The latissimus dorsi are the largest muscle group in the upper body and probably hold the greatest growth potential. Their development however, is hindered by the fact that they cannot be trained directly. You need to utilise the arms to exercise them. The biceps therefore, being smaller and weaker, generally fatigue before the lats do. Nevertheless chins are probably the superior exercise here for latisimus dorsi development.
The Upper Body Squat
For the front torso however, I believe that weighted dips overall are the most effective movement. You could say that they are the upper body squat. As we know, or at least should do, squats done using a full range of motion (at least to parallel )provide the greatest stimulation for leg growth. Indeed programs which include squatting performed appropriately usually result in progressive muscular gains in the legs the scale of which are not seen in other body parts. In addition squats precipitate systemic effects and carry over to size increases in the upper back and even the arms.
Weighted dips primarily develop your chest, triceps, shoulders and core muscles. When performed correctly, they can add pounds of muscle to your upper body and also improve your strength for other exercises such as bench presses and military presses. To ensure you obtain maximum benefit from your weighted dips, your technique must be optimal, and you should program them correctly in your training routine.
Former golden age bodybuilder, Vince Gironda effectionally known as the Iron Guru, was a huge proponent of dips for building muscle – to the extent that in his gym, he replaced the bench presses with dipping stations. Whilst his methods were sometimes deemed controversial I believe there was a logical rationale for this as he didn’t rate the bench press very highly at all, at least for pectoral development. Arnold Shwarzenegger also used weighted dips extensively.
Whilst weighted dips performed correctly always hit your chest, triceps and to a lesser degree the deltoids, the manner in which dips are performed will alter the way they engage these muscles. By adjusting the width of the grip and angle of the torso we can determine which muscles are then emphasised. Utilsing a narrow grip with an upright torso places increased emphasis on the triceps whilst a wider grip with weight shifted forward engages the chest to a greater degree.
Weighted dips when performed correctly (with the back of the upper arm parallel at the bottom of the movement) will build slabs of meat on the chest and massive triceps.
Huge pecs have been built by doing weighted dips. When performed in the 8 to 12 rep range in this writer’s opinion are superior to the bench press for chest development. As with squats half -arsed movements finishing above parallel do not cut it. They allow you to use more weight but the smaller range of motion negates the training effect.
When executing weighted dips the body should be lowered until the back of the upper arm is parallel to the floor. This range of motion is acceptable, and it is not necessary to go lower – in the same way that ass to grass squats are not a prerequisite to building huge legs, but going to parallel is.
I have previously built up to a few reps with bodyweight plus 85kg hanging from my waist. At this level of resistance the exercise can be felt throughout the entire upper body. However I believe that doing multiple sets with a weight which allows reps in the 8 to12 range is far more effective for hypertrophy.
In conclusion weighted dips are invaluable for putting pounds of muscle on your front torso and deserve to be a core component of your training program.