Dip Variations in the Rack
by Charles A. Smith
I wonder how many of you realize the profound effects life’s simple things are capable of producing. How could the unknown genius who invented the bow know the staggering consequences it would have on history? What did Roger Bacon imagine would shape the course of future world events, as he stood mixing the harmless chemicals that made gunpowder? And what value did those forgotten mechanics place on the wheel when it took shape and form under their primitive tools? Not one of them realized that the elementary forms and substances they worked with would bring about some of the greatest changes this earth of ours would ever see. And these simple causes and their far-reaching effects have almost exact parallels in bodybuilding.
Take, for instance, the problems involved in building strength and development in the arms, chest and shoulders. You can get it two ways – the hard way or the easy way. You can get it by performing innumerable exercises for each separate part, or by using a simple movement on a simple piece of apparatus.
If you use a barbell or dumbbells you will soon find that it takes a lot of energy plus scores of sets and repetitions, and a very large variety of exercises to bring you development of the shoulders, arms and chest. For the deltoids there are the various lateral raises, presses, holdouts and crucifixes. For the triceps there are presses, arm extensions and lat machine movements. For the pectorals there are the flying motions, bench presses and pullovers. All these movements are hardly calculated to produce economy of movement. Yet all these exercises, some of them complicated and difficult to perform, can be replaced with a single exercise and its few variations and the results you get will not only be just as good, if not better, but the energy you will expend mentally and physically will be much less. The movement I speak of is the ordinary DIP.
Floor dipping is the introduction almost all of us have had to training. It is probably the first test we engage in when we are children, along with chinning the bar, to determine who is the strongest boy of the neighborhood. Even the man, or the athlete for that matter, who has never touched a weight in his life uses dips and the exercise gives such outstanding results that it is often the reason why the same man takes up weight training.
Yet it is strange that few keep to the movement once they commence a barbell routine. So far as I am concerned there are few better “assistance exercises” than dips for increasing all forms of pressing. In my mind there is no better movement for bulking up the muscles of the arms and developing the chest – without over enlarging the pectorals and giving the impression that you walked out of a brassiere advertisement.
Exactly what a program of dips is capable of can be seen in the chest, arm and shoulder size and power of any wrestler, but particularly the Hindu mat-men. Most wrestlers of the past have used the ordinary floor dip to build a combination of strength, endurance and crushing power. The Hindus use many different versions of the floor dip and because of this wider territory covered are notable for their size, and the terrible power of their wrestling holds.
Similar results are obtained by dipping on a bar in the rack. You can begin with the ordinary floor dip and branch out into other dipping forms so that the entire arm, shoulder and chest groups get a complete and thorough workout. Simply by adjusting the bar on the apparatus a different effect is obtained, resulting in strength from every angle. The width of the bar enables you to use varying handspacings, thus introducing greater interest and maintaining training enthusiasm aids in the prevention of staleness.
Let’s take some examples of dipping exercises in the rack:
EXERCISE 1. NARROW GRIP DIPS
Adjust the bar on the rack so it is a few inches from the floor. Assume the usual position for floor dips but use a hand spacing that is just slightly narrower than shoulder width. Lower your chest down to the bar by bending the arms at the elbows. As soon as your chest touches the bar press yourself to arms length again and repeat. Don’t dip in a hurry, but make each repetition steady and deliberate, feeling your way down and up, making each and every inch of raising and lowering count. You can allow your upper arms to point out straight to the sides. In another version you can keep the upper arms against the sides of the body. Resistance can be applied in the form of a barbell plate on your upper back, a weighted vest or a pack weighted with plates.
EXERCISE 2. WIDE GRIP DIPS
Grip the bar from collar to collar with it still at the same height as in the former exercise. Again, lower the body steadily and press to arm’s length as soon as the chest touches the bar. Break into this exercise slowly at first as the muscles used may become stiff in the beginning.
EXERCISE 3. BICEPS DIPS
Here is a compound exercise that employs two kinds of muscle contraction – concentric and eccentric. It is the latter type that Arthur Zeller used with great success in the dumbbell curl he popularized. The triceps get work straightening the arm, the biceps in the controlled lowering. Your feet should be on a box. The bar is the same height as before. The hands should grip the bar with the palms to the front – in other words you use an ordinary curling grip. A shoulder width grip is ideal for this movement. Start from arm’s length position.
EXERCISE 4. DELTOID DIPS
This is a peak contraction movement. Study the illustration. Note how the arms are placed on the raised bar at full stretch, the body and thighs almost in a straight line with the buttocks slightly raised. From this position lower the shoulders and trunk until the arms are level with the bar or in a horizontal position. Press down on the hands and raise the trunk and shoulders to the original position and repeat. DO NOT BEND THE ARMS AT THE ELBOWS. You will also find the lats get a lot of work as well. In fact, you are likely to get stiff muscles at first if you haven’t much of this nature before.
EXERCISE 5. REVERSE TRICEPS DIPS
Alan P. Mead, the famed old time muscle control artist. used this movement to build his triceps. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Mead you’ll notice what a combination of definition and bulk his arms possessed. For this type of dip he used a chair, but you have the advantage of using the rack. Notice that the bar is waist high. You will see that the lifter turns his back to the bar after gripping it (a little wider than shoulder width handspacing), lowers himself down and thrusts the legs forward. At this stage the arms are STRAIGHT – that is, locked at the elbows. Lower until the upper arms are at right angles to the forearms then straighten and repeat. This movement also helps build shoulder flexibility as well as triceps power and size. For one method of adding resistance, see the illustration.
EXERCISE 6. ONE ARM DIPS
Most lifters would like to try this movement but find it hard because single arm dipping off the floor is beyond their strength. One of the beauties of using the rack for this is that it can be adjusted so the lifter can progress from partial or power movements to exercises that require a full working range of the muscle. With one arm dips all you have to do raise the bar until it is chest or waist high, grip the bar with one hand, lower yourself sideways until you touch the bar, then press yourself away again. The illustration shows the exercise itself much more clearly than I can describe it. As you lower yourself towards the bar you will have to twist the trunk a little in order to allow the upper arm to move back. Don’t allow the trunk to SAG at the waist.
Unless you are specializing on the arms, chest and shoulders, you will soon find that a single set, or two sets at the most, of each dipping movement described is plenty. A specialization program requires more intensive work, but must not expend too much energy. Therefore it is best for you to select two different dipping exercises for each of your training days and use four to five sets of each. Start off with 7 reps and work up to 15 before adding resistance in the form of barbell plates.
You can even use a set of each movement at the end of your heavier training programs to flush the muscles with blood and thus help to clear them of waste products and lessen stiffness.