Dumbbell Floor Press Or Kettlebell Floor Press - Mastering the Chest Press On The Floor
I think it's one of the best ways to get stronger for pushups.
The dumbbell floor press (or kettlebell).
As long as you have at least one dumbbell or kettlebell... anybody can do it.
- You don't need a bench
- You don't need a bar
And the variations you can do are so much more than just the standard bar "bench press".
In this article, you'll learn:
- Why I prefer kettlebells to dumbbells
- How to do the floor press correctly
- Modifications for the floor press
- Variations to keep challenging you
Dumbell Floor Press or Kettlebell Floor Press?
I prefer the kettlebell floor press for one main reason.
Kettlebells are safer to hold.
When you're holding either weight by the handle... they're about the same.
I'll show you what I mean in a second...
Kettlebells activate more muscle because of the offset they create. Here's what that means.
A dumbbell is perfectly balanced.
You have two chunks of weight on each end of a little bar... the handle. The center of gravity or the balance point is directly in the middle. It is the handle.
So when you're on your back and holding a dumbbell over your chest... it's easyer to balance.
A kettlebell has one chunk of weight and it rests to the side of the handle. This pulls the center of gravity off the side and down.
When you're on your back and holding a kettlbell over your chest... in one arm... you'll have to use more muscle to balance the kettlebell and hold it still.
This will change a little bit as you're about to see.
The major difference between a dumbbell and kettlebell is when you're holding one weight with two hands.
A dumbbell is really akward to hold and when you're sweaty and trying to get through a workout... it can be down right dangerous.
I've almost dropped a dumbbell on myself many times.
A kettlebell has the handle. You can put your thumbs through the handle and secure the weight a lot easier.
This makes a huge difference when you're going heavy or when you're knocking out a lot of reps.
How To Do The Floor Press Correctly
This is going to be pretty easy to explain.
Step 1 - Lay On The Ground
You can have your knees bent, but actively work to keep your lower back on the ground.
Step 2 - Grab Your Weight - Single Kettlebell or Dumbbell Version
I think this is important...
Hold the kettelbell correctly.
Place your thumbs through the handle and your palms are resting around the bell.
This is really secure compared to the dumbbell as explained above.
When it comes to holding dumbbells though...
Hold Dumbbell Version 1
This is the danergous one.
Hold the dumbbell by the outsides... hands on the two big weight chunks.
When you start to sweat... it gets very difficult to hold the dumbbell securely.
Plus it's really akward to get the kettlebell down on the ground. You almost have to drop it everytime.
I use this version but it makes me nervous every time.
Hold Dumbbell Version 2
This is actually a really cool way to hold the dumbbell. I find it makes the chest press harder (in a good way) to do.
Grab the dumbbell by the handle with one hand. It doesn't matter which because you'll switch back and forth.
Take your other hand and wrap it around the hand that's on the dumbbell.
Now the dumbbell is vertical with your spine line as you press it up and down.
It's little easier to manage... and I feel it contracts your chest muscles a little differently. I always get a bigger contraction burn when I do floor presses like this.
Step 3 - Start Pressing
You'll notice one thing that is nearly automatic.
It's more natural to have your elbows closer to your body... 45 degree from your spine line or closer. Just like when learning how to get better at your pushups .
This is one reason I love floor presses.
They make it intuitive to feel correct form that can then be applied to other exercises.
When you press the weight... go until your elbows hit the ground and then extend back up.
Double Kettlebell or Dumbbell Version
Everything stays the same except pay attention to two things...
One - Your Elbows
Now that your arms can move indpendently... make sure your elbows are not going out too wide. Keep that 45 degree angle or less.
Two - Your Wrists
If you're new to strength training... remember when you're holding a single weight... don't break your wrists.
If you're wrists break...
- You lose a lot of pressing power.
- Your wrists start to hurt.
- And you're not building your forearm strength.
There will be a small natural wrist break when holding a dumbbell. You can't do anything about that.
The major beneift of going double is you can load up heavy and really work on your individual arm strength and coordination.
Push yourself and you'll get stronger. A lot of other exercises will improve.
- Plank up downs
- And more!
A Big Idea
If you start to go heavy... have a friend or trainer nearby to spot you.
I've never seen this... but it's possible to drop the weight on yourself. You have to stay focused when doing the floor press.
When you're doing a double kettlebell or dumbbell floor press... get a spotter.
One of your arms is the weaker one and it will fatigue first.
Make sure you have somebody there to help you get through those last 3 to 4 tough reps.
If you're alone and working out... don't go crazy heavy.
Dumbbell and Kettlebel Floor Press Modifications
These aren't really modifications per say... they're more exercise substitutions to help you build the strength and coordination so you can get more from doing floor presses.
1. Go Light
This is pretty obvious. Go light and slowy build your strength up.
2. Use a Band To Build Muscle Communication and Control
You'll need one of those big Rogue bands for this exercise and a rig or something to hold your band.
This is where a gym membership can come in handy.
Hook up your band so the rig is holding it and put it very close to the ground.
This depends on the "weight" of the band you're using... so you'll have to play with the exact band position.
Slide your body under the band.
Grab the band as if it were a barbell... with both hands about shoulder width apart.
Start repping out chest presses.
You'll notice how shaky your arms are and how the higher you press the harder it is to fully contract your muscles.
This is really hard.
You can also reverse it... a banded pushup.
Again, great for building muscle coordination and control.
A Big Idea
Learn Coordination and Communication
The shaky arms is your brain learning how to communicate to your arms and chest to control the demand place on your body.
Without getting too nerdy... its the neuromuscular system learning to be more coordinated and efficient.
This is going to pay off big time when you're doing real floor presses and this will translate to other exercises.
Your brain learns how to recruit more muscle fibers to help with the job and now you have more available which means you can get stronger.
The idea remains the same...
Improving your muscle control and coordination.
Kettlebell planks and pushups are really hard because they force your arms and shoulders to be turned on from the very get go.
Learn more varitions in our core exercises with kettlebells post .
Take two kettlebells... preferrably ones that have a round side like Rogue Kettlebells (my favorite)... and place the round side down.
Get into a top of pushup plank with your hands on the bell of the kettlebell.
While your in the plank, roll the handle of the kettlebell off the ground so you're balancing only on the round side.
You'll immediately feel the instability. All the muscles in your upper body will turn on and start flexing.
It's this flexing that will help you improve your dumbbell and kettlebell floor presses because this coodination will translate into more strength.
Floor Press Variations To Improve Your Workouts
Single sided floor presses are really effective when you go with a heavier weight.
You want a weight that almost tips your body over to the side.
This is going to turn all the muscles up and down the chain of your body on... you'll feel yourself bracing hard to keep your body down.
It helps to have your non-weighted arm off to the side a little... but don't go too far.
I love this variation and use it a lot with our online personal training programs .
Hold One Press The Other
This is going to be easier than doing only a single sided floor press... but there is a unique move I want you to focus on.
Grab two kettlebells or dumbbells... and press them both over your chest.
One arm is going to stay presses while the other arm reps out.
What I want you to focus on HARD... it the arm that is not pressing... extend it hard into the sky.
Extend it high, pressing through your shoulder up and off the ground as well.
This will contract your pec muscle and cause your shoulder muscles to stabize. Remember... stabilitzing is a form of strength training that will pay off big time.
Press the other kettlebell up and down and burn that arm and pec muscle out!
Keep In Mind
The two weights you're using for this variation do not have to the same weight!
Grab those two weights... keeping in mind the two weights don't have to be the same weight...
- Press one all the way down and up.
- Press the other all the way down and up.
This is a great exercise because it tends to slow the rep tempo down which is great for building strength. (Time under tension.)
Machine Gun Alternating
I don't really like the name that much... I've just always called it this.
This floor press variation is nearly identical to "normal" alternating but while one weight is moving up the other weight is moving down and it's usually done at a much faster pace.
I guess you can say this is more of a cardio/endurance version of alternating floor presses, which are normally slower paced and heavy.
You already know how much a fan we are of negative reps... because there are huge benefits to negative reps .
Use them with your floor presses too.
I love negatives with floor presses because you can mix and match how you do the reps.
- One side can go down slow while the other side goes at a normal pace.
- You can alternate (machine gun style) the side that goes slow
- Both sides can go slow
- Only use one kettlebell and go slow
- You can go slow down (eccentric phase) and slow up (concentrict phase)...
This is where you need to get creative. But also make sure you're doing enough reps to actually benefit you.
We use a lot of negative reps in the training of FWW LIVE and Habit.
We talked about this in the body of the post and how you should hold the dumbbell or kettlebell to stay safe.
I use these the most because they are faster to get int and out of during a metabolic workout.
Remember the variation I talked about with dumbbells!! Picture above. The one where the dumbbell is vertical to my spine.
It's tougher and I think you get a little more muscle contraction out of this variation.
Quarter Get Up Presses
These are one of my favorites. But you do need some experience with kettlebell training... in particular the turkish getup.
I have a full in-depth breakdown of how to do the turkish get up here.
While it makes more sense to use a kettlebell for this exercise... you can do this with a dumbbell too.
Here's how it works without going into detail about how to do the getup part of the exercise.
Start on your back in the starting getup position.
Press into your bent leg (the heel) and into the elbow of the arm that is not carrying the weight and immediately go into a getup... but STOP when your on your elbow.
Come back down with control and try to immediately go into the floor press.
You want this to be as smooth of a motion as possible... not breaking it into sections. You're muscles will burn so much more.
Be careful... this is very intense on your shoulders, but a great pressing variation.
Pull Over Presses
I use this variation a lot in the FWW LIVE online training workouts.
Kettlebells work better for this variation. You can use a dumbbell but you're going to have to hold in the "dangerous" way to make this exercise work.
Get yourself some kettlebells... they are worth the investment.
Lay on the floor with the kettlebell already pressed over your chest.
Keeping your arms solid, but with a slight bend... hinge at your shoulder joint and perform a pull over.
When you bring the weight back over your chest... immediately go into the (single weighted) floor press.
On the way back up... just go straight into the next pull over rep.
Rinse and repeat.
What makes this variation so good is the pull over is a chest exercise as well.
A pull over works your chest in a different way than a press... as you would guess it's more of a pulling motion.
You're getting your pec muscles hit in two different ways in one exercise.
Hollow Hold Presses
If I can integrate an ab exercise into another exercise... and it makes sense I'll do it.
You can do this variation with...
- One kettlebell
- Two kettlebels
- One dumbbell (held my special way)
- Two dumbbells
You can even go heavy or light depending on what your workout calls for.
Get in a hollow hold with your weight over your chest.
You're going to have to squeeze your hollow hard because now you have a weight that is pressing your upper body down.
In a way it makes it eaiser but remember you want a HARD core crunch.
Press the weight while keeping your hollow crunched.
That's really it.
It's the hollow hold that keeps your entire body in tension.
And it get's even more fun when you use only one weight in one arm and have an uneven press while holding a hollow hold.
I use this version of the floor pres all the time.
What's Better The Kettlebell Floor Press or Dumbbell Floor Press?
I am bias towards kettlebells.
But both are great.
I think kettlebells allow you to do more in a much safe way.
But get out there in your workout and start using the variations I highlighted.
If you want more or your need help... contact me here ... message me on Instagram... or YouTube.
I'll do my best to help out.
If you're a member of FWW LIVE... you know where you can get personal access to me so I'll see you in the group if you need more help with your floor presses.
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