After having a year away from the platform and a terrible showing at the 2018 XPC Bench Bash, I'm gearing back up for a multiply bench only competition, the APF Pressing the Pieces Together on April 27th, 2019. This meet helps bring awareness and charity donations for Autism Awareness. I'm looking to compete at 132lbs and just have a good meet back, while running my new gym, THIRST, and rehabbing my low back issues.

For programming and coaching inquires, please email or visit

When it comes to training and getting strong, we know there is more than one way to skin the cat to achieve the desired results we want. We've got a variety of muscular contractions that our body can perform - concentric, eccentric, and isometric. These are popularly used by my good friend Christian Anto and his Triphasic work for powerlifting, and more popularly used by Cal Dietz with sport athletes.

As powerlifters, we don't really seem to think much about this, and I'll be honest, I usually don't either that much. I know my science and how to use certain aspects of it, but I could probably benefit from doing more specific work in the eccentric and concentric only aspect of my training at certain times.

This blog post/article though, I wanted to touch more on the concentric only aspect of training, and namely pin presses and squatting from pins.

It's not uncommon on Instagram to see people doing "pin squats" and pin presses, yet they are completely screwing them up. So if you want to learn more about these movements, or how you can use pins to help improve your squat, bench press, or deadlift - you've came to right place.

bench press on board

Pin Press and Pin Squats (Anderson Squats) Versus Benching To Pins and Squatting to Pins

This is the first thing that I want to tackle, as this is what is usually messed up. Please understand, that doing a pin press and benching to pins are two entirely different movements (or pin squats and squatting to pins). They are not interchangeable. Don't believe me? Do each movement and tell me which one lets you lift more. I'm willing to bet you won't pin press near what you can press to pins (and the same for squatting).

When you're doing a pin press, getting set under the bar requires a different muscular contraction than if you lower the bar to the pin, and then press again. Now obviously, with the latter, there is an eccentric contraction and that's important because when the bar comes down to the pin, some kinetic energy is still stored in your muscle bellies and tendons, making it easier to press or squat the weight up again off the pins. With just a pin press, there is no stored kinetic energy, and as such, the lifter must break the bar off the pins and the initial inertia to complete the lift.

For me, this is the value in pin presses and squats. The emphasis being able to break that inertia at a certain point in the lift can teach a lifter how to accelerate a bar through a specific range of motion, ideally their "sticking point".

Another valuable teaching tool with concentric only training like pin presses and Anderson squats, is the ability to find your ideal position.

If you've ever done a pin press or Anderson squat and couldn't get the lift, I'm willing to bet you've altered your starting position just a tad, and been able to get the lift. This is a huge teaching tool and immediate feedback and where YOU are more biomechanically advantageous to lift the most weight. It's not the end all be all to fixing a lift, but it can teach you where you need to be in the specific range of motion. And if you're training in that area, I'm willing to bet you're doing it because you have issues there.

When benching or squatting to pins the lifter is basically just working on training through a particular range of motion. This can be beneficial if a lifter is exceptionally strong in one area, and weak in another.

Benching to Pins Versus Board Presses

Now that we've covered the issue above, I wanted to discuss the difference between benching to pins versus board presses.

They seem rather similar in the big picture, however, they are indeed different movements as well.


The first thing of importance is to note the point of contact (besides the obvious of touching a piece of wood or metal). When board pressing, the point of contact is on the middle of the bar, between the hands/shoulders. This creates a stabilization aspect when the bar touches the boards, whereas if you lower the bar to the pins, the bar will ALWAYS land even prior to the concentric muscle action, so there is less of a stability component to worry about.

The other thing to keep in mind is HOW you touch the board press. While this article isn't exactly about board pressing, it's something that needs to be discussed. You'll notice that people do board presses a variety of ways. Some will sink the board, some will barely tap the board, and others will use it more of a deadstop movement and try to prevent it from sinking on their body. I won't go into which you should do and why in this article, as that's a different discussion for a different day. But I do think it's valuable to make sure if you're going to keep records for board pressing, you're using the same touching motion throughout unless you're going to specifically note in logs how you're touching the board. Personally, I try to let the weight come to as much as a complete stop on the board and then press, focusing on all my normal bench cues (squeeze bar, lats tight, air inflated into chest, press my body away from the bar, etc.).

The reason I brought this up, is that when you lower the bar to the pins, you can also do the same as boards but it's much more ideal for the weight to always come to a complete stop, for a couple reasons.

1. The rattle of the bar on the pins and being all over the place is a recipe for tendonitis in no time. Stay tight and controlled, and try to hit the pins evenly each time.

2. The ability to use that stored kinetic energy can come in handy when you're attacking specific zones of your bench press. If you're going to just bounce the weight off the pins, not only do you look like an idiot, but you're probably not getting anything from it.

3. You can find how inconsistent you are with your bench press stroke. I think this is the most valuable aspect. If you can touch the bar to the pins each time consistently and not have to move your body to find the "ideal" position,  you've probably got an efficient pressing pattern (as discussed above).

Squatting to Pins Versus Box Squats

This is a topic I've wanted to dive into for about a year now, and it's taken me some time to do some thinking but also just watch strong lifters do these movements to really put together my thoughts on this.

As someone that uses the concurrent (conjugate) system with a variety of clients and populations, I'm a little biased towards box squatting. Anyone that has read any of my material or been around me would know this.

But I want to look at this as critically as possible so here we go.

First things first, this is similar to comparing the board presses and benching to pins, but your box is now your board. However, the box squat when done correctly has static overcome by dynamic principles (thanks Louie and Dave) that the board pressing does not.

SSB Box Squat Death

When box squatting some muscles have to slightly relax or release tension (usually hip flexors), and this will cause you to box squat less than you can free squat. However, this is what helps develop starting strength and explosive strength, and is why speed squatting with a box can be so beneficial to so many lifters.

Squatting to pins however, you do not get this training effect - something that can be very valuable to competitive lifters. Majority of your pin squats are going to be pretty quad dominant and not hit the glutes and hamstrings like the box squat.

The other major difference to consider is that while box squatting, the bar is always "a part" of the lifter. After unracking the bar and letting it settle, the bar becomes one with the lifter as you are grounded into your movement. With the squats to pins, once you hit the pins for a brief moment, more than likely you'll notice a slight disconnect between the lifter and the bar. I personally don't like this for two reasons:

1. This makes training the lift almost two different exercises entirely.

2. We're teaching the upper back to relax slightly once we reach the pins, and for so many lifters that have "upper back issues", this sounds like not a great idea for training that issue (go purchase a SS Yoke Bar).

So in summary, this is why I'm pro box squatting if you want to do squats to pins. I think as a lifter you'll get stronger and save yourself from some elbow tendonitis from the bar constantly hitting the pins.

How To Implement Pin Presses and Anderson Squats

This is probably what you're looking to implement all the science you don't care much about.

In most cases, pin presses and Anderson squats are going to be best served by doing singles and having spotters take the weight and put back into the J cups or help aid it back down to the pins each time.

But, I'm a meathead, and I know this NEVER happens. It's asking a lot from your training partners, or you're like I was for a long time training in your garage.

The realistic option is to just let the weight fall back down on the pins while trying to stay with the weight freely. So what I mean by this is you let gravity pull the weight back down to the pins while you "stay with the weight".

Programming Pin Presses and Anderson Squats

*For all these recommendations, you will need to play with the pin settings in your specific gym or rack.*

Max Effort Days or Main Movement - For this, just work up to a max single. Set the pin slightly below where your sticking point is. If you want to get crazy, add bands or chains to make the grind suck even worse.

Supplemental Movement - Work up to a challenging set of 3-6 reps, or perform 3x5-6 at ~77-80% of your best on that pin.

Deloading - If you're on a max effort day, pin press and Anderson squats are great for deloading via eliminating heavy eccentric stress on the body.

In Summary

Hopefully you can take something away from this post and apply it to your training. If not, here's a bench press program for free for you.

There could be cases for using a plethora of these methods at different times based on the time of year and what you specifically need as a lifter. But I wanted to try to provide some kind of guidance for those who were confused about pin work and how it can be helpful for training. Best of luck, and enjoy the program if you run it. Let me know how you like it and the results you have.

Free Program To Build Your Bench Press (Using Pins and Boards)

Here's a 12 week program with your max effort and supplemental work to build your bench press. Please implement your dynamic days and accessory work based on your specific muscle weaknesses.

Week 1

Pin Press (1/3 off chest) - Work up to a max single
Close Grip Bench Press with Red Shoulder Saver - 3x6
Accessory Work

Week 2

Floor Press vs 1 or 2 Chains Per Side - Work up to a max single; after the single take the chains off for a set of max reps (you won't get many)
JM Press - 3x8
Accessory Work

Week 3

One Board Press vs Doubled Mini Bands - Work up to a max single
Close Grip Spoto Bench Press - 3x5
Accessory Work

Week 4

Pin Press (2/3 off chest) - Work up to a max single
DB Floor Presss - 3x15
Accessory Work

Week 5

Spoto Press vs ~25% Chain Weight - Work up to a max single
Close Grip Bench Press vs ~25% Chain Weight - 3x5
Accessory Work

Week 6

Incline Bench Press - Work up to a max single
Incline Bench Press with Red Shoulder Saver - 3x8
Accessory Work

Week 7

One Board Press - Work up to a max single
Two Board Press - 80% of your max single above for 2 sets of max reps
Accessory Work

Week 8

Pin Press from Chest (as close as you can get) - Work up to a max single
Close Grip Bench Press - 4x5
Accessory Work

Week 9

Floor Press - Work up to a max single
Chaos Bench Pressing - 3x20
Accessory Work

Week 10

Reverse Band One Board Press - Work up to a max single
Reverse Band Bench Press - 3x3 @ 80% of above single
Accessory Work

Week 11

Two Board Press - Work up to a max single
DB Bench Press - 2x20
Accessory Work (decrease your normal sets by one third)

Week 12

Competition Bench Press - Work up to 75%x5
Accessory Work (one to two sets of minimal work for blood flow)

Week 13

Competition Bench Press - Work up to a max single