Strength Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Dumbbell Floor Press

About the Author: Eric Cressey

I’m out of town for a few days, but fortunately, Ben Bruno was kind enough to write up this guest blog.  I enjoy Ben’s writing – particularly his ability to constantly innovate – and I’m sure you will, too.

Common sense tells us that the one arm dumbbell bench press is an upper body exercise (duh!), but if you’ve ever done them with considerable loads, then you know that the legs aren’t just passive players in the mix. They don’t just help to provide a little bit of leg drive; more importantly, they help to create a stable base so you don’t tip clear off the bench.

Don’t believe me? Try doing a set with your feet in the air and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Just make sure to put padding on the floor around you first.

To mimic this effect in a safer fashion, try one arm dumbbell floor presses with your legs straight.

You’ll find there’s a tendency for your torso to want to rotate towards the arm pressing the weight and for the contralateral leg to want to shoot up off the floor as the weight gets heavier or you get further into a set.  As such, you have to be cognizant of that and squeeze your glutes and brace your core to prevent that from happening since you can’t rely on your feet to provide the base of support.

It’s a great exercise because it’s self-limiting and reflexively teaches you how to create total body tension—no cueing needed.

It’s also a nice shoulder-friendly alternative for people who might experience pain with full range of motion dumbbell pressing, or for people with lower-body injuries that won’t allow them to push through their feet.

Start with your legs wider and move them closer together as you feel more comfortable. Similarly, you can start with the non-working arm resting at the floor at first to give some additional stability, but work towards placing your hand over your abdomen as you improve.

You’ll need to start with a substantially lighter weight than you’d use for regular dumbbell presses (I’d say 60% would be a good starting point), but your numbers will climb back up quickly as you get the hang of it.

Give it a try!

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