Most of us know that the squat is the king of all lower body exercises. But what is the equivalent for the upper body?
If you’re thinking it must be the bench press or military press, then you can think again. This exercise will have a dramatic effect for improving muscle strength, muscle size, flexibility and overall health in the upper body. The squat of the upper body is without a doubt the Dip, more specifically, the Weighted Dip.
The Weighted Dip targets all of your pushing muscles in the upper body (deltoids, pectorals and triceps) alongside, increasing core strength, and improving shoulder stability. It is an advanced exercise that not many people in the gym will be doing. In fact, most people will find bodyweight dips extremely challenging. But that is exactly why you should be training them!
It’s not uncommon to see gym junkies slamming plates onto the bar when bench pressing, but have zero ability to do 10 strict dips. A lot of trainees have no issues when smashing out a thousand reps on the pec dec machine, but would be shaking like a towel in the wind trying to hold their body weight on some dip bars. In my opinion, you should develop bodyweight strength before adding external loads. This will help your development when adding weight, further down the line.
When training for the dip, it is paramount to work through a true full range of motion to get the best out of the exercise. That means, starting in the top position, holding your bodyweight (without swinging), then gradually lowering yourself down, allowing your shoulders and chest to track forward, whilst bending your elbows until you cannot get any lower, then, returning to the starting position. This will help develop flexibility in your chest muscles and improve the health of your shoulders. Working to the end range is a great way to prevent injury whilst building a ton of strength.
BENEFITS OF TRAINING WEIGHTED DIPS:
- Improves pressing strength
- Very accessible
- Increases upper body flexibility
- Increases muscle mass in the upper body
- Builds core strength and stability
- More body control
- Scapular stability
- It is a compound exercise
- Easy to progressively overload
- Has a great carry over to other pressing exercises, such as, Bench press
No matter what your training goal is, I truly believe that dips should be factored into your program. As I stated earlier though they are very hard, so here is a play-by-play system with regressions and progressions to help you get to the weighted dip.
Straight arm planks
Build up to 3 sets of 60 second holds before progressing to push ups.
When you can comfortably do 3 sets of 10 repetitions, progress to the next stage.
Deficit push ups
Adding the extra range in your push ups with condition your upper body for dips
Straight Arm Dip Holds (in the top position)
Hold your bodyweight on the dips bars for 3 sets of 20 seconds with adequate rest in between sets.
Now we can start training the movement but whilst assisted by using a band or assisted dip machine.
These will help build more strength and control. Try 3 sets of 5 repetitions with a 5 second eccentric phase (lowering phase). These can be trained at the same time as banded dips.
Once you are extremely competent in the previous exercises, then, build to 3 sets of 10 repetitions in the dip before progressing to the weighted dip.
Congratulations you have made it. Now develop more strength by adding more weight or volume.
Following this process will safely and effectively increase your chances of performing weighted dips. I must warn you though, that a lot of people may not even get passed the push up stage and that’s completely fine, as long as the end goal is to perform quality dips. Now, there’s a challenge for you.
At 24N we tend to talk a lot about exercises that are “the best bang for your buck”. In other words, exercises that are going to deliver the best results over time. The weighted dip is definitely one of them. It is an excellent movement to train for and I highly suggest doing so.
No matter who you are and what your background is, I strongly believe that Dips are one of the best upper body exercises you could possibly do. This is why you should definitely add them to your training program.