Chest Exercises When You Don't Have a Bench
Kindal doing alternating floor presses.

Chest Exercises When You Don't Have a Bench

Okay... you don't have a bench.

I'm guessing you don't have a bar either.

Not a problem.

You don't need a bench at all.

But first I have a whole bunch of exercises you can do for your chest if you don't have a bench.

And if you want to learn some advanced pushup variations , I have those too in a separate post.

Floor Press Variations

Floor presses are simply any type of press exercise while you're laying on your back and doing a chest press of some style.

Let's get into it...

Kindal pushing really hard in a pushup
Intensity Tip

If you have kettlebells... great! They add intensity to almost every exercise because of the weight offset they provide.

The bulk of the weight is distributed unevenly... causing you to work harder to control the weight.

So if you can... start building up your kettlebell collection . You'll be happy you did!

Two Hands One Weight

Grab a kettlebell... preferably heavy... and start pressing it up and down.

Make sure the kettlebell or dumbbell start and finished right below your chest... your elbows are tucked.

One reason I love two hands and one weight floor press... is because it forces your elbows close to your body... the same way you should be doing pushups.

So it's great for developing pushup muscles.

Kindal walking out in an inchworm with great form
Form Tip

Two things...

One... when you're pressing the kettlebell or dumbbell, keep it over your chest.

Don't press it over your face.

Two... when you lower the weight, don't let it fall. Control the movement and keep your muscles engaged.

You move the weight... not gravity.

Double Floor Press

Grab two kettlebells (or dumbbells)... one for each hand.

And simple start pressing both kettlebells at one time.

It's simple... it's tough... and it works really well.

The best part is you don't have to have two of the same weight... you can have two different weights.

Put the heavier weight in your weak side and you'll start to balance out your body.

Kindal smiling as she sits on a box after a tough workout
A Big Idea

Weak side training is really important. Most people thing you need to always stay balanced during your workouts... same reps per side... same weight per side.

This is not true.

Your body is already out of balance and the only way to bring it into balance is to work your weak side more... more weight (at times)... more reps...

You don't have to be... nor should you be balanced during every workout.

Single Floor Press

Grab one kettlebell and floor press only on one side.

The arm not holding the kettlebell does nothing but help balance and brace.

I love this exercise because it helps with core stability and endurance.

You'll feel your body begin to torque and your core will work in an anti-rotation style to stay straight.

This is a great exercise.

Alternating Floor Press

Grab two kettlebells (remember they don't have to be the same weight).

Start by pushing both up above your chest.

  • Then lower and re-press one.
  • Then lower and re-press the other.
  • Keep repeating for a set amount of reps and sets.

I love this because it brings in endurance strength as you stabilize one weight while pressing the other.

Kindal pushing really hard in a pushup
Intensity Tip

You don't have to only press once and then switch... mix it up!

You can press the same side... two or three or more times... then switch.

This is a great way to bring balance to your body.

Press your weak side 4 times and your strong side only two times.

You'll quickly see huge improvements on your weak side.

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See Saw Floor Press

Grab two kettlebells just like the alternating floor press.

But this time you always need to lower one and raise one at the same time... no multiple reps.

Here's the difference...

As your pressing one weight up...

You're lowering the other weight down....

So both weights move in unison as if they were on a see saw.

This is very intense so make sure you choose the right weight. Don't get stuck in a bad situation.

Did you know grunting can help your workout intensity ? It's true. I wrote a post all about it.

Static Hold While Pressing The Other

So we have hinted at this floor press already.

Grab two kettlebells.

Press the both above your chest.

Hold one static while you press the other for many reps. Depending on the weight it can be 5 to 12 or more.

The big difference is one "set" is pressing only on one side.

When you want to switch... consider this a brand new set.

Kindal pushing really hard in a pushup
Intensity Tip

This can get very hard for the arm that is holding the weight.

So here's what to do:

First... don't let that arm bend (even slightly) at the elbow. This will cause more arm muscle to activate and you'll fatigue faster.

Second... use your skeleton. Straighten your arm so the weight is held primarily by your skeleton.

Third... go down in weight for the static hold.

Your shoulder muscles are still doing a lot of work and they fatigue fast... but this is a better strategy.

Shoulder Pulse Presses

Grab one or two kettlebells... you can do this either way.

So we just hinted above at the importance of shoulder strength... now it's time to focus on your shoulders and pecs a little more.

  • Press both or one kettlebell over your chest.
  • Keep your arm very straight.
  • And only pulse your shoulder up and down.

This is a great exercise that works many small muscles in your rotator cuff and your pec muscles too.

Shoulder Pulses

Let's take one look at simple shoulder exercise you can do for increased control and strength.

Shoulder pulses.

Start in a top of pushup plank.

Keeping your arms straight... lower only by depressing your shoulders. This is a relaxation of your shoulder muscles.

You will then contract with your chest and push through your shoulders until your shoulders are rounded and rigid.

This is not only great for shoulder strength, but range of motion as well.

Knock out about 30 to 40 reps and you'll feel a serious burn. Make sure you learn all about shoulder exercises here.

Floor Press Negatives

There is a concept in training called time under tension... the amount of time your muscles are in load.

On a base level... if you increase your time under tension... you get stronger. That is what negatives are all about.

You can use either one or two kettlebells... it's probably easier and safer with one kettlebell.

  • Press is up and on a slow count of 8 to 10 seconds lower it to your chest.
  • Pop it back up and repeat as many times as you can before you get too tired.

It helps to have a partner for this who can not only spot you... but help you get the weight back up to the top. Remember your goal is just to lower it as slow as you can.

Negatives are amazing for build strength.


Grab one kettlebell and press it over your chest.

Have a slight bend in your arms but no more than a slight bend. Hinge at your shoulders and lower the weight behind your head.

You are hinging at your shoulders... NOT your elbows.

It is your pec muscles are that contracting and pulling the weight back over your chest.

This is a great chest exercise and one I love to pair with standard chest presses or pushups.

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