Before I began weight training, I established a foundation for muscular development with bodyweight exercises at a local park. I exercised in the early mornings at Saint Michael’s Park in Woodside, Queens, New York from the time that I was 11 years old until I was 16. I incorporated exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, bleacher-climbs, knee-raises, leg-raises, hurdles, hanging reverse crunches from the monkey bars, and an array of other exercises as well. One exercise that gave me the foundation for incredible pectoral development was parallel bar dips. Because of the movement’s resistance stretching of the pectorals from origin to insertion, over time the exercise creates a fullness of the chest muscles that no other exercise can do. The pulling of the fibers from the sternum builds an inner pectoral thickness that provides a unique flexion and strength that later complements power movements such as bench press in all its variations. It also adds strength and depth to exercises such as dumbbell and cable flyes and cable crossovers. The exercise also creates deeper striations out from the sternum and through the center of the pectoral separation. It gives a deeper line straight through the center of the pecs. Franco Columbu probably displayed the best-ever example of this, and he and Arnold Schwarzenegger regularly incorporated dips into their chest workouts. I greatly recommend adding a few sets of dips to your chest routine. If anyone is just beginning to exercise, dips and other bodyweight exercises will help you to build a strong foundation for your muscles, tendons, and ligaments prior to venturing into the weight room.
The forearms should remain completely perpendicular to the parallel bar as the exercise is performed. The head and chest should be angled forward, and the feet should be behind your body, bent at the knees. The depth of the dip can vary upon one’s shoulder flexibility, but it is preferable to sink as deep as possible to pull the pectoral muscles from the sternum. Achieving full flexion of the triceps is fine if you’re using the exercise for triceps as well but is not necessary for the chest development. For chest development, a slight bend may remain in the elbows.
Dips primarily engage the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps brachii. A secondary engagement of the latissimus dorsi, brachialis, and anconeus also occurs in the exercise.
Arnold and Franco performed dips as part of their chest workout. If you Google images of both bodybuilding legends, you will note the depth and positioning of Arnold’s pectorals, especially the way the chest muscles are pulling from his sternum. Franco’s deep chest striation that I mentioned is visible as he is performing the movement.
As dips are mastered, weight resistance can be added with a weight belt using a dumbbell or plate. It is often the most basic of exercises that bring the greatest results. As you perform this mechanically simple exercise, be aware of your body and feel the muscles which are being engaged. The results over time will be a fullness of the pectoral muscles that might just make your pecs your best aesthetic feature!