I think one of the best upper-body movements you can do in terms of both strength and aesthetics is dips.
There are many variations of this exercise covering the most basic levels to the extremely advanced.
In this article I would like to discuss these movements in further detail and how you can include them into your training.
If you are new to the movement, I would suggest to start out with bench dips.
Bench dips are a good “primer” movement to introduce you to dipping, but also can later be used as a finishing movement in advanced workouts.
Mileage will vary in progression with these due to factors of relative strength, body weight, body composition etc. but they are a great basic, compound movement.
Generally I would suggest that once you can perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions of bench dips you can advance to parallel bar dips. (some do like to continue with this movement by adding resistance via weight plates on your lap while doing the exercise.)
Parallel bar dips will add slabs of muscle to your upper arms and deltoids.
Again depending on the trainee this exercise can be performed with your own body weight or with added resistance by strapping a chain and plates or a dumbbell to your weightlifting belt.
Once you are able to comfortably perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions with your own body weight it may be time to think about adding resistance as mentioned above.
A great way to progress at this point would be to include straight-bar dips. In my opinion this would be the first step into the advanced dipping movements.
With straight-bar dips you have to control your body’s tendency to swing due to gravity making the movement much more difficult i.e. much more effective. 😀
Grip can be altered for muscle focus—if you want to accentuate your chest go wider, if you want to emphasize your triceps keep the hands closer.
As you can see there are many variations of this great and productive exercise.
In part two of this series we will delve into even more advanced forms of dipping for even more strength, function and aesthetics.