T Nation

Confused About Strength


Lifting Experience: 1 year moderate, last 6 months - more intense(pushing myself to the limit)

6'3" 205 lbs

Two question:

1) how to strengthen triceps? As a tall guy with fairly long arms, I cannot perform an unassisted dip, but I can do 10-15 with <25 lbs of assistance.

Is this normal? I don't like to admit weakness because I work hard in the gym, but I'm very pissed off that I can't do a full Dip. I won't cop out and attribute it to my body type, but is it a factor?

2) My reps-

Deadlift - 300 lbs x 5 reps
Squat(not well) 180 lbs by 5 reps
Dumbbell Bench Press - 75 lbs by 5 reps

The main reason that I lift is strength and aesthetics. I lift high weight(for me), low reps to gain strength. I have noticed that 80% of the guys in the gym who lift less than I do still look more muscular than me.

Why is that?

3) I've considered the "elite" program that I read in a recent article on T-Nation since I will have free time all week during the morning and night as a student to lift. Should I consider this program, which involves 2 a days, sometimes 3x a week?

I've heard the two schools thought - lift 3x per week and rest OR lift 5x per week.


Leverages are a factor, but really, you are just not strong enough to do a dip. Get stronger.

Post your complete current program so we can see where the weaknesses (if any) are in it. The dip is a shoulder, chest and tricep exercise. If any of those areas are weak, it keeps you from performing the exercise.

Bringing up your bench press should make a dip possible.


For improving Dips, try slow, controlled negatives without assistance. Also, you could try decline, close-grip bench press.

I'm like you, 6'4", around 215 currently, and I still look skinny compared to some of the guys in my gym, but I move more weight around in my lifts. Don't worry about, just keep lifting and growing. We'll all catch up soon.


or the 4 day school of thought :slight_smile:


Good advice.

On the subject of strength....
The size of the muscle does not 100% correlate to the force the muslce can produce. In strength you also have other factors such as muslce density, neurological efficiency (the ability of your CNS to activate a greater % of muscle fibers to produce force), etc.

have u ever heard the saying, "The biggest guy is not always the strongest guy"

Take a look at these fellas:

Pyrros Dimas,
85kg bw, Clean & Jerking 215kg (thats 187 lbs bw, C&Jing 474lbs)

Eric Cressey
540 squat, 402 bench, 628 deadlift, 165-pound weight
(here is him Dlifting 600lbs)


On the dips you may be having trouble with core stability. If your body swaying a lot is giving you problems its a combination of a weak core and weak triceps. My suggestion would be to bang out as many unassisted dips as you can (even if its one or two, or just negatives) then finish them assisted. Make a goal of adding one or two reps to that unassisted dip each time.

Next I would focus on a core workout. Some great articles on this site if u look around. The core workouts will aslo help with your squats (as would a slightly wider stance, not a wide squat, just a little wider stance).

My last thing is that powerlifters are in a low rep high weight range and they look like staypuff marshmellow men. Body builders are in a higher rep, lighter (medium) weight range and look great. Think about that for a minute.

I dont know all the science behind it, but I do know they train differently. (I have friends at different levels in both) Try six week cycles (4 workouts a week) of each type of training. Go for power for six weeks, take a rest week, then go for hypertrophy.

Either way, focus on getting stronger and growing, dont get stuck lifting weights. In other words feel the muscle you want to work, dont load on extra weight and let other muscle groups cheat it up for you. Stick to your form, and listen to your muscles while you workout.
You could get caught up in a size v power debate for years.

But your body adapts quickly, you need to be switching up workouts, not just what you lift and how, but the number of workouts a week too. Poliquin has some great stuff to say about all that too. Good luck!


...the rest of the post is good.

But, dude, this is just dumb....


You weight 205lbs
Dumbbell Bench Press - 75 lbs by 5 reps

That's more the reason you can't do a dip than leverages.

How many quality pushups can you do?

How long have you been doing this low rep stuff and how often do you switch up to high rep?
There are some powerlifters out there who will never admit it but switch up and do higher reps. They just call it a warm up.


LoL. True in part.

PLers also do what are called RE (repetition effort) days, if they are doing the Westside style training, which may consist of high reps either done only for reps or for time. This is done for conditioning and mass building purposes, depending on what's needed by the lifter for fixing weaknesses.


Do you do barbell bench press as well? Waterbury and others on this site have mentioned that the arms respond best to heavy loads (he might have even touched on this in his most recent article). Most people can barbell bench more than they can dumbell bench, so that might be something to try to strengthen your triceps. Use a medium grip (just at center knurling).

Also, regular old close-grip pushups will work too. I like to do them by setting your hands with the index fingers and thumbs touching (make a sort of triangle or spade shape). Position yourself so that your chest is directly over your hands and touch your hands with your chest on the reps (all the way down!). Do a few sets with as many reps as you can and I guarantee your triceps will get stronger. Don't cheat - head up, back straight.


Some good advice given so far.

As far as building tricep strength, Carnak was right on the money that heavy pressing exercises (bench variations, especially close grip, overhead pressing variations, dips, etc...) are going to build the most overall strength and mass.

Don't get me wrong, pressdowns, french press, lying tricep extentions will all work the triceps as well. But you can only use a fraction of the weight on those exercises that you can on the compound ones. Thus your musculature is exposed to less load/stress.

For specifically working towards an unassisted dip... I think that Airtruth was quite right in his statement that your ability to DB bench only 180 lbs (2 75 lbs DB's) for 5 reps means that it is pretty much a strength issue and probably not so much a balance or form issue.

Someone also mentioned coach Poliquin. His article "Back to Basics, No More Geek Back Training" outlines a progression that he has used in the past with great success to help people be able to perform unassisted chins. I see no reason why it couldn't be adapted to helping someone to be able to perform unassisted dips as well.

Here is the article:


Hope this helps.

Good training,



Working my way up to Parallel Bar Dips (PBDs), I started with Bench Dips (BDs)at bodyweight to get my shoulder joints used to the motion. Then came BDs with added weight (barbell across my lap). Then weighted BD warm-ups + PBD negatives. Then PBDs.

Late in this process, I started Close-Grip Bench Press work. This improved my tricep strength substantially, I wish I'd started them much sooner. Even so, I still suggest using BDs (in combination with CGBPs) to work up to PBDs.


I don't know how many quality push-ups I can do, but I can do 25 diamond push-ups. I have been lifting low rep for quite some time(6 months).

As it's being reaffirmed on this site, it appears that I need to lift/eat well and continue to get stronger.


Maybe you need to work on your shoulders a bit more then, especially front deltoids. Have you been working on any shoulder/military press variations? Someone a bit further up mentioned that dips hit triceps, delts, and pecs. Whichever of those is weakest might be your limiting factor.

I find that when I go up in weight in shoulder press, this almost always corresponds to an increase in bench press, and the more I can bench, the better I am at dips. But that could be me making connections where there aren't any.

Anyway, hopefully you've got some stuff to try. Let us know how it works out for you.


I'm 6' with long limbs as well, so leverage has always worked against me....

First, I recommend reading this T-Nation article, "Why Lurch
Won't Grow (Tall Man Training)", by TC:


This is going way back, but after about 3 years of bb I hit a wall with my arm development, and was hovering around 18.5". And even though I had big Tris, my Bis always outpaced them by a bit, so they were my weak link. Long story short, I started doing weighted dips (bw+90lbs.), and within several months I broke the 19" barrier.

Now, 20 years later, after two shoulder dislocations, I feel uncomfortable doing dips. I've only just started rehabbing my shoulder with stretching and PT exercises using light weights for my rotators, etc. So, anyway, once again, my Tris are lagging a bit, in comparison with my Bis, so I came up with an exercise that gives me the same feeling and development potential as weighted Dips, but without the shoulder strain:

Using an overhead Cable, like the one you do Pulldowns with, attach about an 18" chain to the top coupling with a bar (preferably a cambered bar) attached to the other end, so that the bar itself hangs about halfway between your chest and your navel.

Then turn around, facing away from the bar, and take a shoulder-width grip on it, behind your back, and keep your elbows in tight, so that they are facing backwards. Basically, you should be able to stand on tiptoe to get your grip and start the movement. But once the triceps are under tension, you will be standing flatfooted. If this is not the case, adjust the chain length accordingly.

It's just a Tricep Pushdown, but done behind the back. It will help if you lean forward a little while performing the reps, pushing the weight pretty much down from the middle of your back to your butt.

It sounds like Bench Dip, but it is far less stressful to the shoulder joint, because the Bench Dip requires you to move on a forward angle, away from the bench. But if you have mounted the bar correctly with the Reverse Pushdown, you will be pushing the weight straight up and down, behind your back, using only your tripeps, if you keep your elbows pointing back.

Anyway, I haven't been able to find any other movement to duplicate the Tricep stimulation I get from these, and since it is a cable movement, if you aren't very strong at first, you can just use light weight and work your way up. Maybe, give them a try, and see what you think.....



Judging by your post I think I can see what may be a problem. You are way too strong at that weight to not be able to do 1 unassisted dip. Not that you are incredibly strong buy you are plenty strong enough to be able to dip your bodyweight.

You sound like someone who is extremely inflexible to me. The dips, your body has to feel comfortable with you putting your shoulders in a pretty comprimised position. Your body most likely does not. Judging by your numbers it would be wise to work on your shoulder flexibility, some reaching hands behind the back, some external rotator work etc...

Not saying that gaining strength isnt necessary, but something else is going on here... How are your pulling movements, pullups pulldowns etc...


I agree, and while I am not close to 6'3 i've my share of dip competitions with 6'3+ people and there leverages sure as hell didn't hinder their performance.

Maybe you should switch up and try to do 10 or 12 reps of 75lb dumbells, do you bench? Dumbells are great for building muscle, but bench will help you handle more weight also, specially in the beginning.

Keep doing those assisted dips but lower the weight every week, if you do 5'bs a week you will be doing them unassisted very soon.