I see this question all the time, and not just from novice lifters. I am sure many people have heard tell of board presses, but are not quite sure what they are or how to do them. If you are one of those people, your answers are in this article.
The purpose of a board press is to train specific ranges of the pressing motion in order to increase overall power for a bigger bench press. This is actually pretty simple. The lifter places a stack of boards on his chest. The bar is lowered until it touches the boards, and is pressed back up. The beauty of this movement, is that both the positive and negative bench motions can be utilized in a constrained range of motion. The height of the boards is chosen by the lifter. I personally have boards from the 2-board up to the 6-board.
With a complete set of boards such as above, the lifter can choose which part of his range of motion to work. The 2-board works the range of motion from 4 inches off the chest up to lockout. Each additional board height decreases the range of motion.
To perform a board press...
...the lifter needs an additional spotter to hold the board on his chest. The lifter should set up as if performing a competition bench press, with back arched, and feet in their normal placement. The grip on the barbell should be about 3" narrower than the normal grip. The barbell is taken at arms length, and lowered to the board. It is important to lower the weight under control, and to force the weight to follow the normal bar path. When the barbell touches the board, it should be paused on the board, and the full weight of the barbell should rest on the board. After the pause, the barbell is pressed back to lockout.
So what's the point? Well, basically everyone has a sticking point in their bench, a spot where heavy weight just seems to stall out. Mine is about 2" from lockout. Many people stall about 4" off the chest. Board presses can eliminate the sticking point. When doing a board press, a lifter can use heavier weight than can be used for a full bench press. This strengthens the active pressing muscles in the region of the board height, and effectively erases the sticking point. Additionally, many champion bench pressers have found that by training the bench movement in smaller pieces, faster gains can be had.
For the more advanced bencher who is using a high end bench shirt, especially a denim shirt, board presses are incredibly valuable. The high end bench shirts add tremendous strength at the bottom of the press. This added strength requires huge power from the midrange of the press to lockout. Board presses are the best way to build this power.
I am often asked if rack presses or pin presses do the same thing as a board press. The answer is no. For any range of motion greater than 3" below full extension, the board press is the best way to go. The beauty of the board press lies in the fact that you are able to use weights higher than your full range press, and still create both the negative and positive motion of the press. This builds muscle, pure and simple.
How to make your own boards:
Boards are easy to make. To make a full set of boards (2 through 6-board), purchase 4-2x6 boards, 10 feet long.
Cut 5 36" lengths of board. These are the bottom of the stack, and the part the spotter holds.
Cut 15 18" lengths of board. These are the stacks.
For the 2-board, stack 1 18" board on a 36" board. Place one end even, and attach the two boards together. You can attach them any way you like; I have seen people use nails, glue, duct tape, you name it. I prefer to use 3" drywall screws. I use 6 screws to connect the two boards together. This makes a nice, tight arrangement.
For taller boards, repeat attaching the 18" board until you have the desired height.
I recommend making a full set of 2 through 5-boards. If you have long arms, a 6 board may also be useful.