Chest Training – Board Presses

Muscle Map - Pecs v2Board presses are a partial range of motion (ROM) version of the bench press that can be used to overload the weight used on the bench press. This overload effect trains the lifter to work with greater bar weights.

  • Placing boards (typically between 1 and 3) on the chest reduces the distance the bar travels and allows more weight to be lifted.
  • Break through plateaus by training at higher weights than you can press through the full ROM.

Muscles Used for this Exercise

Exercise Classification

Exercise Technique

Setting up and performing board presses is the same as for your full ROM bench press, with the exception that you are lowering the bar to a board or boards, and not all the way to your chest:


  • Standard flat bench and power bar
    • If you have an adjustable bench, set the pins so that you can nearly lock your elbows with the bar in the rack and can raise the bar and clear the pins without loosening your shoulders.
  • Boards
    • One to three 2×4 (or 2×6) boards, preferably with long handles to keep the spotter who is holding the boards out of the way of the bar path

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  • Stance/Foot Position: Use the same foot placement you use for your full ROM bench press. Plant your feet flat on the floor below and just wider than your hips with your toes pointed outward. You may have to make adjustments to your foot position based on your body mechanics.
  • Hand Position: Use the same hand position you use for your full ROM bench press. This will be dependent on your body mechanics (width of your shoulders, length of your arms, etc.) and personal strengths.
    • Use the 81cm rings as landmarks on the bar so you can place your hands evenly on the bar and use the same placement for every set.
    • Start with a hand placement so that when the bar is on your chest your forearms are perpendicular to the floor.
    • Thumbs should be wrapped around the bar. Rest the bar in the base of your palm so that when holding the bar it lies directly over your wrists and forearms.
  • Lie flat on the bench planting your feet and gripping the bar as noted above. Grip the bar tightly and once set up, don’t release the bar or loosen your grip until your set has been completed.
  • Set your shoulders into the bench. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to pinch a coin between them. Continue squeezing them together throughout the full range of motion (ROM) of each repetition.
  • Push your heels into the floor and drive through the balls of your feet pushing your hips toward your shoulders. This will push your back into a slight arch, and tighten your entire body from your toes to your traps. Keep your buttocks on the bench as you apply leg drive. Continue driving throughout the entire set to help you keep your chest up and stay tight.
    • If you have lower back injuries, discuss benching with an arch with your physician before employing this technique.
  • Keep your head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the bench and your feet flat on the floor throughout the ROM of the lift. Stay tight and do not shift positions during the lift.

Executing the Lift

  • Unracking the bar:
    • Continue squeezing your shoulder blades together; straighten your arms as much as possible with the bar still racked.
    • Take a deep breath into your lungs and abdomen hold it and tighten your core to increase stability.
    • Preferably using a spotter’s assistance raise the bar out of the rack and bring it straight out over the chest. Do not loosen your shoulder blades, press the bar up only the amount needed to lock your elbows and clear the rack’s pins.
    • Once the bar is locked out over your chest have your second spotter place the boards flat on your chest directly under the bar’s path.
  • Make sure your elbows are locked and shoulder blades are still tight; you should have complete control of the weight before starting your lift.
  • Take another deep breath and hold it and retighten your core before beginning the repetition.
    • Filling your chest and abdomen with air on the bench increases the stability of your upper body, and expands your rib cage, increasing the distance your pecs will stretch as you bring the bar down.
    • Don’t begin exhaling until the bar is moving back up and reaching your sticking point. Snake the air out through lock-out, don’t release all the air at once, this will allow your chest to collapse reducing the power of your drive.
    • Tip: When lifting five or less reps in a set, reset your breath for each repetition. When repping over five in a set, the weight is generally light enough and the reps quick enough to allow you to breathe in and out during each repetition.
  • Lower the bar in a controlled but quick manner. Bring it down to the boards directly over the position it touches during a full ROM bench press – the lower portion of your chest between your nipple line and the base of your sternum. Let the bar touch lightly before pressing, do not bounce it off the boards.
    • You should hit the same point on the boards with every repetition.
  • Drive the bar explosively off the boards using your pecs and lats. Drive the bar hard through the sticking point maintaining good bar speed all the way through lock out.
    • Concentrate on locking your elbows once the bar passes your sticking point. Trying to press the bar up, versus locking your elbows creates a tendency to unlock your shoulder blades.
  • Pause briefly between reps and take another deep breath and to ensure you have complete control of the weight.

1 Board Press


3 Board Press

Strength Standard

Common Mistakes

  • Bouncing the bar off the boards: Maintain full control of the lift throughout the full ROM. Bar should touch the boards lightly before you drive back up.
  • Allowing your chest to collapse as you press the bar: Keep your chest up to maintain stability through your upper body as you complete the lift. Allowing your chest (and the boards) to dip as the bar reaches it creates an energy leak, reducing the power of your press.
  • Failing to keep your shoulders tight: Continue squeezing your shoulder blades together and keep them planted on the bench through lockout. This will help you keep your chest up and maintain stability.
  • Lack of leg drive: Leg drive will create full body stability and help you to keep your chest up. Without driving through your feet you will be unable to generate the most power possible for your press.

Exercise Safety

  • For safety, always use a spotter when performing the board press.
    • Using your spotter to hand the weight off to you can allow you to conserve your energy for the actual lift and enable you to press heavier weights.
  • Using boards versus stopping the descent mid-bench without boards has distinct advantages:
    • Attempting to stop the bar’s descent midway through the repetition can put additional force on your shoulders. Using boards gives the bar a stable stopping point and reduces unnecessary shoulder strain.


  • Increase the number of boards used to reduce the lift’s ROM and increase the weight on the bar.

Additional Bench Pressing Exercises

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