March 17, 2013

The Most Effective Exercises That Can Be Done While Lying On The Floor

No bench, no problem

I would imagine that, when most people think of ‘going to the gym’, lying on the floor to perform any sort of exercise is generally not what anyone would have in mind. But, performing exercises while lying on your back, on the solid, stable ground can be a very effective way to add variety to your training, and increase your strength.

Pretty much any exercise that is performed on a flat bench can easily be performed on the floor, along with many standing exercises with the help of a low cable pulley.

The benefit of performing exercises on the floor that would traditionally be performed on a flat bench, is that you can rest the weight on the floor in the bottom position and take tension off the muscles, which negates the elastic energy potential from the stretch reflex, and therefore your muscles have to work harder to move the weight. This will work wonders for those looking to boost their strength, as it is likely that it will provide a ‘new’ stimulus for the body to positively adapt to, as most people in my experience, heavily rely on the stretch reflex to get the weight up while pressing (whether it be the first rep, last rep, or any and/or all of the reps in between).

Typically what happens with a traditional press performed on a flat bench is, the lifter will lower the bar to the chest (in some cases very rapidly), and immediately reverse the motion and begin pressing the bar up. Whether the lifter is consciously aware of it or not, what they are doing by performing reps in that manner is they’re relying more so on built-in survival mechanisms of the body to assist with the lift (the stretch reflex) at the expense of their muscles. This results in a ‘sticking point’ during the concentric repetition for most, as there is a transition phase in which the force resulting from the stretch reflex dissipates, and the nervous system has to ramp up activation of the primary muscles to ‘pick up the slack’ and complete the lift. This sticking point is very noticeable to see when it happens to others, and I’m sure anyone reading this has even experienced it for themselves at some point, where they feel they are going to be able to complete the rep but then ‘hit a wall’ and wonder ‘what the hell happened’.

While this can all simply be avoided by consciously pausing between the eccentric and concentric, if you have developed the pattern of performing reps in that manner, it may be very challenging to break that habit. By switching to performing your presses on the floor, you can expose your muscles, and nervous system to a whole new stimulus, as well as teach yourself to break the habit. No matter how instinctive it may be to ‘bounce’ out of the bottom of the rep, when you try to do that off the floor, the resulting pain of smashing your arms into the ground just one time, will surely teach you to never do that again, and in turn, help you unlearn the old pattern, and develop a new pattern if you do it enough times.

The benefit of performing exercises on the floor with a low cable pulley that you would normally perform while standing, is that you reduce the amount of compressive forces that are constantly placed upon the spine, by default of gravity. Combine that with the fact that cables offer constant tension and you now have a whole new set of exercises at your disposal to help you accomplish your goals.

The following is a list of exercises commonly performed lying on a flat bench, or performed standing, that can be performed off the floor. The traditional way of performing the exercise is written on the left, while the floor variation of the exercise is on the right.

Bench Press = Floor Press

Flat Dumbell Press = Dumbell Floor Press

Dumbell Flye = Floor Dumbell Flye

Lying Triceps Extension = Floor Triceps Extension (can be performed with a barbell or dumbells)

California Press = Floor California Press

Rolling Triceps Extension = Floor Rolling Triceps Extension

Barbell Curl or Cable Curl = Floor Cable Curl (can be performed with an underhand or overhand grip)

Front Raise = Floor Front Raise (can be performed with a bar or rope attachment)

Upright Row or Cable Upright Row = Floor Cable Upright Row (can be performed with a bar or rope attachment)

Straight-Leg Deadlift = Seated Straight-Leg Deadlift With Cable (kind of looks like a back extension as well)

*With a little creativity, you can come up with advanced ways to increase the time under tension by performing mechanical drop-sets while using the low cable pulley. For example, you could sit up and perform cable curls with your arms out in front of your body (as if performing a variation of a concentration/preacher curl, but without the preacher pad) to failure, and then lay back and continue to curl with your arms at your sides. You could also perform front raises to failure and then switch to upright rows.

Hit the deck, and don’t be afraid to get a little dirty

While lying on the floor to ‘work out’ may seem a little unconventional, and may not appeal to you, by choosing to step outside of your comfort zone you ultimately expand your horizons as far as exercise selection is concerned, which can lead to increases in strength and muscular development by exposing your body to something different.

For those that suffer from back pain, or those who just experience discomfort while performing exercises in an upright position, performing exercises in which there are significantly less compressive forces being placed upon the spine may be the only way you can stimulate certain muscles with the tension needed to achieve the result you are looking for.

It may feel uncomfortable to get on the floor in a crowded gym, but the only way to conquer a fear is to face it they say, and that uncomfortable feeling goes away rather quickly once you get into the habit of things. Keeping your ‘eyes on the prize’, as far as the benefits go that come from doing what you need to do to get the result you desire, should be all the confidence you need to step outside of your comfort zone.

If you have any questions about any of the exercises listed, how to perform them, and when and where to implement them into a routine, feel free to contact me at I'm available for online consulting and personalized program design, as well as one on one training if you are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

1 comment:

  1. Yes, while we lying down in the floor we can do the most effective exercise if we know that how to do it. I'm pretty sure that everyone will be benefited by reading your post. So keep up the good work : )