One of the things I love most about working exclusively with youth athletes is how much they benefit from variation.  Because these young boys and girls are still developing and have barely begun to specialize their skills, variation is great to help them continuously build athletic performance qualities.  Each month at my gym the Boost Performance Center we integrate a different movement into our programs, and typically these movements are progressive, and build off of previous months movements.  I love this because on top of teaching these pups how to properly strength train the variation helps provide different stimuli, and of course break up the monotony of certain exercises and keep things fresh and fun. I mean let’s keep things in perspective, they’re kids and fun is important.

Let’s make something clear here, I have completely different programs for my athletes depending on their chronological, and training age, from developmental to collegiate/pro athletes (usually my pups who grew up, reached high levels and come home for a workout). I don’t believe in, nor allow any athletes in my gym who are under 14 years of age to touch a barbell for reasons that are for another blog. As for those youth athletes who work with barbells, the board press exercise is two 12 inch 2×4’s stacked on top of each other placed on your chest during a bench press. The length is best at 12 inches because it allows a partner to safely hold the boards on top of the lifter’s chest without risking getting their fingers smashed during the eccentric (lowering) phase of the lift.

Here are my top 5 favorite benefits of the Board Press lift:

  1. Athletes can handle heavier weights compared to a normal bench press
  2. You can work on specific ranges of motion
  3. It helps build your standard bench press
  4. It doesn’t stress the shoulders as bad
  5. Build maximum strength

Now I’m not a big fan of 1 rep maxes because I believe the benefits just don’t outweigh the risk when it comes to youth athletes.  And because our athletes are young and dont have years of bench pressing under their belts we keep our boards on the lower end of about 4 inches.  This still allows our athletes to move weight that’s heavier than their estimated 1 rep max but not too crazy.  I do like to allow my youth athletes who use barbells to do submaximal, 3 rep maxes though.  I really like this because it’s much safer and it allows athletes to actually see their improvements which is an important motivational factor.  I constantly see my athletes add 5-15lbs improvements to their bench press after a mesocycle of board pressing that has been properly loaded.

And if you think 5-15lbs is not enough, let me remind you that athletes aren’t bodybuilders.  There is a strong correlation between muscle stiffness and mobility.  The goal is to add lean muscle that contributes to sports performance not simply getting super jacked.  The board press is a safe way to handle heavy loads, it’s effective, and can be used for all age appropriate lifters. -Boostman

Coach Bass

Owner, Boost Training Systems
Level 1 & 2 Coach Bommarito Performance