The bench press is often called the king of upper body exercises, but that’s not true. Yes, it’s a great compound movement that works most of the muscles in your upper body, but it doesn’t really do the work. Barbell squats are called the king of lower body exercises and this is true, while the leg press is also executed. Why? For the same reason, the bench press takes a backseat to parallel bar dips.
What Makes Parallel Bar Dips Superior? First of all, parallel bar dips are a balance exercise with just your hands for support, just like barbell squats with just your feet for support.
Second, your entire upper body must work together to stabilize as your arms go from straight arm to full flexion and back up again, just like in barbell squats, except the arms Barbell squats force your entire body to move, making it superior in that respect. .
Third, the extreme range of motion possible with parallel bar dips cannot be matched by the bench press, even the dumbbell version, which carries a higher risk of injury because you’re trying to control two heavy dumbbells when you start to press. get tired and start to lose control of two independent weights. . Parallel dips mimic barbell squats in their vertical path, the extreme extension results in the highest degree of stretch possible and provides the greatest potential for full range of motion development. This is a very important aspect when choosing any exercise, stretching being as important as contraction.
Fourth, parallel bar dips are one of the few multi-joint exercises that retain tension in the muscles involved in the movement from extension to lockout—yes, I said lockout. Like barbell squats on lockout, the upper and lower arm bones lock out like the upper and lower leg bones, but unlike the knee joint where you can lock out and hold the weight, even resting for a few more reps, the triceps muscles cannot rest when the arms are locked out when doing parallel bar dips like they are when bench pressing.
Because the body is suspended over the hands and the forward pull of this position, the triceps must fight to keep the elbows locked out. Also, unlike the bench press, the pecs can never rest, even on lockout they contract hard to prevent you from falling forward. The heads of the front and side delts are working through the full range and lockout. The amount of muscle fiber stimulation, continuous tension, time under tension, totality of muscle groups involved, extreme range, and extreme stretch make parallel bar dips the king of upper body exercises. of the body, a worthy equivalent of barbell squats.
To analyze the mechanics of parallel dips and compare them to barbell squats, triceps act as quads, biceps act as hamstrings, forearms act as calves, pecs act as glutes, delts act as hips, trapezius act as the lower back, abs, and spinal erectors act as stabilizers to keep the body still and maintain position, and the latissimus dorsi acts as a strong base to drive the upper arms, working with the triceps to move the arms into a straight arm position and help the triceps guide the body to the bottom position, acting like a tightening spring.
The trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and triceps work together to get the body out of the hole, and as the body rises, the delts and pecs take on larger roles, the pecs and trapezius work in unison, the latissimus dorsi holds the delts and triceps as they move into Lockout. A truly powerful move.
The strength potential possible with parallel bar dips is considerable, I myself have used over an additional hundred pounds strapped on me for reps. My brother at the top end of the possibility has parallel bar dipped for five full range reps with front delts touching hands at the bottom to lock out straight arm with two hundred five pounds of additional weight strapped to him at a body weight of one hundred ninety pounds, quite a sight to behold.
As with any exercise, good form is vital to avoiding injury and ensuring full development, especially with an exercise like the parallel bar dip. Trust me, you can’t fake heavy dives, they’ll kick your ass and quickly show you who’s boss. This is a true power exercise and one that must be respected, you must have total focus at all times, no room for daydreaming or sloppy form, falling to the bottom position and if you are going to do partial reps, staying close to the upper part of the movement so you can handle some big weights, you are wasting your time and have lost all the point of doing this movement.
Let’s quickly review the execution of the movement, starting with your arms locked out, supporting your weight, with your hands gripping two bars about two feet apart and at a height where your bent knees are off the floor at the bottom of the movement, Focus fully on staying still and lowering yourself down by bending your arms in a slow, controlled manner, keeping them close to your sides, feeling your muscles contract like a spring until you gently come to a stop with your hands in contact with your front delts with your arms bent as far. as they can bend, feeling the stretch in the pecs and then holding tight, begin to push yourself up, not bouncing off the bottom and keeping the body as still as possible until the straight arm lockout.
Don’t allow your elbows to snap into lockout or pop out of lockout on the downside of the movement, if you’re doing this you’re using too much additional weight and you have no weight control.
You may also have heard that there are two ways to do parallel bar dips, leaning forward for the pecs and keeping your body as vertical as possible for the triceps. It’s best to do parallel bar dips in a natural neutral position that feels comfortable and is easy to maintain.
Doing parallel bar dips with excessive forward lean puts negative stress on the elbows and front delts, as well as the rotor sleeves.
Doing parallel bar dips with a straight up and down position is difficult to maintain as the reps get more difficult, as well as the fact that the muscles have enough to deal with to balance on the hands while it is moving.
If you want to focus on the triceps more than the pecs, bench dips are a far superior option as they actually position the upper body in front of the arms, transfer more tension to the triceps, make it easy to maintain position so you can focus all your attention on triceps action while still getting the benefits of extreme range of motion, superior triceps and pectoral stretch, improved shoulder joint mobility even beyond dips regular parallel bar bars and continuous tension, though it made the lock easier to hold, so no need to linger on the lock.
Parallel bar dips fit nicely into any part of a routine, if you use them early on you could do a lot worse than parallel bar dips and dumbbell crossover bench pullovers to increase the size and power of your pecs, deltoids and triceps in a simple basic mass format.
Performed at the end of the chest portion of your workout, parallel bar dips can push the chest and delts hard when more isolated exercises are employed beforehand.
Performed at the end of the triceps portion of your workout, your chest, shoulders, lats, and traps can push your triceps to greater size and development.
If I could only do two upper body exercises, I would choose the shoulder width under chin grip and parallel bar dips, the upper body squat.