Parallel Bar Dip
By Ryan Unverzagt
Welcome to another edition of From the Trainer! This month’s exercise is the Parallel Bar Dip. As I have mentioned in previous columns, body weight training can be just as effective as using dumbbells and weight plates for resistance. The dip is as “old school” as jumping jacks, sit-ups, pushups, and chin-ups. Several versions of the dips exercise include seated on a machine, triceps dips off the edge of a bench or chair, or utilizing weight plates for added resistance by either using a belt with a chain or on the lap using two flat benches.
With the parallel bar dips, the bars should be about shoulder-width apart. This width will target the lower chest, front of the shoulders, and the triceps. The narrower the width, the more triceps and shoulders are involved. Figure 1 shows the start and finish position. Ideally, the bar height will allow you to lower your body so that the elbows are at 90 degrees without your feet touching the floor. If not, just bend the knees so that your feet are behind you. I like to cross the lower legs, but this is not necessary.
Most parallel bars are part of a station that you can perform multiple body-weight exercises that include parallel “steps” that help you get set for the start without having to jump up into position.
At the top, your arms are straight supporting your body weight through the hands. As you lower yourself, lean forward to make the chest muscles perform most of the work. The shoulder blades should come together as the elbows reaches 90 degrees (figure 2). Push yourself back to the top without pausing at the bottom. Going down should be a little slower pace than pushing up. Try two sets of 10 reps initially, and then add either another set or more reps. If your own body weight is too difficult, have a partner spot you by grabbing your feet to assist you during the exercise.
The dip exercise is a great stand-alone exercise or as an addition to any chest or triceps routine. Enjoy its benefits until I bring you another worthwhile exercise next month!