My Weighted Dip/Pull-Up Standards for A More Muscular Upper Body + Common Questions (2015)
The classics never die.
For decades and decades there have been parallel bars and pull-up bars all around the world from schoolyards all the way to parks. They are even there today and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
On this site I often preach about the importance of Dips and Chin-Ups and how you can build a great upper body with this exercise combo. In fact, I dedicate a big chunk of my upper body mass to these two movements, that’s how effective they are.
Today I will tell you what kind of numbers you should work up to if you are trying to build a great upper body with these two lifts.
So you have been doing Dips with perfect form but your chest still doesn’t look that big, what gives? The truth is that if you are trying to develop a big chest then you should be doing weighted dips when you are strong enough to do so. The next step is to be able to do eventually be able to do them with half of your bodyweight attached to a dipping belt for 3×10 reps.
This means that if you want a big chest and you weigh 200lb then your goal should be to do Dips with 100lb attached to a dipping belt for 3 sets of 10 repetitions without compromising range of motion or technique.
I have never met anybody in my life who was able to do this and not have a big chest.
Remember that you should lean forward a bit to engage more of the chest. This technique will help you feel your chest better and get a better stretch in the pecs as well. I can’t overemphasize the stretch enough; you have to feel the stretch in the pecs during the eccentric part of the movement for maximum growth.
Thick Meaty Triceps
If you are trying to get very thick and meaty triceps, then weighted dips should also be a staple but you would have to make a few adjustments.
The exercise above was the chest dip where you lean forward a bit and it is great for building a big chest but it doesn’t activate the triceps to a great degree. If you want bigger triceps, then you have to do tricep dips which are basically dips done with your body as upright as possible. The more upright you are during dips, the more your triceps are engaged in the movement.
For thick and meaty triceps, I would recommend that you try to work up to 3×10 with half of your bodyweight in external resistance attached to your dipping belt as well.
This means that if you weigh 150lb then your goal for bigger triceps should be to do triceps dips with 75lb attached to your dipping belt for 3×10.
You don’t have to do the chest dip and tricep dip on the same day but if your goal is to get bigger triceps then trying to hit these numbers will get you there.
Also make sure that you are getting a good tricep stretch during the eccentric part of the exercise, I can’t stress this enough.
Pull-ups work your back but they mostly work the lats. If you want very wide lats then your goal should be to do neutral grip pull-ups with half of your bodyweight attached to a dipping belt for 3×10 reps.
This means that if you weight 180lb then your goal should be to do pull-ups with an additional 90lb for 3 sets of 10 picture perfect repetitions.
For big biceps your goal should be to do Close grip Neutral Grip Chin-Ups or Close grip Chin-Ups with an underhand grip with half of your bodyweight on a dipping belt for 3×10.
Can I make the Weighted Pull-up or Weighted Dip a main movement in my program instead of the bench press or barbell row?
The bench and dip pretty much cover the same muscle groups so in that regard you can. On the other hand, the barbell row and pull-up don’t really work the exact same muscle groups. The barbell row is a horizontal pulling movement and the pull-up is a vertical pulling movement.
Horizontal rowing movements are very important for good posture and improving all of your lifts. I also think that that barbell rowing variations do a better job at targeting the upper back than pull-ups do so I wouldn’t replace the pull-up with my rowing variation as a main movement.
On the flipside it depends on what your weaknesses are, if you have a weak upper back then don’t make weighted pull-ups your main movement, but if you have weak lats then you can certainly do so.
So it really depends on your priorities and what you are trying to achieve.
What muscle groups in my upper body will be lagging if I work up to these high numbers?
I think that if you get really strong on weighted pull-ups with a variety of grips and weighted chest and tricep dips then you will have a great upper body but your upper back will start to lag after a while, so will your traps, neck and lower back.
Even if you decide on doing only weighted pull-ups and dips for the upper body I would still recommend that you throw in a weighted inverted row just so that you have some horizontal pulling in there.
With different inverted row variations your upper and mid back will be covered but your upper traps and neck will still lag.
In this case you could do some direct neck work which I talked about in other articles and for the traps you can do some Snatch Grip High Pulls or Snatch Grip Shrugs.
For the lower back you could do some weighted back extensions or Deadlifts.
Some coaches say that Weighted Dips and Pull-Ups can cause shoulder problems, is this true?
It can be true that heavy weighted dips can cause shoulder problems but you if have healthy shoulders and don’t sacrifice form for weight then you should be fine. The goals above aren’t going to happen overnight and if you add weight in very small increments then you should be fine.
As for the weighted pull-ups, I stated in past articles that I am not the biggest fan of doing pull-ups on a straight bar and that they can damage the shoulders overtime. This is why I recommend neutral grip pull-up variations with a variety of different grips because they are more wrist, elbow and shoulder friendly.
In the past I have written many articles on pull-up and dipping mistakes and how to fix them so you should check them out if you are interested.
So there you have it, stop complicating training so much and just stick to the basics. This is only one of the ways that you can build a solid upper body but it is very simple and it requires minimal equipment as well.
People all around the world have built their upper bodies off of these two lifts and you can too!