The board press is a variation and alternative weight training exercise of the classic bench press. The board press utilizes a block or board to limit the range of motion during the lift, placing increased focus on the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders.
This exercise is great for getting past plateaus or getting used to heavier weights. You can master the board press by keeping tight control of your grip strength and following expert board press techniques throughout your repetitions.
Most board press types focus on slight variations in the number of boards used to control space. The difference of even half a board marks a shift in the muscle group focus.
Not only does this exercise allow you to compound lift with the same muscle groups as the bench press, but it allows you to handle heavier weights while training. As long as you keep the proper form and have a good spotter, you can avoid various injuries.
The common board press mistakes stem from treating it too similarly to bench and pin press techniques. It is easy to avoid common injuries from simple mistakes like not using a partner throughout the entire exercise or making sure the boards are as sturdy as possible.
How To Perform Board Press With Proper Form?
Being in a tight archway is the correct position for this tricep exercise. Your legs and back will curl upwards, with your trapezius muscles pushing into the bench.
Here are the steps to dominate board press form.
- Lie down on a bench with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together.
- Drive them into the bench to set them.
- Take a deep breath.
- Allow your spotter to help you lift off so your upper back stays firm.
- Relax your upper back and let the weight rest after lifting.
- Inhale and steadily lower the bar by freeing the elbows.
- Straighten the bar till it touches a triple board held to your chest by a spotter.
- Press into the bench.
- Put your feet into the floor for leg drive.
- Extend your elbows to straighten the bar.
- Do it again until the required number of repetitions has been reached.
Keeping the rest of your set-up comfortable is key. Maintaining a good bench press bench height and making sure your lifting blocks do not restrict your breathing are some ways to avoid mistakes.
The function of this arched position lets you hard-focus on improving your lockout, thanks to eliminating the lower portion of the usual lift.
What Are the Benefits of Board Press?
The main benefit of the board press is preparing you for larger bench presses. The use of the block or boards restricts how far you can lower the bar. You save the energy you usually need to push the weight back up from such a low position.
This exercise can also help you get past the more difficult sections of a bench press by placing the blocks or board at the height where you are having trouble with your bench press.
1. Method for isolating and training specific ranges within a movement
You can rapidly improve on other lift targets by using blocks to hone in on precise ranges you might be having trouble with.
2. Way to isolate and train specific muscles.
Working with your chest, shoulders, or triceps is what this exercise is all about.
3. Approach to increasing bench frequency.
Getting better with trouble points in a benching routine will let you handle more reps in your future endeavors. Dealing with injuries in areas that normally limit bench pressing is another benefit, like if you have shoulder pains.
4. Targets the Specific Range of the Motion
Adjusting the number of lifting boards lets you work with a partner to train exactly what you want in the range of a bench press motion.
5. Technique for increasing confidence using the nervous system
You deal with less overall stress and strain throughout your body per repetition. This feeling of easily being able to bench heavy weights carries over to when you feel like removing the boards. Mental and physical prowess in the gym will increase.
What Are the Mistakes for the Board Press Form?
Be wary of some easy-to-make mistakes when starting with the board press. Here are the majority of board press mistakes commonly seen in the weight room.
- Bench press form vs. board press form: Using a position for bench pressing rather than a conventional board press form is a common mistake.
- Start as correctly as possible with your position: Forgetting to pinch your shoulder blades together before driving your shoulders into the bench can happen right away and mess up the rest of your workout.
- Your partner is there to help: Remember your spotters are not just there to hold the blocks; they also should help you lift the barbell from the rack to keep your upper back straight and tight.
- Getting used to pressing boards: One common mistake with the board press is not to treat the board as an extension of your chest. The board should be held tight against your chest (or use a block attached to the bar).
- Respect the exercise, no matter how limited: With the reduced movement, it is easy to get lazy with your proper form. No matter how shallow the press, it is essential to lower and raise the bar smoothly and with control. You don’t want to be bouncing or moving jerkily.
How To Determine Proper Weight for Board Press?
The weight for a board press is based on what you do on a bench press and what your goals are for the board press.
If you are trying to train for more reps or working on sticking points, then use whatever weight you were using with a bench press. However, if you are training your muscles to get used to a heavier load, then add a bit more weight than you would with a bench press.
A great advantage of the board press is how far you can increase the weights you lift without any risk of endangering your health or the quality of your repetitions.
What is the importance of grip for Board Press?
When handling a barbell, making sure you have a comfortable and sturdy grip is paramount to safety and gains. In addition to holding the bar with a grip that suits you, there are variations on where to grip that make a huge difference while doing board presses.
The distance between your hands while engaged with the weights is also part of your grip. The farther apart your hands are, the wider the grip and the more your workout is focused on your chest and even your delts. A closer grip singles out your triceps.
Which Muscles are involved while performing Board Press?
The board press uses the same muscles as the bench press. That is, it focuses on the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Additionally, the board press engages the core for a proper form.
How to do a Board Press?
The steps to dominate board press positioning relies on following all the set-up steps perfectly. The more comfortable you are with this exercise, the fewer reminders you’ll need, but feel free to consult a list when in the gym at first.
1. Lie down on a bench with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
It’s a starting position that should be pretty familiar, going from any experience with bench pressing. If you can get your head beyond the bar here, it could help you remain comfortable when going through the other steps.
2. Pinch your shoulder blades together.
Lift your back to start forming an arch. Your legs will be raised as well to make this easier.
3. Drive them into the bench to set them.
Push your traps into the bench to form a less curvy c-shape from your legs to your shoulders, which should be making contact with the bench. Keep this position for as long as it takes to get used to. There shouldn’t be any wobble or difficulty balancing here.
4. Take a deep breath.
Never forget to breathe before and during any workout. No matter your age, weight, or experience, it will help you maintain focus and prevent injuries.
5. Allow your spotter to help you lift off so your upper back stays firm.
Keep your previous position as rigidly as you can. Trying to stretch to a barbell can mess with your start. Let your spotter help — that’s what they’re there for.
6. Relax your upper back and let the weight rest after lifting.
When it’s in the proper position, you can familiarize yourself with what the end of a push feels like. Resting it at this height helps you internalize what all of your repetitions will look like.
7. Inhale and steadily lower the bar by freeing the elbows.
Follow the guidelines of intaking air as you pull and releasing it as you push. By this point, you shouldn’t have any lock to your elbows. They’ll be looser and looser as you lower down the bar.
8. Straighten the bar till it touches a triple board held to your chest by a spotter.
Your gym partner needs to be holding any of the boards on your chest steady for the whole exercise. Your repetitions are likely to be quick, although it does depend on your individual goals and body.
9. Press into the bench.
Using the top of the arch, where your shoulders and traps are bundled tougher, make sure you’re firmly pressed into the bench.
10. Put your feet into the floor for leg drive.
As part of making that arch, you should feel a bit of consistent pressure from your feet and legs. Keep this shape and allow your legs to assist you in consistently moving the bar back up.
11. Extend your elbows to straighten the bar.
Drive the bar up forcefully, and keep your elbows tucked in until you hit lockout.
12. Do it again until the required number of repetitions has been reached.
With variations in the number of boards and grip width, you’ve got the basics down. Some of these steps blend into one another the more you familiarize yourself with them.
What are the different variations for board press?
The variations of the board press are based on the height of the block or boards used. The board height variations are called bottom, mid, and top positions. The different positions focus on particular muscle groups.
If you are using a board, have your spotter hold the board tight against your chest. This will keep it from sliding around during your reps and will help you treat the board as an extension of your chest.
A rogue board press, using bench blocks, and even DIY boards can augment how you approach the exercise. Read up on the different brands that make equipment for this exercise, and if you feel confident making your own.
Even though the movement is shorter than a bench press, it is important to maintain the proper form the entire time. The more boards you work with, the more you need to keep this in mind.
1. Bottom Position: ½-1 Board
The bottom position is the thinnest board and focuses on the pectorals. As it’s the closest to a traditional bench press, you might want to focus on lighter weight.
2. Mid Position: 2 Board
The mid position is the middle level of a board press (about two boards) and works the anterior deltoid.
3. Top-Position: 2-3 Board
The top position means the most boards, keeping the bar far away from your chest. This variety helps your triceps the most.
What are the Tips to Improve Board Press Performance?
Making use of a spotter is critical in this exercise. A spotter will not only be able to help you lift the bar off of the bench to begin the exercise, but they can also hold the block or board in place for you. Most of your benefit from a board press, like any exercise, is up to you.
1. Technique comes first, then weight
No one cares how much you bench if you get hurt. Some lifters find that planting their feet on the ground gives them more drive. This comes down to personal preference, however.
2. Maintain a straight line with the bar
Maintain a straight line with the bar by keeping it in line with your wrists and elbows. To maintain the wrist straight, place the bar as low in the palm as feasible while still wrapping the thumb. Experts find that this grip works best with board press form. It’s another extension of keeping your technique as tight as possible.
3. Stop each repetition short
Stop each repetition slightly short of lockout at the top if you want to retain extra tension in the triceps and chest. After holding the bar at lockout when first starting your repetitions, you can become a bit more familiar with where this exact position is. The less you have to think about where this position is, the easier the exercise becomes.
4. Elbow Positioning
Don’t be concerned about excessively tucking the elbows; a lot of this advice comes from geared lifters wearing suits. Some lifters may benefit from a tiny tuck on the way down, while others might benefit from a wonderful cue from Greg Nuckols that does the same thing, “flare and push.” Advice from Greg Nuckols suggests that keeping your elbows lower than many lifters keep them is best. This means instead of tucking your elbows to remain precisely flush with the rest of your arm, and they are lowered to be parallel with some of your ribs.
5. When to Arch the Back
Arching may be beneficial depending on your goals, but make sure that the majority of your arch originates from your mid and upper back and not your lower back. If your lower back cramps as you prepare to lift, you’re out of position and putting yourself in danger of injury.
The arch position can be tricky to get used to if you’ve only performed traditional bench presses before trying the board press out. Work with your spotter and be honest with your body as you prepare.
6. Linear Bar Path
Encourage a linear bar path, as the bar drops, aim for your sternum (breastbone) or slightly below depending on the length of your upper arm. Don’t let this thought entirely take up your attention when you first start, but keep it in mind or ask your spotter to look for it as you get better at this exercise. It’s beneficial to keep this path as it keeps the focus on the muscle groups you want to work with.
7. Thumbless (Suicide) Grip
New and intermediate lifters may utilize a thumbless or “suicide” grip, but for the majority of lifters, learning to bench press with their thumb wrapped around the bar is preferable at first. The solid and straightforward grip used in a majority of lifting and presses is the most recommendable. Try out different grips as you become more familiar if you feel it’s necessary.
8. Roll your knuckles
Instead of allowing your wrists to fall back into extension, consider rolling your knuckles toward the ceiling. This stretch of your hand and wrist might not seem obvious at first, but it can promote other good habits like flaring your elbows before a big push.
9. Grip Width
Experiment with grip width; if you have longer arms, a somewhat broader grasp may be required. If you experience pressure in the front of your shoulder during the exercise, you may need to broaden your grip, increase scapular retraction, or reduce the range of motion somewhat with exercises like the floor or board presses.
A variety of grip widths let you control the muscle groups you work with as well as target different types of bench press goals. People also have differently-sized limbs in many cases, so you need to find a technique that suits your body.
10. Squeeze the bar
Squeeze the bar as tightly as you can to improve shoulder stability. With every type of weightlifting, aside from squats, you want to visualize crushing the bar with your hands.
11. Feet Position
Lifters prefer to tuck their toes while others prefer to keep their feet flat to maximize leg drive; try with both to discover which feels better and allows for more power generation. It’s a matter of experimentation. We recommend starting with whichever feels easiest to hold while keeping the rest of your form consistent. Once you have experienced that for a few weeks, you can start to switch things up.
12. Press and Stay Retracted
Press, keep your shoulder blades retracted, and don’t let them shift position. When pushing upwards, it can be easy to let your back shift a bit here and there. When starting, it’s an important part of a masterful technique to restrict the movement of your back and shoulders.
13. Control the movement
There should be no bouncing or extra momentum when the bar descends under control and touches the lifter’s chest. Smooth movements are always better than jerky ones. Even if you technically finish repetitions, either way, you don’t get the same benefit unless you’re in total control of your body when you do.
14. Pull, don’t push
Consider pulling yourself away from the bar rather than pushing the bar away from you. It’s strange to think about, but many of us unconsciously move a bit towards the bar when we perform a bench press or similar exercise. When you take mental notes of how you move, you can control and improve your performance.
15. Stay Tight
Tightness in the upper back should be one of your primary focuses during the lift. Throughout the entire lift, keeping a good arch and nice pressure on the bench using your upper back and shoulders is great form. Losing tightness here can lead to injury if you aren’t careful.
16. Use a spotter
To maintain tension in the upper back, utilize a spotter to aid with the lift-off. Just like a spotter can help you with the boards and keeping a straight back when first getting the bar off the rack, they can help you when you start to push as well.
17. Leg Drive
Throughout the lift, keep your feet quiet and use leg drive by putting your feet on the floor and tightening your glutes to support the pelvis. There shouldn’t be any extra movement to the parts of your body you aren’t directly working out. Leg drive can be immensely helpful in keeping the focus on the right muscle groups. Visualizing this step before you start can keep it out of your mind as you lift.
18. Bend the bar
Concentrate on moving the bar apart or “bending the bar” to engage some of the inherent stabilizers in the shoulder. Just like imagining that you are crushing the bar with your proper grip, thinking about tearing it apart at the same time helps your body naturally help you lift.
19. Stay planted
Throughout the exercise, the glutes and shoulder blades should remain in contact with the bench. Your spotter can help you keep an eye on this as well, but mastery of the board press requires a lot of technique to pull off.
What is the necessary equipment for Board Press?
For the best board press, you need a bench, a bar, weights, and a board or block.
The board can be as simple as a couple of 2x4s strapped together. Alternatively, you can get blocks that attach to the barbell itself so that you don’t need to worry about your spotter holding the board.
What are the world records for Board Press?
Record-keeping organizations like Guinness World Records and OWR have no listed records for the board press. Specialty groups like Metal Militia Powerlifting and the Southern Powerlifting Federation have more direct standards for various exercises.
A person can register with a weightlifting group or company made to keep track of records if they want to apply for a specific goal. The closest record to the board press is recognized as a lift performed with a bench shirt. A bench shirt is a piece of workout gear that supports the shoulders and deltoids.
Women Board Press Records
The record for the women’s all-time heaviest equipped bench press was awarded to Rae-Ann Miller in August of 2021. While not strictly a board press, the use of a bench shirt was a part of this 605-pound lift.
Men Board Press Records
The record for men’s all-time largest equipped bench press was taken by Bill Gillespie on January 22nd of 2022. His successful lockout at 1,129.9 pounds claims the current best.
What is the origin of Board Press?
The history of the board press begins with Westside Barbell’s strive to create unique methods of making weight lifting easier for all kinds of people. The Westside group was able to spread the name and use of boards in bench pressing through getting into contact with powerlifter Louie Simmons.
Modern updates to the methodology of board lifting are mostly thanks to more convenient boards made to help people stay safe. Original board lifting used regular 2x4s almost exclusively.
Who named the Board Press?
The straightforward technique is often attributed to the creativity and dedication of Westside lifter Bill “Peanuts” West. Through his Westside Barbell operation, the name of many techniques spread. It became much more popular when picked up and advertised in training with Louie Simmons, but it began at Westside Barbell.
Which muscles can be affected more from Board Press?
The muscles used in the board press are the same muscles used in the bench press. The different variations of the board press, thanks to the differences in board heights, will affect which muscles are being used to a greater degree.
These muscles are the anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, triceps, biceps, and serratus anterior. The triceps get the majority of the focus when performing the board press. While the muscle groups are the same as conventional bench pressing, the presence of boards limits the range of motion and the groups that need to work as hard.
What are the back muscle exercises with Board Press?
Your back muscles are an important source of stability for performing the board press. Fundamental exercises to pair with a board press in your program that helps your back include:
- Dumbbell rows that can utilize the same workout bench
- Dumbbell shoulder presses
- The classic deadlifts
- Barbell rows
What are the leg muscle exercises with Board Press?
The leg drive you can get from using your lower body during a board press can be the key to making the most of this exercise. Some good combinations to go along with the board press are:
- A seated leg press, if you have access to the equipment
- Front squats
- The classic deadlifts work well for both your back and legs
- Simple walking lunges
What Is the Effectiveness of Board Press for Muscle Growth When Compared to Squats?
Squats target muscles like the glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and adductors (or groin). These lower-body exercises are great for benefiting growth and can incorporate a barbell just like the board press.
The board press is perfect for boosting muscles in specific regions, like the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and the entirety of the triceps. Depending on the position that you use with particular numbers of boards, you can see gains across these areas.
What are the Board Press-related facts?
Beyond the muscle groups and simple application of the board press, here are a couple of other facts about this exercise:
- It’s important to have a board holder and spotters.
- Board press practice can make it easier to adjust to a bench shirt.
- This lifting method has been practiced for over 50 years.
- Making DIY boards can be as cheap as $10 to make properly.
Does Board Press Affect Hormones?
Yes, like all exercises, the board press increases some hormones in the human body. One such hormone is the human growth hormone. This hormone is very common to be triggered during strength training. Don’t expect extreme levels, but there will be activity in this area.
Does Board Press Increase Testosterone?
Yes, like all exercises, the board press will cause a small increase of testosterone during and for a short while after performing the exercise. Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is essential for muscle growth, bone growth, voice deepening, and much more.
Regular exercise raises testosterone production for short amounts of time.
Does Board Press affect the mood?
Yes, the board press affects mood. The production of various hormones, testosterone included, is changed while working out. The board press is no exception. The release of endorphins and increase in testosterone production will likely give you a buzzed feeling during and shortly after your workout.
Is Board Press practiced within CrossFit?
No, the board press is not practiced in CrossFit. Crossfit promotes a variety of exercises, with bench-pressing being a common example. While board press is not an included exercise in the manual, it can aid your ability to perform bench presses.
Is Board Press a military movement?
No, the board press is not a military movement.
Is Board Press dangerous?
Yes, without proper help, like someone to hold the boards and spotters, it can be dangerous. With the proper concern for safety and the correct technique, it is no more dangerous than any other form of press.
Is the Board Press push or pull?
The board press is a push exercise.
Is Board Press Essential?
No, the board press is more of a supplemental exercise. It is great for training your bench press so that you can lift more weight for longer reps. It can also help you get past those difficult sections in a bench press.
Is Board Press an Olympic lift?
No, the board press is not seen as much of a sporting competitor when compared to bench pressing and deadlifts.
Is Board Press a Compound Exercise?
Yes, the board press is a compound exercise. A compound exercise is any exercise that works for multiple muscle groups at once. In the case of the board press, it is a compound exercise as it works the triceps, shoulders, chest, and abdomen.
What Can Replace Board Press?
If you don’t have a board or block around for a board press, there are another couple of options. Some lifters have taken to slipping a phone book under their shirt to hold it in place. Another common option is a foam roller.
To replace the exercise itself, you could simply stick to bench presses. Alternatively, you could do any exercise that focuses on the same muscle groups, such as pushups, chest press, or chest fly.
What is the difference between a board press and a pin press?
The pin press is similar to the board press in that it helps to improve the overall weight one can lift while performing a bench press. While the board press helps with the lockout of the press, the pin press technique can be used to help your lift at any sticking point you may have. This includes the lockout, as well as getting the bar off of your chest at the lowest point of the bar path.
What Are the Variations of Board Presses?
The number of boards you use will be the primary source of variation for the board press. Your grip variety and small changes to your form can change this as well. The more boards you incorporate, the higher the position of the bar will be kept.
What Is a Board Press?
A board press is a variant of the bench press that utilizes an arched form. It is defined by various blocks or boards kept on your chest to limit the total range of motion when pressing weights from your body.
What is a 2 board press?
A medium position for the board press includes two boards. This allows you to focus on the anterior deltoid muscles.
What is a 3 board press?
This is the top position for most board sets. It keeps the bar far away from your chest, although certain products include four and even five boards to make up for arm length differences. This variety helps your triceps the most.
Can you do board press alone?
No, you cannot perform the normal board press without a spotter to hold the boards and help you with the bar. There are specialty bench blocks that connect to the bar directly, meaning no spotter needs to hold the blocks themselves. We still recommend having a partner help you out for the sake of maximum safety.