CrossFit has a love-hate relationship with the bench press. Most coaches admit that it’s one of the best developers of upper-body pushing strength, but the use of the bench and the prevalence of shoulder injuries in lifelong benchers makes it seem wise to avoid. And from a practical standpoint, bench pressing is tough to program because few boxes want to invest the money or floor space on a half-dozen benches. The solution? Enter the floor press.
A brute-strength old-school lift that predates the bench press, the floor press combines the massive recruitment of upper-body muscle fibers with a highly functional movement pattern and a range of motion that makes it much healthier for your shoulders than a traditional bench.
If you don’t have access to a rack or if the lowest holes on your rack are still too high, place a loaded barbell on the ground, scoot under it and glute-bridge it into your hands. If you do have access to a power rack, set the J-cups to about 18 inches off the floor and place the loaded barbell onto them. Get on the floor and line the bar up so that it’s at eye level. Once situated, place your hands on the bar where the knurling rings are (or a bit wider if you have long arms). Grasp the bar deep in the web of flesh between your fingers and thumb and wrap your thumbs completely around it.
Under the Bar
Move your shoulder blades together and downward (imagine trying to put them in your back pockets). If the bar is in a rack, slide it off the J-cups so you can maintain this position with your scapulae. (If you can have someone give you a lift off, even better.) Tuck your elbows close to your sides — the angle between your upper arms and your torso should never be greater than 45 degrees. Take and hold a deep breath, tighten the muscles in your abs and glutes and, if the bar is in a rack, slowly bring it down. As it descends, imagine rowing the bar to help activate your lats and improve stability.
Off the Bottom
Let your upper arms make full contact with the floor and come to a complete stop. Don’t crash your elbows into the floor and try to bounce the bar the way you might on a bench press. Generating power from a dead stop is the biggest challenge of the floor press, but it’s also the key to its benefits. After a beat during which the bar has been completely still, tighten your core, drive your soles or the backs of your heels into the floor and press the weight to full lockout. When you’ve completed the last rep, lower the weight until your upper arms land on the floor, then rock the weight forward so the bar lands over your hip crease. If you used a rack, lean the bar back until it rests in the J-cups.