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Since the development  of the modern gym, with its great variety of exercise equipment, very little resistance training is done as calisthenics — that is, exercise performed for the most part without weights but rather with one’s own body for resistance. This absence of bodyweight exercises is unfortunate, because one of my favorite moves of all time fits the bill — the dip.

I think it’s time to refocus on this ever-effective, nuts-and-bolts upperbody developer, especially since the dip is such a multifaceted exercise that can be used for numerous objectives.


To emphasize the lower chest, the dip is a great alternative to decline presses. Place your hands wide apart (outside of shoulder width if possible) and lean your torso forward to place most of the stress on your pectorals. The angle is most important here: If you don’t feel the chest working during the movement, you aren’t leaning far enough forward.


When your hands are close together and you position your body as vertically as possible, you de-emphasize the pecs and transfer most of the stress to the triceps. To isolate the tri’s even further, I often did bench dips. Position yourself perpendicular to and between two benches, with your feet on the bench in front of you and your hands supporting your bodyweight on the bench directly behind you. Lower yourself until you feel a stretch in your triceps, then press back up by extending your elbows. If your bodyweight isn’t enough resistance, place one or more weight plates on your lap.


I often performed dips to develop strength in my chest and arms. My bodyweight alone wasn’t enough to make me fail with lower reps (6–8), so I did weighted dips, which typically involved suspending a heavy dumbbell from a weight belt. Nowadays, some dip machines provide a belt attached to a weight stack for the same purpose.


Since I could perform many reps with my own bodyweight, dips were a good exercise for doing burnout sets. However, sometimes even my bodyweight was too heavy to permit me as many reps as I wanted to do, especially near the end of a workout. To remedy this, I’d have a partner support my feet (with my knees bent). Of course, assisted dip machines now exist, allowing you to choose how much weight you want aiding you. These machines are especially helpful for drop sets.

So the next time you hit the gym to train chest and triceps, don’t overlook dips, one of the best exercises out there. – FLEX