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Dipping is one of the oldest muscle-building exercises known to man. A thousand years before the barbell and dumbbell were
invented, ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian athletes and soldiers used dips to develop muscle and power. More people have
used this movement for upper-body development than any other exercise. Dips are used in every physical education class, and
every football player who has donned shoulder pads and a helmet has done thousands of floor dips, or pushups, as part of his
Modern bodybuilders frequently overlook the developmental advantages of dips, relying on pec decks, Nautilus machines and pulley apparatuses to give them that extra dimension in their quest for physical perfection. There's nothing wrong with this; however, the human body is capable of an almost endless variety of muscular movements. To restrict yourself to a select few exercises, regardless of how valuable they may be, is to keep yourself from ever achieving maximum development.
You must expose your muscles to constant physical variation both individually and collectively to bring out their full potential for size, shape and muscularity. It is aggressive, progressive, ever-changing training that produces a superior physique.
Superstars of the past like Marvin Eder, George Eiferman and Clancy Ross had magnificent chests, shoulders and arms that rival those of any modern bodybuilders. All three of these physique greats included various forms of dipping movements in their training. Eder, who was possibly the strongest bodybuilder pound for pound who ever lived, sometimes performed 500 parallel bar dips in a workout. He would do 25 reps a set, taking a short rest after each set until he completed the total number of repetitions. In 1951, when Eder and Dominic Juliano came to Muscle Beach in Santa Monica to train for the Mr. America, I saw Eder perform three dips with 415 pounds hanging from his waist-in the form of Malcomb Brenner, who weighed 220 pounds, and Juliano, a 195-pounder. This feat of strength has never been equaled. Small wonder that Eder could bench-press 510 pounds while weighing only 198.
I have witnessed some unusual feats of dipping strength and endurance. I once saw Jack LaLanne do 1,000 consecutive floor dips, or pushups. I also saw a fellow do 45 handstand dips on parallel handstand bars. Back in the days when I worked out with stuntmen and acrobats, a fellow named Dwane Dimmit performed five one-hand handstand dips in my gym in Pasadena, California.
Irwin Paris, who owned all the nutrition centers in the Jack LaLanne European Health Spas, used to hold pushup contests in conjunction with parties he threw for his employees. The competitors would rep out on the diving board of Paris' pool. Bernie Ernst, of the "Body Buddies" TV show, always won the $100 prize with 200 or more pushups.
Armand Tanny, the former Mr. USA and Pro Mr. America, claimed that LaLanne once performed 1,000 consecutive parallel bar dips. Jack supported his bodyweight with his arms at all times during this incredible feat of strength and endurance, shifting to stiff arms from time to time in order to take whatever rest he could for short periods. Can you imagine the pump he got from that performance?
One of the really fascinating things about dipping is that you can do some variations anywhere. If you're away from - weight equipment for an extended period, it's possible to retain much of your upper- body development by specializing on dips during that time. In fact, a specialization program like that can actually bring out greater size and muscularity in some people, particularly if they've never used dips.
Here's an upper-body workout you can use if you're traveling and can't get to a gym. The objective is to do 10 sets of floor dips in the following manner. Start the first set when the second hand of the clock is on the 12, blast out 20 reps and then rest until the second hand comes back to the 12. Now blast out as many reps as you can on a second set, rest until the second hand hits 12 again and repeat the procedure. Do this for 10 sets-one set every minute. You'll experience a fabulous pump, and by the 10th round you'll probably be struggling to get out 10 to 12 reps. If you're strong on: this exercise, you can elevate your feet to make it more difficult.
The following exercises will produce the greatest flushing and muscle growth stimulation when you perform them after incline or flat-bench presses and flyes. That way you'll already have a pump in your pecs and front delts, and the dips will engorge these muscles even more.
Medium-rip floor dips This exercise works the meaty portions of the side and lower pecs, as well as the triceps and front deltoids. Keep your body rigid as you lower yourself until your chest touches the floor. Pause briefly at the bottom and then push back to the starting position. Inhale as you lower your body and exhale as you push up. Keep your chest high and your back straight.
Wide-grip floor dips This exercise will stretch your pecs more and build them broad and full. Place your hands as wide as you can without discomfort. Use the procedure described above as medium-grip floor dips.
Close-grip floor dips This really works the inner pecs, the triceps and, to a degree, the lateral head of the delts. Place your hands six to eight inches apart. Keep your body rigid, with your chest high and your back straight. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up.
Feet-elevated floor dips You can perform exercises 1 through 3 with your feet elevated on the end of a bench to make the movement more difficult. Be sure to keep your back straight and your body rigid throughout the exercise.
Weighted feet-elevated floor dips This is a more advanced version of floor dips and requires a training partner who can place a barbell plate on your upper back. It builds tremendous pushing strength, and the plate makes it more progressive, as you can use heavier plates as your strength increases.
Floor dips between benches, stools or boxes You get a greater pec stretch from this one, which not only blows up your pecs but expands your rib cage as well. You can do it with your feet level or elevated and with or without weight, depending on your strength level.
Reverse floor dips This is a terrific triceps builder that works the lower pecs as well. Place your hands behind your back and take a medium grip on the edge of a bench. With your legs extended straight out in front of you, lower your upper body as far as you can while inhaling and then exhale as you push up until your arms are straight.
Feet-elevated, reverse floor dips You can make this exercise more severe by elevating your feet higher than your hands. Arnold Schwarzenegger was very partial to this movement for massing up his triceps.
Three-way floor dips When I trained with Dominic Juliano, he taught me this unusual way to do floor dips. After we finished an upper-body workout, we'd get in a pushup position with our feet elevated on a bench and place our hands on a two-by-four block that was 15 inches long. Then we'd do one set with our hands forward, one set with our hands on the outside of the block-palms facing in-and one final set with our hands close together. We used to blast out at least 20 reps per set, resting only as long as it took for us to complete a set. This is a great upper-body pumper you can use to conclude your training sessions.
Parallel bar dips This is one of the greatest upper-body developers around. It's used by all the champs. It works the arms, chest, shoulders and upper back. The bars should be high enough so that your feet don't touch the floor in the bottom position. Keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the movement. Inhale as you lower, and then, when your biceps meet your forearms, pause for a brief instant and then exhale as you press yourself back arm's length.
Dips with weight While high-rep dips are great for cuts, heavier resistance is required to build mass. You can place a dumbbell between your feet, use a weight belt with barbell plates or hang a heavy dumbbell from your waist. In addition to building tremendous upper-body mass, it's a great power developer. Pat Casey, the first man in the world to officially bench-press more than 600 pounds, used to perform sets and reps with 300 pounds. Do six to eight reps when using weight on this exercise.
Handstand dips This is a terrific deltoid and triceps developer. It isn't easy, but it's very effective. Place your hands shoulder-width apart and do a handstand about two feet away from a wall with your back facing the wall. Place your feet against the wall for balance, then lower your body as far as you can before you press back up to lockout. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Try supersetting this great exercise with side raises for a fantastic growth pump.
As mentioned above, you'll get I the greatest flush-pump if you perform dips after bench presses, flyes or pullovers. Try the following superset program for greater chest development:
Barbell bench presses: 4 x 8-10
Parallel bar dips: 4 x 8-10
Incline flyes: 3 x 10
Dips between benches: 3 x 10
Straight-arm pullovers: 3 x 15
Three-way floor dips: 3 x max
If you want additional power and mass, try Pat Casey's system of doing five to seven sets of dips for five to six reps each after your heavy benches. One method that proved very effective for me was to train my entire body three times a week, and on my non training days - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday -I did five sets of parallel bar dips supersetted with five sets of chins. I did this mini-workout in a nearby park or at Muscle Beach. Eder and Juliano used to do 15 sets each.
Novice bodybuilders should include at least one version of the floor dip in their workouts, usually as a finishing movement. Try doing one set of each of the three hand positions for as many reps as you can. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.
Leo Robert, a Mr. Universe winner back in the '50s, used to conclude his upper-body workouts with 10 sets of parallel bar dips. He was renowned for his fabulous torso development, which he credited, in part, to dipping movements. You can build a more massive, shapely and muscular upper-body by including one or more of these dipping exercises in your training. Believe me, they work.