Is your bench press stagnant?  Do you need to switch up your training to increase your motivation, or is it time to give your lower back and shoulders a little break? If so, consider working the floor press into your training as an alternative to the bench press, or as an additional assistance exercise.

During my most recent 16-week training cycle I switched up my regular bench press training by eliminating the full bench press movement and replacing it with a combination of barbell floor press (BFP), and unilateral (one arm) dumbbell floor press (UDFP). I replaced my typical heavy bench press workout on Wednesdays with heavy BFP and my light bench press training on Fridays with UDFP. 

It’s important to understand the reason behind the protocol change.  For me, the main reason was injury recovery.  I injured my back in March, and heavy bench pressing aggravated it.  Additionally, I also had some nagging sore shoulders.  The floor press takes the leg and lower body drive out of the movement and focuses the load on the shoulders, chest and triceps. This allows you to perform the bench press movement without any pressure on the lower back and can take the pressure off a sore shoulder joint by reducing shoulder joint extension. Prior to this training cycle, I never really trained the BFP, but I had previous experience incorporating UDFP into my training as an assistance exercise.

Let’s break these movements down so you know how to incorporate them into your own training program.

Barbell Floor Press (BFP) –

The BFP is executed by lying on your back under a power rack and positioning yourself under the bar.  You can either extend your legs straight or bend them at the knees.  With safety in mind, I always set the safety pins just low enough that the bar does not touch them during the downward movement.  With lighter warm up sets, you can un-rack the bar yourself, but I suggest  you utilize a spotter when going heavy.  After un-racking the bar, the bar is lowered under control with the elbows at a 90-degree angle until the upper arm and triceps are lying flat on the ground.  After a slight pause, the bar is pressed upwards to the completed lockout position.  During my training cycle, I performed 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions with an occasional heavy single worked in the mix.

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Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press (UDFP) –

The UDFP is performed by lying on your back with legs straight or bent similar to the BFP.  The challenge is setting up the lift.   I find it easiest to first lie on my side with the dumbbell close to my chest.  I then grab the dumbbell with both hands and roll onto my back.  As I complete my roll onto my back, I drop the opposing arm.  I am now in the starting position with the upper arms and triceps lying on the ground and the elbows at a 90-degree position.  I place my opposing hand flat on the chest and shoulder of the arm doing the work. After finishing your reps, return the dumbbell to the chest and switch hands, utilizing both hands to get the dumbbell in position.  Next, complete your set with the same amount of reps as the other arm.  Return the dumbbell back to the ground by rolling back to your side similar to the initial set up. I stay in the 5-10 repetition range with the UDFP and use this exercise as an alternative to my light bench press workout or as a finisher after my workout.  Just like the BFP, the UDFP will really crush the shoulders, triceps and chest. The UDFP also adds an element of torso stabilization.  You have to engage the glutes and tighten up your core to stabilize the load.

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Now that my 16-week cycle is up, I recently started a new training cycle and have gone back to my regular bench press training. Already I have found that my lockout strength feels stronger and my shoulders and back feel much healthier  I would suggest to anyone looking to increase chest, shoulders and triceps size and strength to incorporate some floor press into your upper body training.  Your bench press lockout strength will improve, and I think you will see a noticeable different in your shoulder, upper chest and triceps development.

Mastery of Technique

Remember to keep mastery of technique in mind whenever starting a new exercise.  It is important to learn good technique with both of these movements.  In particular take your time with lighter weights to learn how to set-up, complete the lift, and return the weight back to the starting position.

Stay Strong,

Brad Gillingham, CSCS | Team myHMB Athlete

Hall of Fame Powerlifter Brad Gillingham

Brad Gillingham

Brad Gillingham is a Hall of Fame Powerlifter who is a 6-time IPF World Powerlifting Champion and has more than 30 IPF World Championship medals under his belt.  Brad is the co-owner of Jackals Gym where he coaches a variety of athletes.  Brad is also strength and conditioning coach for wrestling and volleyball at Southwest Minnesota State University.


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