would boards still be a good idea if you only bench raw?
Jim Wendler recommends the 1-board press for raw benchers. Otherwise, he recommends floor presses, bench press, incline press and one other. See his article "Bench like a Stripper" at Elite Fitness
Sure, they allow you to feel the weight before you can go a full press, getting you ready for the full press.
If you are weak at lockout.
Exactly. Board presses are great if your triceps need the extra work. They won't help you if you are weak just off your chest.
This is actually one of the biggest benefits of boards for me. I guess it's psychological, but I find it easier to build a comfort level with heavier weights this way.
I still remember breaking past 315 this way. I did 3 boards presses with up to 365 for weeks before I even attempted a full ROM 315. The three plates were a lot less intimidating this way.
So what do you guys recommend for strength off the chest? More shoulder work?
Yes, I think shoulder work is a must for a raw bencher.
Other things that help strength off the chest include, but are not limited to, pause rep benches, speed work, a strong upper back, and dumbell presses.
I broke my bench plateau with boards. I hit a raw bench of 380, then for months I could not get 385. So I did 4 boards at 385 for one week, 3 boards at 385 the next week, then 2 boards, then one boards, and on the fifth week hit a raw bench PR of 385. If the lockout is your weak point I'd hit 'em hard.
my lockout is not a problem, im weak off the chest pretty much, but would just 1 board be of any help?
It will help some, but there are better ways to build strength off the chest. I would concentrate on that aspect of your bench first. It does no good to lockout 405 if you can't get 315 off your chest.
I have found that speed work and pause benches (and paused speed work) to be most effective in strength off the chest; at least this was the case for me.
Dumb bell bench presses are good to help with strength right off your chest. The dumb bells let you go lower than you would with a bar bell, getting you used to going low.
In addition to the above, I recommend suspended chain pushups (I love these), military presses and more triceps/shoulder stuff.
Close grip benches are good. Also, depending on your grip width, wider gripped benches.
Weak off chest?
Overshoot speed bench using releasers.
Zero momentum bench (preferably off chain).
For weak off the chest, I like using pin presses off the chest. Because you are not lowering the weight, your muscles do store any energy (no rebound). Anything you lift with these is pure mucsle contraction. Similar to a pause bench, but you don't have to hold the weight off your chest while the energy dissipates.
I was just about to say the same thing. Some presses from a dead stop off the chest will give you a whole new respect for how heavy the weight really is.
I do presses off the rack set up right at chest level, but I put 1/4 inch carpet over the rack so the bar can't slide horizontally at all. I think its the horizontal sliding at liftoff that can be stressful, and gives rack presses a negative rap.
I always use some doubled bands with the rack and work up 1 1/2 inches at a time by using a board under the bench.
Also, closegrips almost all the time. The closegrip actually increases the depth of the press and shoulder rotation.
I beat both of you guys to it. HA!
Read "Zero Momentum bench" above.
And the reason I recommend using chains is b/c as mertdawg said, off pins the bar will slide around and its harder to get positioned properly. More stress on joints.
Rotate all of the above suggestions using some as your ME exercise, assistance and some for your DE day.
On ME day do some full range benching (Regular benches, floor presses) working up to a 5RM or 3RM rotating every 2 wks.
for main assistance do 4,3,2 boards, pause, close grips, pins at chest level.
On your DE day do Dbell Presses, Military Presses, Speed Benches, rotating every 2 wks.
Do lat work, Pulldowns and rows, rotate whenever it feels stale.
Upper back, band pull aparts, face pulls, bent raises, shrugs.
You need to experiment and see what works best for you. Good luck.