Floor Press Vs Bench Press: Compared For Chest Workouts

Developing body strength and muscle mass is becoming more popular than ever, but it can be challenging to find the best exercises. Luckily in this article, I’ll be pitting together the floor press vs bench press to see which comes out on top.  

You’ll discover the similarities and differences between the two and which is best for your goals.

The floor press is an excellent exercise for developing muscle mass and strength in the upper body. It mainly targets the pectoral (chest) muscles, along with the triceps and anterior deltoids.

The movement is similar to a bench press, but your elbows will hit the floor before the bar reaches your chest. Due to this, the range of motion is reduced, making it more shoulder-friendly.

At the bottom of the floor press, your elbows will be flat to the floor, causing the movement to come to a complete dead stop. This encourages your muscular system to recruit muscle fibers to lift the weight from the dead stop position.

Many lifters use the floor press to overcome weak points in their bench press and strengthen your triceps’ lockout action.

All levels of lifter can perform the floor press. Still, I recommend that you always use a spotter, as lifting the barbell into the correct position can be a difficult task, especially if you're a beginner.

There are several variations of the floor press you should try: 

  • Dumbbell floor press – Uses dumbbells rather than a barbell 
  • Resistance band floor press – Makes use of resistance bands for activating the chest muscles instead of a barbell or dumbbells (easier for beginners). 
  • Bridge floor press – Floor press with the body in a bridge position (great for the core). 
  • And the barbell floor press – The traditional floor press.  
man doing a barbell floor press

Pros & Cons Of Doing Regular Floor Presses 

Benefits 

  • Less stress on the shoulders 
  • Helps improve bench press lockout
  • Easy for beginners to learn 
  • Doesn’t require much equipment 

Negatives 

  • Shorter range of motion 
  • Difficult to place the bar in starting position

Bench Press Variations Explained 

The bench press is often one of the first movements new gym-goers learn as an exercise.

Barbell Bench Press 

This is the traditional variant of the bench press using a 45lb Olympic barbell and a bench. It allows you to lift large amounts of weight, hitting your chest muscles hard.

The bench press is performed by lying on a bench and lifting the barbell off the rack so it’s in line with your mid-chest, and pressing the barbell up and down.

man doing a barbell bench press

Close Grip Barbell Bench Press 

The close grip barbell bench press moves the focus primarily onto your triceps. Your chest will still be worked, but not as much as the regular barbell bench press.  

You can perform this movement by doing a bench press but with a much closer grip (shoulder width) and tucking your elbows into the sides.  

Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press 

A wide grip barbell bench press is brilliant for focusing on your chest muscle development. The shorter range of motion eliminates most of the triceps' workload, leaving you with a killer chest exercise.

This is performed the same as the regular bench press but with a wider (1.5x shoulder width) grip.

Glute Bridge Dumbbell Bench Press 

This bench press variation requires you to engage your core muscles for stability 

To perform this movement, place yourself 90 degrees to the bench with your upper back resting on the bench and your feet supporting your body. Then press your dumbbells up and down.  

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press 

The alternating dumbbell bench press is a brilliant iso-lateral movement that helps iron out any muscular imbalances that may have occurred from using a barbell (pretty typical in beginners).

Lie on a bench and press your dumbbells one at a time, alternating each arm every rep.

Incline Barbell Bench Press 

If you want to work your upper chest, the incline barbell bench press is the movement you want. It’s performed exactly like a standard bench press but with an incline bench position.  

Dumbbell Neutral Grip Bench Press 

If you’re unlucky and develop a shoulder issue, the dumbbell neutral grip bench press will help. The neutral hand position removed the stress from the shoulders.  

This can be performed like a regular dumbbell press but with a neutral hand position (palms toward each other).  

man doing a neutral grip dumbbell press

Pros & Cons Of Regular Bench Press Workouts 

Benefits 

  • Greater range of motion 
  • You can lift a lot of weight 
  • Fantastic for chest development
  • Builds brilliant upper body strength

Negatives 

  • Requires bulky equipment 
  • You need a spotter for safety  

Floor Press Vs Bench Press: Key Differences Compared

For Muscle Growth

While comparing floor press vs bench press for muscle growth, each movement targets specific areas of the body.

Chest

If you're looking to build your chest muscle, the bench press is the best option out of floor vs bench press. This is mainly due to the increased range of motion your chest goes through during the bench press.

It’s also worth noting that most people can lift more weight during the bench press movement than they can during a floor press, so the increased load will also have a more significant effect on your chest development.  

But, I have found that if you hit a sticking point with your bench press, the floor press can help you blast through any sticking points you might have. This suggests that a combination of both the floor press and bench press go together like eggs and bacon; they complement each other and, in turn, will grow your pecs.  

Winner: Bench press (but the combination of both is the sweet spot)

woman doing a barbell bench press

Shoulders

During my comparison of floor press vs bench press, I found that the floor press created more activation of the shoulders. Even though the floor press is excellent for building the chest, the range of motion favors strength being built in the triceps and shoulders as it focuses mainly on the last portion of a bench press lift (the lockout).

However, the bench press does work the anterior delts, and the work the delts have to do increases as the incline of the bench press increases. This is one of the many reasons I love incline bench press. Not only does it work the upper pecs, but it requires more work from the deltoids, resulting in more muscular growth. 

Even though both are great for shoulder development, I feel the floor press wins this one.

Winner: Floor press

Back 

Even though the bench press and floor press are primarily classed as chest building exercises, they work your back muscles too. The primary back muscle activated during these movements is the lats (latissimus dorsi). 

The lats work incredibly hard during the negative phase of the bench press movement and act as an antagonist to the pectoral muscles. It's also the center support for the weight you're bench pressing as it goes through the negative lifting phase (towards your chest).

When comparing the floor press vs bench press for back development, the back won't be as engaged during the floor press due to the reduced range of motion. Therefore it's an easy win for the bench press here.  

Winner: Bench press

Core 

The core is a vital part of your body and is required for both floor and bench press.  

But which one uses more core muscles? – If I’m being honest, it isn’t easy to tell. Whenever you’re pressing heavy weight above your body, your core will be working hard to keep you stable, ensuring you have a stable base to lift the barbell (or dumbbells).

Winner: Draw

Exercise Technique & Form 

The bench press: 

  1. 1
    Lie on a bench press. 
  2. 2
    Lift the barbell off the supports and hold it over your chest (in line with your mid-chest). 
  3. 3
    Draw your shoulders back into the bench. 
  4. 4
    Slowly bring the bar to your chest and press it upwards, squeezing your pecs. (Tip: Don’t bounce the bar off your chest).  
  5. 5
    Repeat.  

The floor press: 

  1. 1
    Lie on the floor, legs out straight.  
  2. 2
    Brace your core muscles and push your shoulders into the floor.  
  3. 3
    Lift the bar over your chest.  
  4. 4
    Bring the bar toward your chest until your triceps are flat against the floor (arms at 90 degrees), then press the barbell upward.  
  5. 5
    Repeat.  

Choosing the weight

Start by using a weight you can complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps (with the last 2 reps being close to failure). Then increase the weight by a small increment, e.g., 5lb per side.

Physical Equipment  

The floor press requires very little equipment, mainly just the barbell and weights you’re using. This makes it a great option if you have little space to train or only have a small amount of equipment. However, the bench press requires a bench press (which is rather bulky) and a barbell.  

The equipment you require will vary depending on what variation of the floor press or bench press you’re doing. For example, you would need dumbbells for alternating dumbbell bench press, or you’d need a set of resistance bands for resisted floor press. 

If you have a home gym, then the floor press might be the ideal solution for building your upper body strength as it doesn’t take up much space to perform, and you won’t need to spend money on a bench press.  

Safety & Injuries 

When it comes to your safety during both movements, you’ll require a spotter. The last thing you want is to be trapped under a loaded bar; it’s not only embarrassing but potentially life-threatening.

The floor press has an awkward starting position if you aren’t using a floor bench press rack to hold the bar, requiring you to lift the barbell into place before you start your reps. This is a difficult task for all users, especially beginners.

However, the floor press is generally seen as a more shoulder-friendly movement as it has a much shorter range of motion, placing less stress on the shoulder joints.  

On the other hand, the bench press has a much easier starting position. Still, it requires a spotter as you’ll generally be lifting heavier weights that’ll cause muscular fatigue pretty quickly.  

The bench press also has a much more extensive range of motion and will engage the shoulders more than the floor press, which may cause an issue for some users with shoulder injuries. Try a bench press variation such as the neutral grip dumbbell press if you’re concerned about this.  

man doing a barbell floor press

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can you bench press on the floor?  

No, this would be a floor press due to the limited range of motion. Your elbows will touch the floor before the bar reaches your chest.  

Can you build big muscles with floor presses? 

Yes, you can; the movement was created way before the bench press and was used by many bodybuilders to develop the pec major, pec minor, anterior deltoids, and triceps. However, the traditional bench press gives you a greater range of motion and, therefore, causes more muscle growth; floor press is not a substitute for bench press. 

Why is floor press harder than bench? 

This is because of the starting position of the barbell, which is usually on the floor unless you have a frame with j hooks. Lifting the bar overhead so it’s ready for the floor press is a difficult task, especially when it’s loaded. The bar also comes to a dead stop between each rep. 

How much weight should I floor press? 

Always floor press whatever weight you can lift with good form. If your form is terrible, you need to lower the weight. This will be different for everyone, so start low and find the best weight for you.  


Conclusion

After comparing the floor press vs bench press, I found that the latter is much better at developing your chest muscles and increasing your upper body strength.  

However, if you have shoulder issues or a sticking point in your bench press, then the floor press could be an excellent option.

While I recommend both exercises have a place in your workout routine, if you need to select one of them, I'd suggest choosing the bench press as it performs far better due to the increased range of motion.  

Last Updated on January 25, 2022