The top bench-press athletes in the world have many secrets that help them press more than 600, 700, even 800 pounds. But you don’t have to be a record-holder to want to enhance your bench press strength or increase your pec size. Take a page from the pros’ training manuals and try this technique called the floor press. As you probably already figured out, no bench is required.

A Moment of Pause

Basically, floor presses are bench presses you do on the floor. But they go far beyond their reputation as the poor man’s bench press – they’re actually a great tool for pauses. Traditional pause training calls for you to stop the exercise at the point where the negative portion of the movement ends and the positive portion begins. In the bench press, this is where the bar is just above your chest, and using pause training here can help you overcome your sticking point.

The sticking point is your weakest link in a lift – the point where you tend to fail. To gain strength, you need to train at your sticking points. Since most of us have trouble a few inches off our chest, the floor press is an ideal solution. Training to recruit more pec fibers in this spot will have you blowing through it instead of sticking.

The spot where your arms just touch the floor is also a safer place to pause than directly on your chest. When you use a bench and the bar is on your chest, your elbows are lower than your back and your shoulder joints are stretched – not the best place from which to push heavy weight from a dead stop. This can stress the structures of the shoulder joint and lead to shoulder injury.

Another advantage of using the floor is your leg position. When using a bench, you use your legs to help drive the weight up. This is why you’re weaker when you press with your feet on the bench. Lying on the floor removes all contribution from your lower body and transfers more of the load to your pecs and triceps.

Floor It

The floor press is best done in a power cage, because you can set the hooks to simulate a normal bench press rather than starting with the bar in the bottom position – important if a stronger bench press is your goal. For most bodybuilders who want to gain size, however, a rack is unnecessary, and starting from the floor may be preferred for simple variety.

To execute the move, lie on your back with your legs outstretched and most of your bodyweight on your upper back and the bottom part of your neck. Have a spotter help you move the bar up into position. Lower the bar slowly until your elbows just touch the floor; hitting the floor too hard with your elbows can cause a fracture and/or damage tendons or bursa sacs. Hold the weight there for a second, then press the bar up as quickly as possible. You can also perform this exercise using dumbbells.

David Ryan, DC, a member of the M&F Editorial Advisory Board, owns the Columbus Chiropractic Center in Ohio and is the medical director for the Arnold Fitness Weekend.

Floor Press Chest Workout

Bench Press 2 12, 6
Bench Press 4 4, 2, 1, 10
Incline Press 3 4, 6, 10
Floor Press 3 4, 6, 10
Dumbbell Flye 2 10, 10

*Attempt this type of heavy chest workout only once every 2-4 weeks.