Parallel-Bar Dips: The Upper Body Squat

Nicholas Santana, Assistant News Editor



Photo by Nicholas Santana

Last issue, I covered some general, macro-level fitness information. This issue, I will discuss a particular, micro-level concern: that of the timelessly alluring and globally coveted upper-arms.

Men everywhere want strong, well-conditioned upper arms. Well-built biceps are universally attractive, for they convey thriving health and masculine dominance. Essential to the performance of an array of physical activities, they are a staple attribute of any athletic physique. Thus, many men take great pains to acquire them.

However, many honest trainees fall into the rut of performing exercises primarily for the bicep muscles, such as the curl. While they are not at fault in incorporating them into one’s overall regimen, they are mistaken in believing that such exercises are what really make the arms grow. In actuality, the biceps brachii comprises approximately 40% of the upper arm’s muscular mass. The other 60% is comprised of the triceps. Keeping this in mind, by increasing your triceps training exercises, you can maximize the sculpting effect to your upper arms.

There are a number of exercises you can employ to work the triceps, as well as many specialized, sophisticated pieces of equipment available to target them from all sorts of angles. While these can be useful, you can get lost in their variety and complexity and forget about the basics.

One such basic is an archaic exercise that requires very little in the way of equipment, the parallel-bar dip. Employed since Greco-Roman times and probably even before that, parallel-bar dips are a primitive but effective exercise. The results they bring are anything but primitive, and that is why they are still in use today. Observe any adult male gymnast and you will not only see strong, well-developed upper arms but a powerful chest and thick shoulders; dips are the reason why. Dips work the triceps, pectorals, and frontal deltoids simultaneously. More difficult and kinesthetically natural than the push up, they are equivalent to squats for the upper body.

So how should you perform the parallel-bar dip? Raise yourself up and lower yourself down – it’s no more complicated than that. And that is the beauty of it! The simplicity of execution allows for variations of technique: leaning forward or leaning back, legs raised or legs at rest, elbows tucked or elbows flared, and many more. Experiment with these and create new variations of your own. You can also vary your resistance by using weight attachments. You can turn a breezy set of thirty repetitions into a grueling set of three by increasing the weight as you raise and lower yourself. If you cannot perform dips with your own body weight, have a spotter aid in the movement by carrying your ankles, or perform them on a specialized “dip-machine” that provides a counterweight. 
With parallel-bar dips, you can’t go wrong. You have a panoply of options to vary your upper arm-building routine, and by focusing on your triceps; you will build the arms you’ve always wanted. Make this exercise a staple of your workout-routine and the results will be as timeless as the exercise itself.