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So you keep seeing that big, strange and strong dude at the gym bench pressing with 2x4s on his chest. He has a lot of muscle and is awfully strong—so there has to be some sort of method to his madness. There absolutely is!
A board press is simply a stack of 2x4s held by a partner on your chest to shorten your range of motion. Like a bench press, lower the barbell to the boards and then drive the barbell up to lockout as forcefully as possible.
Board press benefits range from handling heavier weights, working targeted range of motion and even for the pure physique enthusiast, taking drop sets to a whole new level.
Huge overload can take place with board presses because they allow you to lift more than your one-rep max. The bench press has an ascending strength curve, meaning the closer the barbell is to lockout the more force production is possible; in other words, you are weakest at the bottom and strongest at the top.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and that bottom position limits the amount of weight you can lift—this is fine for the bottom end, but doesn’t give the lockout portion and the triceps the overload they need to grow and get stronger.
Furthermore, board presses can be used to directly target bench press sticking points. Board presses even allow guys with bad shoulders to keep on pressing. I have had powerlifting clients with poor shoulder and pec health train primarily with boards and go on to bench press very successfully in raw power meets. This is not advisable unless working around an injury, but it certainly beats the alternative of early retirement.
Board presses are generally made of one to five boards. For mid-range and lower-end strength building, go for one to three boards and for higher-end lockout workout, stick with four to five boards.
For maximal strength go as heavy as possible for one to three reps. For strength/size (powerbuilding) stick with four to eight reps. For pure hypertrophy, do eight plus reps and even give mechanical advantage drop sets a try. Here is a video demonstration of IFBB Pro, Cory Mathews, performing mechanical advantage drop sets at Metroflex Gym with me.
Jeremy Hoornstra, the best bench presser of all-time, and a longtime client of mine, was kind enough to make us a video on how to make your own set of boards; all five in one set for under $10. Check it out below.
If your bench press hasn’t improved and your triceps need a new spark to ignite growth, you now have the spark; throw some gasoline on it and get to work.