A few years ago, Vincent Dizenzo and I were talking about training and he stated that if he had to choose one main pressing movement for training, it would be the dip. At the time we had this conversation, I was unable to perform dips due to shoulder issues. So I immediately became jealous. But I also saw the truth in his statement.
Dips were a part of my training in my early years but they only became a major assistance lift when I stopped powerlifting and just started “training normal” again. The majority of my dip training was done with my body weight but occasionally would do weighted dips; I think both have their merits. One of the issues I see with weighted dips is that it becomes more about completing the rep than taxing the appropriate muscles. In my case (and in many others), the dip was used as a means to an end; namely to increase my bench press. I wasn’t out to set the world record in the weighted dip. By using dips in this appropriate manner, they become more about the muscles, not the movement. In other words, the goal was to tax the triceps, shoulders and chest – not to complete the rep. It was treated like a bodybuilder treats an exercise, not a powerlifter.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a big benefit to doing weighted dips. Obviously, at some point your bodyweight isn’t going to be enough to drive growth/strength. This is where you have two options – using a dip/chin belt or using a weighted vest. Since most of my training these days revolves around the weighted vest/WALRUS style training, I can safely say that 45lbs on a dip belt is much easier than a 45lbs weight vest. This is also true with chin-ups/pull-ups. However you choose to do the movement, just make sure you are completing the reps with a purpose in mind. Don’t just do the dips to do the dips.
There is some debate on whether dips actually help your bench and press. While the vast majority of people believe they do, there is some older, more experienced lifters who frown on the movement. Generally this idea is a bit skewed for several reasons. One, they lack the shoulder integrity to perform the movement anymore. Two, they may have had a physical fitness background that isn’t prevalent in today’s world due to social and political barriers that prevent children from being in a structured, high quality physical education program. In other words, they didn’t need this movement as they already had basic GPP.
For the younger lifter, provided they are strong/healthy enough, the dip is an amazing compound movement. They are an awesome way to build muscle and strength; and there is plenty of examples of people using them in their training to merit their usefulness. The real issue for younger lifters is strength; for those unable to perform a single dip, I would highly recommend a steady diet of push-ups, bench press, press (these two barbell movements should be done in a safe, structured, progressive manner) and a tremendous amount of upper back/lat work via rows, lat pulldowns, fat man rows and face pulls. Of course this should be paired with a balanced training program that involves copious amounts of lower body strength training and conditioning/mobility/flexibility. The point is this; if you can’t do a dip, get stronger and get your ass in shape. If you consistently work to be an ass kicker, dips magically become easier.
If you do have access to a weighted vest, one of the best things I’ve done is pair the weighted dip with weighted chins/pull-ups. Use a light enough weight to perform at least 8-10 weighted chins/pull-ups. Superset the chins and dips until you hit a total of 50 chins/pull-ups. The number of dips you perform will (or should) exceed the 50 pulling reps – and make sure that you are doing the dip movement with appropriate form. As an example, if you can do 10 chins/pull-ups with 45bls, you would do set of 3-5 reps and pair it with 8-10 reps of dips until you reach 50 total pulling reps. For an extra challenge, perform a set of dips or chins every minute and see how long it takes you to get to 50 chinning reps.
For an added challenge, for every set of chins and dips you perform, do a set of 20 weight vest squats. For those of you who have limited equipment at home and have access to a weight vest, this is a great way to train the entire body, kick some ass in conditioning and not become a quarantined turd. Here is a real life example of this WALRUS style workout, done with a 65lbs vest.
- Chins/pull-ups (change grip every set) – 3-5 reps
- Dips – 8 reps
- Squats – 20 reps
This is done until I hit 50 total reps of chins. So on this particular day, it took me 20 total sets to hit 50 chin reps. Again, if you can change your grip between every set of pulls, do it. I would especially recommend using a thick rope as one of the grips. Make sure the reps are clean and using a full ROM as possible. No swinging, kicking or cheating.
The end total amount of reps at the end of the workout was 400 squats, 150 dips and 50 chins. On this particular workout, I did not use a timer/rest times. The workout was only over when the reps were finished. Anyway, you choose to do this, don’t underestimate dips and the effect they have on both strength and size in your upper body. While “Legs and Lungs” make a man strong physically, it doesn’t hurt to be a bit beefy up top.