There’s been an ongoing shift in the way people workout, and along the way, one of the most beneficial upper body exercises is getting lost in the shuffle.
While bodybuilders still prefer workout splits that focus on a single bodypart or set of bodyparts in a day, certain full-body routines have stolen some thunder, yet are forgetting one of bodybuilding’s best exercises.
But no matter what you do, there are some no-fail exercises — the compound movements — which target multiple muscle groups. Most everyone knows of the tried and true bench press, the deadlift, and the king of the gym, squats.
Don’t forget the dip
But there’s another type of “squat” that works most of your upper body all in one workout – dips.
Dips are an easily overlooked exercise, simply because bodyweight exercises can either be too humbling or too easy. In this compound movement, you push a lot of weight with only the upper body and the torso being mostly isolated, yet it allows room for more intensity with its variations, which we’ll see below.
With standard shoulder-width dips, you involve the following muscles:
- Anterior Deltoid,
- Pecs (specifically the sternal, clavicular, and minor), and
With such important aesthetic muscles, it’s a surprise that so many people are skipping them. In case they’re too hard or uninteresting to you, here are some variations:
With most compound workouts, there are always variations that target similar muscle groups with a different focus on a secondary muscle group. For example, narrow grip bench press will really burn your triceps, while flyes are a pec exercise assisted by the shoulders.
There are also variations on dips, so the workload can adjust:
The classic bench-dip: Best for beginners
The bench dip is a simple form of the dip, typically an easier motion for those beginning strength training, but also for those who are heavier, or just new to the workout.
The workout starts with heels on the ground, the body straight, and the arms gripping the bench to hold yourself up. Let yourself dip to the ground by lowering your body to the floor, no touching, and pushing yourself back up above the bench.
If you want a heavier push, try adding a weight on your lap.
Grip width changes the muscle group hit
The closer your arms are together in the grip, the more the dip will burn your triceps. If you widen your grip slightly, you can put more work on your chest and upper back, with a little emphasis on your shoulders, while still working your triceps.
This is what most of us consider the standard dip (see the picture above or below).
If you feel the bench dips are getting a little easy, and you want to up your workload, try the parallel bar dip. This is the what you should aim for if you want to use dips regularly in your workout regimen. The body has no support other than the bar, so feet are off the ground. Gravity is pulling your bodyweight down, making the intensity greater than the bench dip.
To add fuel to the fire, try dipping lower, and extending fully on the push back up. This type of dip will tend to work your shoulders and chest even more than the bench dip.
Make it harder: Add weights to a dipping belt
Dips too easy?
Many gyms have special weight belts known as dip belts[1,2] that allow you to attach plates to them (by putting the chain through the center of the plate). If your gym doesn’t have one, they can be found inexpensively, and allow you to do weighted dips so that you can get a serious workout in with less reps.
Making them work for your plan
- Running a traditional bodybuilding split? Do dips on chest / tris day (if you do chest and triceps separately, choose whatever day works best.) You can even consider tying them into your shoulder workouts.
- Doing compound movement exercises or a full-body routine? Try throwing dips in – do them early if you’re weaker, or later if you’re stronger.
- Work out at home? Do bench dips. You can typically find a couch or put a low chair against the wall to make them work.
The bottom line is, for someone who wants to shred their chest, shoulders, upper back, and arms in one quick and tastefully painful movement, dips are choice. And unless you’re adding a ton of weight with a chain belt, it’s easy to get in and get out.
Dipping with Nitramine
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Try it for yourself with a free sample below — it works great, as do the dips.