Oh Dip!

Dips with feet on the ground (Phase One)

Dips with feet on the ground (Phase One)

Dips are a great exercise that you can do with just your body weight and minimal equipment. Doing dips will work your triceps, shoulders, chest, and just like most body weight exercises, your core. Unless you have a serious shoulder problem, dips ought to be part of your regimen.

Phase One

If you’ve never done a dip before, the best way to start is with your feet on the ground and your hands on a ledge or bench. Try not to bend your knees or lose your posture as you lower yourself downward. When your elbows get to a 90 degree angle, push yourself back up and repeat.

Phase Two

If phase one is easy for you, try performing dips with your hands on a bench and then put your feet onto another bench. The two benches should be of roughly equal height. Putting your feet up gives you less leverage, which means more work for your muscles.

Parallel bars (Phase Three)

Parallel bars (Phase Three)

Phase Three
If you are able to perform more than 20 reps of phase two dips with relative ease then you are ready to try dipping with your legs in the air. Typically this is done by holding onto a pair of parallel bars. A dip station is a pretty standard piece that any gym ought to have. (If your current gym doesn’t have a dip station, you might want to start shopping around for a new gym!)

Most men will be able to progress to phase three relatively quickly. It is generally a much longer process for women, due to the fact that women are born with less natural upper body strength than men. This is not me being sexist, ladies–it’s just biology!

Having fun with one arm dips!

Having fun with one arm dips!

Trainer Tips
If you are having a hard time with parallel bar dips, one way to practice towards doing them is to have a trainer (or other qualified spotter) give you assistance by holding onto your ankles in order to help you stabilize. Just make sure that your trainer isn’t doing too much of the work for you!

When you start to get really good at these, you can add an additional challenge by wearing a weighted vest or wearing a special belt that you can hang weights from. Dips can also be done with one arm!

Editor’s note: Check out this more recent post for more tricep dip variations.

Australian Pull-ups

Note: This is an old post. Make sure to check out my updated post on Australian pull-ups.

Australian Pull-up

The pull-up is one of the all time greatest exercises that mankind has discovered. Just like the other classics, the pull-up can be modified in an infinite amount of ways.

One of my favorite variations is what’s often referred to as an Australian pull-up. This variation involves hanging below a bar that is set just above waist height while keeping your heels in contact with the ground. You’ll wind up at an angle that’s closer to horizontal than vertical. The Australian pull-up is a great way to work up to doing a regular pull-up if you aren’t strong enough to do one yet.

Even if you are strong enough to do lots of pull-ups, the Australian pull-up is still worth putting into your routine. It puts a little more emphasis on the rear delts and the muscles of your middle-back; muscles that may not be getting completely and thoroughly worked with regular pull-ups alone. For those of you who are more advanced, try doing them as a superset right after a set of regular pull-ups. This is a great way to work towards adding more reps to your pull-up total!

The Australian pull-up can be done on a Smith machine (as pictured) or any bar that is about waist height as long as it is securely in place. The Smith machine is great for this exercise because it is adjustable (the higher the bar the easier it will be–so start high if you’re first learning) and secure. You can get creative with finding cool places to practice these and all types of pull-ups, just stay mindful of your safety.

Click the link to read about the ONE ARM Australian Pull-up!

Bodyweight Training: All You Need is You!

Hard as it may be to believe nowadays, there was a time long before gyms existed and there were still people in great shape. It’s actually a bit ironic that modern conveniences have been partially responsible for our current society’s need to have gym facilities in the first place.

In older times (and also in certain cultures in our present time), people were more active than the average American is in the 21st century. They stayed fit without ever getting on a elliptical trainer. There are methods of getting in shape that have been around a lot longer than gyms and there are lots of exercises that require very little or no equipment. I bet you’ve already even done a lot them.

The push-up is probably the best and most classic example of an exercise that requires nothing but your body. This one exercise alone can make a noticeable change to your chest, shoulders, and arms. There are endless ways to vary it up as well. Putting your feet up on a wall at an angle will make them harder because you are putting more weight on your arms. You are changing your position and therefore you have less leverage. You can gradually progress to walking your feet up the wall all the way until you wind up doing handstand push-ups!

On the other side of it, if you keep your feet on the floor and walk your hands up on to a ledge, step, or any other sturdy surface that is higher than the floor, you can give yourself better leverage. This is a good technique to use in order to train towards doing one armed push-ups. By doing a one armed push-up on an angle you can get better at the technique and gradually build towards doing them on the floor. Experiment with different variations on the push-up and it can stay fresh and challenging for you.

and chin-ups are also among the best exercises for building the upper body and they require very little equipment. If you don’t have a pull-up bar then try to find a park or playground with monkey bars. I love to take my workouts to the park when the weather is nice. I find it beats working out at the gym by a landslide.

Squats and Lunges are two of the best exercises for your legs. While these are great exercises to perform with weights, they can also be very effective with just your body weight. Even if you have strong legs, doing an endurance workout with hundreds of bodyweight squats and lunges can lead to you having a hard time getting up out of a chair the next day. Taking squats and lunges and turning them into plyometric exercises is another great way to add a new challenge with no equipment. All you need to do is jump on your way up and then land right into the lowering phase of the next rep. Repeat until your legs are quivering and your heart feels like it’s going to explode. Then rest and repeat. Or go into another set of push-ups while you wait for your legs to recover. Of course, squats can be performed with one leg as well–and this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Your creativity is the only limit to finding ways to vary these fundamental exercises. Experiment for yourself and don’t feel the need to conform to the limits of conventional methods. Finding new challenges and adding different variations is one of the keys to success in the world of fitness.

Check out my video about push-ups!

Rainy Day Running

It’s been raining a lot lately here in NYC. With the marathon looming two weeks away it’s got me thinking about what it would be like to have to run it on a day like today. This past spring I ran in the NYRR Scotland Run. It was a miserable rainy day like today but I gave it my all–and at least I got this great souvenir photo out of it!

Scotland run 09