How To Do A Bench Press Without A Bench
The 8 Best Variations To Build A Strong Chest With Healthy Shoulders
By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1
The most common reason why I get the question, how to do a bench press without a bench is because of a busy gym, lack of equipment at home, or someone looking for new, unique variations.
The good news is that doing bench press without a bench actually has huge benefits when you perform the movement from the ground!
One of the main benefits of why you would want to do bench press without a bench is that it’s safer for your shoulders because the floor is blocking you from going into too much shoulder extension.
Not only will I be showing you different floor press variations, but I’ll also give you a couple more variations of ways to bench press without a bench. Find one’s that feel good on your shoulders and you feel comfortable performing.
Barbell Floor Press
One of the best ways to properly train your chest without excess stress on your shoulders is to do variation of floor presses.
Most people associate bench press with a barbell so we’ll start with the barbell floor press.
As mentioned above, when you start the eccentric portion of a floor press, you’re eventually going to be stopped by the ground.
When you’re on a bench, your shoulders get to continue into shoulder extension, and that’s where injuries can start to pile up over time.
By limiting your range of motion, you’re putting less stress on the shoulders and allowing yourself to stabilize them better.
Your setup for a barbell floor press is the same as a normal bench press, so don’t overthink it.
Keep your knees bent or straighten them out, that’s totally up to you, and then perform your reps.
At the bottom of each rep, briefly pause so you can’t bounce off the floor, similar to how people bounce the weight off their chest.
Dumbbell Floor Press
The exact same movement as the barbell floor press can be done with dumbbells.
Because of your ability to rotate your elbows towards your midsection with dumbbells, they are my preferred variation.
Between using dumbbells and having the floor to stop you, your shoulders are going to feel better than they ever have.
The main issue when you bench press without a bench using dumbbells is that it’s hard to get into position.
To combat having to constantly increasing the weight for more gains, I’ve used different variations with my online clients to provide a safe training environment.
The first one is to make lighter weight feel heavier by slowing down the eccentric portion of the lift. Instead of taking 1 - 2 seconds to lower your elbows to the floor, try taking 3 - 5.
This increased time under tension will make you move up in weight slower, or even have to go a notch down. There’s nothing wrong with that though, you’ll still get the necessary stress on your body because of the 3 - 5 seconds you are taking to lower the weight.
Alternating Dumbbell Floor Press
The next variation with dumbbells is to alternate back and forth.
Your total time for each set is going to double and your shoulder stabilizers are going to get extra work since you’ll be holding the dumbbell up while you perform a press on the other arm.
I’ve seen some people perform these all on one side and then the other, but I prefer to alternate back and forth.
Single Dumbbell Floor Press
This variation is my favorite for loading up heavy weight.
Since you are only using one dumbbell at a time, it allows you to use your off hand to lift the weight and get yourself into a comfortable position.
As you can see in the video, I like to keep my opposite knee bent and have my off hand flat on the ground.
This allows for anchor points to help my body stabilize the weight.
If you want to increase the stability (but you’ll have to lower the weight), put both legs out straight and put your off hand on your stomach.
Neutral Grip Barbell Floor Press
Are you sick of floor presses yet?!
Hey, you asked the question, “how to do a bench press without a bench?”!
This is the last one I promise.
This variation is the exact same as the barbell floor press, but with a neutral grip bar. It allows you put your palms facing each other, similar to what you can achieve with dumbbells, which makes it safer on your shoulders.
If you have this bar available in your gym, I would recommend using it over the straight barbell.
Chest Workout With A Bench Alternative Exercises
Stability Ball Dumbbell Chest Press
We’re finally out of floor press land! When performing bench press without a bench, you have the option to use a stability ball.
I personally wouldn’t program these into a client’s workout because to me, the risk outweighs the reward.
You never know what can happen with the ball. It can slip out from under you or god forbid, it pops with heavy weight above your face.
I wanted to show it to you so you know there are other options available, but try to avoid this one if you can.
Glute Bridge Chest Press
If you want a bang for your buck movement that gets the lower body involved, you can do your chest press with your glutes raised and squeezed.
You get the advantage of making this a full body exercise, but you lose stability when your hips are off the ground.
I hope that answered your question, how do a bench press without a bench?
You don’t need to have all 8 of them in a program. These 8 variations are working similar muscles so try them out and add 1 - 3 of them into your routine.
If you get a bench, I recommend reading The 11 Best Dumbbell Chest Press Variations, and have a mix of bench work with floor work.
As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions about how to do bench press without a bench.
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