Q: I want to incorporate dips into my chest routine with the 10x muscle building method. How would that work, maybe assisted? I’ve just read that bench dips (for triceps) are bad for the shoulders. If that’s so, are bar dips bad too? Another question: Do decline bench presses really work only the lower pecs? It’s been said time and time again that you can’t work the upper and lower portions of the abs—it’s all one muscle. Why would the pecs be different? By the way, you’ve both been an inspiration to me. Keep up the good work.
A: Great questions. We appreciate your compliments regarding your confidence in our experience and recommendations. Now to the answers…
Some bodyweight exercises can be tricky with 10×10. For example, we found that with chins we have to use Vince Gironda’s 8×8* instead—and our reps still start tailing off on the last few sets (but still lots of soreness). You could try 8×8 on dips. If your reps tail off too soon, simply increase the rest between sets a bit—maybe to one minute. As you get stronger and more conditioned, you can gradually reduce the rest to 30 seconds.
Now about bench dips: Yes, they can traumatize your shoulders if you go down too low, as the arms are being forced up behind your back, awkwardly rotating the shoulder joint. If you go to the point at which your upper arms are parallel to the floor, or stop a little higher than that, you should be fine.
That goes for standard dips too; however, parallel-bar dips allow you to move more naturally, so going a bit lower than the point at which your upper arms are parallel to the ground shouldn’t hurt your shoulders. If you feel joint pain, however, reduce the range of motion. If it continues, find a new exercise; dips aren’t for you.
As for decline presses, they emphasize the lower-pec fibers but train the entire chest. There have been EMG studies that show the upper chest is very involved during declines. That’s why we classify it and wide-grip dips as the ultimate chest exercises in The Ultimate 10×10 Mass Workout—because they both train that torso muscle complex thoroughly. You can see it happening in this photo of Jonathan…
If you do only one chest exercise, a decline movement is best for most trainees, as the front delts are de-emphasized and the entire chest is activated to some degree. In our programs, we usually include incline work to further stress that stubborn upper area. As you mentioned, the abs are similar: Leg-raise-type exercises hit the entire rectus abdominis but emphasize the lower segment; crunches work the entire muscle as well but emphasize the upper area.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
*For more on the Iron Guru’s 8×8 method and much more, grab a copy of Vince Gironda: Legend & Myth. It’s a big 330-page anthology of all of his training methods, unique exercises, carb cycling and other diet principles. There are also a few freebie e-books, like his complete 8×8 system. See it HERE.