Why The Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press will Maximize Your Pressing Strength

Muscle & Fitness

Why The Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press will Maximize Your Pressing Strength

The barbell bench and overhead press are the gold standards for pressing strength and adding size, but when it comes to unilateral training, a necessary but sometimes undertilized training method, the barbell may not be the most ideal option and that’s where the unilateral dumbbell floor press comes into play.

Lifting with two hands allows you to lift more weight for juicy gains, but performing bilateral lifts—lifting both sides simultaneously—all the time leads to strength imbalances between sides. These strength imbalances, although not always a huge deal, can alter the technique, can lead to injury niggles, and leave gains on the table.

There is an easy way to solve this problem: the unilateral dumbbell floor press. Here we’ll dive into everything dumbbell floor press so you can supersize your strength and muscle gains.


Most horizontal pressing variations are performed on a weight bench, not the dumbbell floor press. As the name suggests, you perform this press lying on the floor, which does few things to the press. You shorten the range of motion, which is a shoulder saver for some. When the elbow goes past the torso in the press, it puts the shoulder into external rotation, and if your shoulder is bothering you, this doesn’t help.

The shortened range of motion puts less of a stretch on the chest; therefore, some emphasis is taken off the chest and placed on the triceps. Plus, because you are on the floor, you are more stable and receive instant feedback, with allows you to press more safely.


Here’s how to perform the dumbbell unilateral floor press with good form.

  1. Lie on your back with a dumbbell by your side.
  2. Roll over onto your side, and grip the dumbbell with both hands.
  3. Roll on your back, press up, and remove one hand.
  4. You can have your feet on the ground or your legs extended. This is a matter of personal preference.
  5. Lower the dumbbell until your upper arm touches the ground and press up until lockout.
  6. Reset and repeat and then switch sides.


When pressing on the bench, you can use your lower body tension as a counterbalance to help push the weight. Not so on the floor, which makes the floor press a predominately an upper body exercise.

Here are the primary muscles trained by the unilateral floor press.

  • Chest: The initial push off the floor is all chest.
  • Anterior Deltoids: Assists the chest muscle with the initial push.
  • Triceps: Once your upper arm is off the floor, the triceps kick in.
  • Obliques: Both oblique muscles contract isometrically to prevent your torso from rotating.


All unilateral exercises will improve strength imbalances between sides if they exist, reducing your injury risk and increasing your gains. Here are four more essential benefits of the unilateral dumbbell floor press.

  • Great Shoulder Work Around: Because of the reduced range of motion limiting shoulder external rotation, the dumbbell floor press is the perfect gift for those with banged-up shoulders. It’s also great for beginners because the reduced ROM reduces aches and pains from more significant ROM movements. Plus, it helps build the strength and control for more difficult lifts like the bench press, and the increased floor stability helps with pressing technique and positioning.
  • Increased Flex Time: The unilateral dumbbell floor press is a great exercise to add mass to the chest, shoulders, and triceps without adding excessive strain to the shoulders due to the decreased range of motion. This fact makes it a great accessory exercise for the barbell bench press.
  • Unilateral Upper Body Strength: As with other reduced range-of-motion lifts like box squats, the floor press is a fantastic exercise to target specific lift portions. With the dumbbell floor press, you have an increased ability to handle heavy loads in the top half of the press to strengthen your triceps, chest, and anterior deltoid.
  • Improved Lockout Strength: There are two common weaknesses with the barbell bench press. One is just above the chest, and the other is locking out the final 1/3 of the press. Lockout strength is often a weakness, resulting in missed lifts, unstable lockout positions, or both. The dumbbell unilateral floor press is a great exercise to target this weakness, as you can handle heavier loads in the final third of the lift.



The dumbbell floor press is not a technical exercise and is simple to perform, but that doesn’t mean you can’t screw it up. Here are four common mistakes that prevent you from getting the best out of this exercise.

  • You’re NOT In Control: Lowering the weight quickly, bouncing the upper arm off the floor, and twisting your torso to lift the dumbbell are sure signs you have lost control. This puts you at higher injury risk and reduces muscle-building tension. Reduce the weight, take your ego out of it, and lift with control.
  • Don’t Reduce The Range Of Motion Any Further: The dumbbell floor press is already a partial ROM lift, and by NOT touching your upper arm to the floor and pausing or achieving complete lockout, kiss some of your gains goodbye.
  • Elbow Position: Having your elbow close to the torso doesn’t give the chest and shoulder much room to move. And flaring the elbows out puts the shoulders at increased injury risk and reduces the tension on the chest and triceps. Instead, having them at a 45-degree angle from the torso is a fantastic pressing position.
  • Improper Setup And Finish: You know, the dudes that drop the dumbbells on the ground once they have finished their set of dumbbell bench presses. Don’t be that guy on the floor press because it looks uncool and damaging to your shoulder. Rolling onto your side to grab the dumbbell and rolling onto your side to lower the dumbbells after your set is the safest way to perform this lift. No exceptions.


Let’s start with one obvious fact about the unilateral bench press. It is not an absolute strength exercise but is suited for hypertrophy, strengthening imbalances, and strengthening your bilateral pressing variations. IMO, training the unilateral floor press between the six to 15 rep range for two to four sets as an accessory move works well for most lifters.

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Dumbbells and the floor press are a match made in exercise heaven. Still, there are other tools and variations to increase the intensity and train the chest and triceps differently for better overall muscle development. Here are a few to take for a spin in your training.

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