Why bench press with boards
In a nutshell to get stronger by addressing the weak parts of the bench press and doing overload work. This article will go into more detail and explain different options.
So you want to become a beast on the bench press? You want to be strong like bull and bench press your sister, girlfriend or even your father who is also a 300-pound bench press monster. Why not put your entire family on a platform and bench press that? While you are researching different methods to increase your bench press at some stage you might have come across the conjugated/west side method by Louie Simmons. He trains a lot of very strong people and, amongst other kitchen utensils, he uses boards with his athletes. But what is this board pressing all about and what is it good for?
Which is your biggest challenge with the bench press? Learning the core movement? Locking out at the top? A sticking point somewhere in the middle of the press? All of these are problems a lifter faces somewhere in their career. The further you progress the more likely it will be that you have to address these little things. This is due to physics. The more weight you move the bigger the impact of a weak link in the chain. Think of the bench press like a chain with an anchor. If the weakest link in the chain is 250kg even though other parts can easily hold a two-ton anchor, the chain will still give in at 250kg. Same with the bench press. The weakest link in the movement will be the limiting factor to overall performance (by the way you can write that down for anything that goes beyond novice level). So how can you isolate the weakest point of the lift and train the shit out of it?
Pin presses are an option to only address parts of the movement. To set up a pin press you place the safety pins of a power rack slightly below your sticking point. You then unrack the barbell and descend the weight onto the pins until it rests. Once the barbell has come to a full stop and lost all its momentum like in a paused bench press you follow up by initiating the upward movement and complete the repetition. This is a great option if you do not have access to boards or spotters which can be done in any gym. The downsides described by heavy benchers are that it is less natural than a board press and takes a heavier toll on your wrist than a board press (try it yourself and you'll get it). Not to be underestimated when you already have to do a lot of load/volume to progress your bench press. In addition, you might also lose the tension you have built up in your arch and entire body for the powerlifting style bench press, which is also suboptimal and reportedly less likely to occur with board presses.
Floor presses can also be utilized to provide a similar training effect like board presses. Due to the fact that you are lying on the ground, the range of motion for the bench press is limited by the floor. This has the effect that you will not necessarily lower the weight entirely to your chest. Floor presses are a great way to mix up the routine and are easily set up. Downsides are that you lie on the cold hard ground (but hey you are a beast, I think you can cope) and that it is harder to set up for the arch.
Chains and bands can also be an alternative to address sticking points, explosiveness, and speed in the bench press. They can also be set up together with a board press. If you would like to see examples of this and to subscribe to an excellent YouTube channel for lifters check out Calgary Barbell. Chains and bands help to manipulate the strength curve of the bench press by providing different levels of load the higher you get in the bench press. Chains and bands provide the lowest load at the weakest, lowest point of the lift and more resistance in the upper, stronger parts of the movement. While this is good it has the downside that it is far removed from bench press competition standards. In a competition, the load on the bar will stay the same in all parts of the movement and therefore the board press is a better simulation for competition as you work with a constant load for a part of the lift you are weakest in.
Board presses are the closest to a powerlifting competition setup while only focusing on a part of the movement. A board press can be done with a 1, 2,3,4,5, or 6 board.The number indicates the thickness of the board. With each number, the thickness of the board increases by 1.5 inches and therefore the range of motion shortens by 1.5 inches. If you want to build your own boards there is a great post at DragonDoor which goes into details. Depending on your personal weaknesses you will choose the right board for your needs. For this it is definetly recommended to have a spotter observe you and give feedback where your sticking points are and to discuss this with an experienced coach if you do not have a lot of poeple in your local gym who already use boards (which is the most likely scenario if you read this, because otherwise, the guy you train with would have explained to you how boards work). So the purposes of board presses are:
- To train a specific range of motion of the bench press you are weak in (Sticking point)
- To overload certain parts of the bench press and get used to weights which otherwise would be terrifying to bench to progress on your total
Be aware that if you only board press you might develop a weakness for the raw bench press. To avoid this circle board pressing and raw bench pressing in and out depending on your goals and plateaus. If you plan to bench press with a shirt board presses are an excellent tool to build strength in the upper parts of the lift where you enjoy lesser benefits from the shirt you are wearing. For easy reference use a two board if you problems somewhere midway of the lift and a four board if you struggle to lock out.
Board presses are a further tool in the arsenal of experienced lifters to address specific weaknesses with a targeted approach. For this purpose, they can be a great tool. Only consider board presses if you have already mastered the basic barbell bench press and have done beginner programs like Stronglift 5x5 and Starting Strength at least. You might even want to consider to run some intermediate programs like Wendler 531 and the Texas method before you make chains, bands and boards regulars in your repertoire.
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