T Nation

Programming in Dips and Chins



How do you program in Dips and Chins? And how do you view them? Why do some coaches view them as a primary exercise and not an accessory?


I think that more coaches see chins as a primary movement than dips. Probably because among pressing exercises, the bench or military press are above the dips in most coache’s hierarchy of exercises. Chins are really the only compound movement for vertical pulling that can live up to the name of “big lift” (lat pulldowns, rightfully so or not, are not seen as such even though they are technically a multi-joint exercise). Bent over rows/Pendlay rows would be higher in the hierarchy of many coaches, but since most view vertical pulling and horizontal pulling in different categories the still leave chin-ups one of the main lifts.

I personally do not rely heavily on chin-ups. The reason is that few people are strong enough on them to make it into a “big lift”… to me a “big lift” is something that you can train for strength with heavy loads.

To do that on chin-ups you need to bevery solid on them. Most people will do 6-10 reps with no weight and the quality of 1/3rd of these reps will be iffy at best.

If you are strong enough on chin-ups to add an extra 30-50lbs+ and do reps with perfect form and control, then yeah, they can become a “main lift”.


TY for the response. Ya I never got the Poliquin perspective on dips and chins. They are good for packing on mass and encouraging one to lose weight but having parameters around them made no sense.



You said that “most coaches” view vertical and horizontal pulling differently, in a way that makes it seem like you disagree. Care to elaborate?


I actually agree. I meant that not everybody agree on that (Poliquin was one of them).

Here is something from my Thibarmy page:


Nobody says it best than my good friend and all-around training genius Dr. John Rusin (used with permission):

“While the pull up and its many hand setup variations place a stretch on the lats and train in an overhead position, we often forget that this pattern places the shoulder into internal rotation under loading. While this is not inherently bad, this position, the volume placed upon it and the load should be monitored.

On the opposite side of pulling is the row pattern that allows the shoulder to stay in a more neutral position throughout a full range of motion while improving a synergistic lat and upper back targeted activation for better transferable training effects. This movement pattern also has the ability to extend the t-spine and shoulder posturing while being able to be programmed with heavy loads and higher volumes in a more pain-free way.”



To echo the preceding point by Dr.Rusin, I find it much smarter to think “mind-muscle connection” when it comes to vertical pulling (pull up variations, lat pulldown variations). I think that pretty much every strong coach will agree that a proper pull up is a great exercise. However, I don’t make it the foundation of mine or my clients’ workouts.

I only use the pull up and its variations if:

A. If the individual can feel the lats doing most of the work.

B. If the individual can do at least 8 dead hang pull ups with a 2 second hold at the top of the movement.

C. The individual has to have a need to become better at pull ups (army, law enforcement or fireman tests, Crossfit competitor)

Most people can’t feel their lats working properly when they do a pull up, mostly because they initiate the pull with the arms (remember the principle of first tension) instead of the lats.

If you don’t get a lat pump from doing pull ups, you need to work on improving your mind muscle connection before pursuing them.

When I program vertical pulling, I prefer to use lighter weights, a slower tempo and a squeeze at the peak contraction to really focus on having the lats do the work. I find that you can get a great back training effect that way while also preserving the shoulders.


I find that if I drop pull-ups for an extended period of time and I focus purely on rows (bb, db, chest supported, cable, etc) that when I come back to doing pull ups I can basically do almost the same amount first day back, but after 2-3 sessions, I blow past my old numbers.

It seems that row strength directly translates to improving my chin-up strength at least for me.

Is this something you’ve seen in other clients?


franco would agree with you https://youtu.be/I6_Gwyg9Bz8