses?
To help you make your decision, we’re going to compare and contrast these two exercises using several decisive criteria.
#1. Floor press vs. Bench Press – Equipment
To do bench presses, you need a suitable bench.
For example, you can do bench presses in a power rack or use a dedicated bench press station.
Either way, you’ll need something to bench press on.
On the other hand, all you need to do floor presses is a barbell or dumbbell(s) and, of course, a floor!
While a squat rack with adjustable J-hooks will make life a little easier, that’s not essential.
Instead, you can rest your bar on a stack of weight plates to make it easier to get underneath the barbell.
If you train at home and don’t have or want to buy a whole lot of equipment, floor presses could be your best choice.
And for equipment requirements, the winner is the floor press!
#2. Floor press vs. Bench Press – Ease of learning
The bench press is one of the first exercises that most gym-goers learn.
Unlike the squat and deadlift, bench presses are relatively straightforward, although there are technical nuances that you’ll need to master if you want to bench heavier weights, like leg drive, arching, and setting your shoulders.
Floor presses are very similar in difficulty, so they’re no more complicated or easier to learn.
As such, floor presses are suitable for novice lifters, too.
And for ease of learning, the winner is: It’s a draw!
#3. Floor press vs. Bench Press – Safety
The bench press can be a dangerous exercise.
If you fail to complete a rep, the bar could come crashing down on your chest or neck.
It’s a sad fact that people die doing the bench press.
Using a power rack eliminates almost all the risk of bench presses, but not all lifters have access to one.
However, if you can’t finish a rep with the floor press, you can dump the bar on the floor over your head.
Or, if you use full-sized bumper plates, you may even find that the bar stops short of your chest when you rest the weights on the floor.
Either way, floor presses are potentially safer than bench presses if you train alone and cannot press the bar up to lock it out.
And the winner for safety is Floor presses!
#4. Floor press vs. Bench Press – Joint health
While the bench press is a renowned muscle and strength builder, it can also be hard on your joints, especially your shoulders.
Shoulder aches and pains are not uncommon among weightlifters.
Floor presses use a smaller range of motion than bench presses, making them more joint-friendly by orders of magnitude, which is why many lifters switch to the floor press to take the pressure off their joints.
If bench presses hurt your shoulders, you may find that you can train with less pain if you start doing floor presses instead.
Dumbbell floor presses are especially shoulder-friendly.
And the winner for joint health is the floor press!
Check out the following video for an excellent demonstration of the:
- Dumbbell floor press,
- Floor DB Fly,
- Close grip Dumbbell press, and
- DB skull crushers
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#5. Floor press vs. Bench Press – Muscle building
Bench presses involve a more extensive range of motion at the shoulder joint, taking your chest into a deeper stretch.
This more considerable range of motion means they may be marginally better for building bigger pecs than floor presses.
However, the floor press is potentially better for triceps growth.
That’s because each rep starts from a dead stop, which increases triceps activation.
Close grip floor presses are perfect for building bigger triceps.
And the winner is the bench press for building your chest muscles, but the floor press for bigger triceps.
#6. Floor press vs. Bench Press – Strength
Both floor presses and bench presses are excellent for building strength.
However, in terms of measuring strength, the bench press is generally considered to be best.
After all, the bench press is a contested lift in powerlifting, and floor presses are not.
Nor will you hear gym goers discussing how much they can floor press; it’s the bench press that earns bragging rights.
That said, the floor press is a notable bench press accessory exercise, which means that lifters use it to boost bench press performance.
That’s because floor presses emphasize the most common bench press sticking point, where the bar is a few inches off the chest.
So, while both exercises will build strength, the bench press is the more common strength test.
However, if you have no intention of competing in powerlifting, you can use the floor press to build impressive upper body pressing strength levels.
And the winner for building and testing upper body strength is the bench press.
#7. Floor press vs bench press – Variety
No matter how good an exercise is, your progress will soon stall if you do it too often.
Because of this, most exercisers vary their workouts to avoid progress plateaus and training ruts.
One way to do this is to use slight variations of the main lifts in your workouts.
Often, a slight change in grip width or bench angle is all that’s needed to maintain training progress.
There are plenty of variations of both floor presses and bench presses, so you should be able to avoid workout ruts whichever of these two exercises you prefer.
You can also alternate between floor presses and bench presses.
So in terms of variety, the winner is: It’s a draw!
FAQ – Floor press vs Bench Press
Got a question about these two great exercises?
We’ve got the answers!
1. Which is better; the bench press or floor press?
These exercises, the floor press, and the bench press are exceptional, and the best one for you depends on your circumstances and training goals.
Decide what you want from your workouts, and then choose the one that meets your criteria.
The reality is that YOU determine which is best!
2. Is the floor press a good alternative to bench presses?
If you don’t want to do bench presses, you can replace them with floor presses without losing much, if anything, from your workouts.
You could also do dips, push-ups, or dumbbell bench presses.
Most of these exercises are interchangeable and offer similar benefits.
3. Does the floor press HELP your bench press?
Powerlifters often use floor presses as an assistance exercise to boost bench press performance.
Floor presses are good for increasing triceps strength and beating the most common bench press sticking point.
Try training the bench press one day and floor pressing a couple of days later.
You should find your bench press performance starts to improve!
Watch this fantastic video with the inspiring KC Mitchell’s recommendations on how to use the dumbbell floor press and two other assistance exercises to increase your bench press :
4. Can you build muscle with floor presses?
Yes, you can!
Providing you train hard and heavy, overloading your muscles in the process, you can build muscle with floor presses.
However, for chest hypertrophy, bench presses are marginally more effective because they use a more extended range of motion.
Fix this problem by including exercises that stretch your pecs, such as dumbbell flyes or push-ups done on raised handles.
5. Should I use a barbell or dumbbells?
You’ll probably be able to lift heavier weights using a barbell but getting into position is usually more comfortable with dumbbells.
You can also do single-arm dumbbell floor presses, using both hands to adopt the correct starting position.
Try both and see which you prefer.
Or, alternate between dumbbells and a barbell every few weeks to keep your workouts from getting stale.
Floor press vs. Bench Press – Final Thoughts
The floor press is an outstanding alternative to bench presses.
If you have shoulder issues or don’t have a bench press station, you can do floor presses instead of bench presses to build muscle mass and strength.
That said, if you enjoy bench presses, have the means to do them safely, and they don’t hurt your shoulders, there is no real reason to give them up.
However, you could find that adding floor presses to your upper body workouts leads to better bench press performance.
Not sure which one is right for you?
Try them both for a month or two and see how your body responds.
Or, don’t choose between them and instead, do them both.
That way, you can enjoy all the benefits these great exercises have to offer.
Learn more about the bench press in this post – The Top 10 Bench Press Benefits, Muscles Worked, Variations + How-To.
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