The floor press may have value for powerlifting, but I’m skeptical if the reduced range of motion allows for much bodybuilding value. There are better triceps exercises available than a reduced range of motion bench press, but the specificity may help this portion of the range of motion during bench press competition.
Once you understand the length-tension relationship, you know that too much range of motion will harm your results and risk your safety.
Away from the midpoint of a good exercise, most of the parts in the muscles that bind to make a contraction cannot form. At the endpoints, these parts either spread too far apart or bunch up. This reduces tension, the main reason your body builds more muscle.
The muscles give less support at the endpoints as well. This harms the joints, which work in a weak position already.
The floor press looks like a bench press with less range of motion. The floor stops the stretch you would get as you lower the weight. Since the midpoint of a bench press trains the muscles at the best length, this appears ideal. This would also guard the shoulders against too much range of motion.
The floor press then seems like a step on the right path. It brings problems with it though, mostly practical. It fails to beat the bench press though for these reasons.
In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might.
– Winston Churchill
- It uses the floor as an endpoint for the range of motion.
This makes it hard to train to failure, as there is no safe way to end at the bottom.
With most weight plates, your elbows will touch the ground first. If you use rubber plates with a large diameter, then the plates may rest on the floor instead of your arms, but you could lose too much range of motion. You may get lucky with this, but will still have the other problems talked about here.
Though not needed to get results, training to failure lets you know your progress best. It makes sure that you use all of the motor units for the fast-twitch fibers that you can. It gives you a test of strength that meets the needs to build muscle. Without training to failure, most tend to do too much work. This brings fatigue that does not build size and strength.
The floor will rest against the triceps at the bottom. Smashing the active muscles can harm them. As you grow weak in the set, you will have less control of the weight. This could hurt your elbows and triceps as the ground impedes them.
- It limits range of motion too much.
Though your range of motion should take place close to the middle of a good exercise, a tad beyond it to get a stretch will help. You will get a pre-stretch, which boosts tension and allows more negative work. This helps as the negative is the most vital phase for gaining size and strength.
Training with less range of motion tends to use less effort. You need some range of motion to have enough time to use your power. You may also find that more range of motion makes it feel tough to get into a groove for good form. Perhaps this happens since more range of motion allows all of the body parts to move enough to work as a unit.
Powerlifters use options like the floor press and board press. They aim to strengthen certain parts of the range of motion. This is doubtful, as the length-tension relationship cannot change from training.
This may happen on exercises where the weight does not move in a straight line since each muscle would play more or less of a role throughout the range of motion. It should not apply to bench presses, squats, and rows. This may apply when using support gear, like a shirt for the bench press.
Muscles work a bit better when stretched versus shortened. Too much time spent in the part of the range of motion with the best leverage and the least benefit, as on the floor press, would harm results.
- It harms stability.
Cutting out part of the base formed by your legs will harm how well you do. Some argue that this allows the chest, arms, and shoulders to get more work.
You will instead lose balance without the chance to plant the feet firmly as with a bench press. This strong base lets you put all of your force in the right direction.
- You miss out on nothing.
Some feel that the floor press gives variety. This just forms an illusion of progress.
Variety resets the learning curve. You get better since your body has to learn the exercise before you build muscle. This is not real success, which comes from progress after this stage.
Some use the floor press to work on speed by pausing at the bottom. The aim to move fast though matters more than how fast you move.
Avoid the Floor Press
If the floor press can teach us a lesson, it is that we do not need as much range of motion on our exercises as we may think.
You can limit the range of motion in the bench press to gain the benefits without the problems. Use a pad around the barbell or some other reference to give you an endpoint for the range of motion. I still suggest a range of motion a bit beyond the halfway point as you can handle.
Avoid the floor press.