Pull Ups and Dips: The Keys to The Ultimate Upper Body

November 23, 2020 / Exercise
Pull Ups and Dips: The Keys to The Ultimate Upper Body

“You mean to tell me I can get absolutely shredded with just my own bodyweight?”


One unanimous misconception in the fitness world is that you need big, heavy weights in order to put on some serious muscle. And while it’s true that lifting more massive weights leads to greater overall muscle mass, calisthenics may find their place in your workout program. Calisthenics is the physical training method that utilizes one’s own bodyweight, using minimal equipment. Exercises like pull ups, dips, pushups, and air squats all fall under this.

But how exactly are pull ups and dips the keys to the ultimate body? Keep reading to find out.

Pull ups and Dips = Aesthetic Physique?

While most of us dream of recreating the likes of mass monsters a la Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler, our genetics simply hold us back from doing so. Genetics plays a key role in dictating how much muscle we can put on, and it’s often too strong a force to overcome. So, instead of aiming for a pipe dream of becoming massively muscular, why not go for an aesthetic physique? 

Famous bodybuilders Sergio Oliva and Frank Zane are fantastic examples of an aesthetic physique, akin to a Greek god. They have that well-defined natural physique with broad shoulders, a solid square chest, ripped arms, slim waist, and minimal body fat.

Man Doing Pull Ups Workout

The Ultimate Upper-Body Tools

It comes as no surprise that most men and some women put a large sum of their time building their upper body. Aside from the aesthetic element of it, having a strong and well-built upper body makes everyday tasks easier and even improves your performance in virtually all sports. Two exercises that are particularly effective in building your upper body strength and muscle definition are the pull up and the dip. 

Target multiple muscle groups

pull ups and dips are both fantastic exercises in their own right. They’re both compound movements, activating a multitude of muscles at the same time. And because they both utilize a person’s own bodyweight, these exercises scale in difficulty, no matter the skill level. 

pull ups work the posterior chain muscles, especially the latissimus dorsi (lats). This exercise involves hanging from a bar with a grip a little wider than shoulder-width and literally pulling yourself up to meet that bar. Along with the lats, you will be activating your biceps, core, traps, rear delts, and forearms. 

On the other hand, dips primarily work the anterior chain muscles, specifically your chest, triceps, rear delts, and the back’s rhomboid muscles.

Extremely scalable

No matter your skill level, you will be able to do some form of a pull up or a dip. The wonder of calisthenics is that you can do a variety of progressions to move up the skill ladder. Whether you’re a total newbie or an experienced calisthenic practitioner, there’s an exercise for you. Progressions are the exercises you should master before moving on to do more difficult movements. Even when you’ve “mastered” the pull up and dip, there are scaled-up and weighted variations meant to increase the difficulty of the movement. So, whatever your starting point, you are sure to see marginal to significant improvements. 

How to do a pull up

If you can’t do a proper pull up yet, don’t worry. We recommend practicing progressions before moving on to the real deal. 

Here’s the step-by-step guide in performing a pull up:

  1. Start by hanging from a bar with your grip a bit wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Pull your shoulders back and down to engage your scapula.
  3. Pull yourself up until your chin meets the bar, and your elbows are kept tucked close to your lats. 
  4. Squeeze your lats at the top of the movement.
  5. Control your descent, keeping your body tight.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

How to do a dip

Similar to the pull up, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t perform a dip for the first time. Try these progressions out first, and once you master them, move on to an actual dip. 

Here’s how to do a dip with proper form:

  1. Grab the parallel bars with both hands and jump up, extending both arms fully with elbows locked. This is the starting position for every dip. 
  2. Slowly lower your body by leaning forward until your shoulders are lower than your elbows.
  3. You should keep your core tight while keeping your elbows close to your body throughout the whole movement. 
  4. Push yourself back up by straightening your arms, returning to the starting position with elbows fully locked.

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Terrence Tan Ting Author for Legalsteroids.com

About The Author

Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.