Programming For Weighted Dips
If it isn’t blatantly obvious from story posts I’ve made, I really like weighted dips. Official Bro Science University conducted research has shown that there is a direct correlation to being jacked and being able to rep out multiple plates on weighted dips. But in seriousness, we see a lot of the top lifters and strongest benchers hitting some pretty impressive sets on weighted dips. And as I have posted some of my athlete’s weighted dip accomplishments, I have gotten a lot of messages on how I program them, to the point where I felt it must be a larger question people want answered through a more encompassing informative post.
As far as I know, I do program weighted dips in a slightly different way than most. I have found great benefit in having a low rep top set (3-5 reps) to precede rep work (6-12 reps). Unlike with what I see on something like dumbbell bench press or machine chest press, with weight dips (or weighted pull-ups) I find there to be a pretty notable potentiation effect from doing a heavy set prior to rep work. Doing this with other types of pressing accessory work seems to induce too much fatigue to see the potentiation effect. But with weighted dips, I find that people are able to handle higher absolute loads on their rep work if it is preceded by a heavier top set. I also find that people generally underestimate their strength capabilities on weighted dips, and when just prescribing rep work alone, they tend to pick a load they can seemingly manage through multiple sets, rather than prioritizing load progression week to week. And the fact is many powerlifters would be fairly surprised just how much they can rep out on weighted dips once they prioritize load progression. So the model of a heavy low rep top set followed by rep work has produced more consistent results than other strategies I have implemented.
As can be seen in the graphics above (CLICK HERE), it is a fairly simple set up. I program a top set in the 3-5 rep range near failure, followed by 2 to 3 sets in the 6-12 rep range where load can be adjusted each set to stay around 2 reps short of failure. Likely earlier in the block, the lifter will start out more conservative, staying a little further from failure, so that they have room to progress and overload through the block as adaptations occur. The progression block to block follows a very standard periodized model, and once those 3 blocks are complete, either it’s time to cycle out weighted dips and rotate a new accessory in, or I just cycle back to block 1 and reset the progression and aim to beat previous numbers through the same cycle again.
As for when to program weighted dips within a microcycle, the main thing that needs to be understood is that they have a higher fatigue cost than something like a machine press for most lifters. You will need time to recover, so strategically you want to place them where you have ample time to recover from. It is hard to give a full encompassing example of where they should be placed, because it depends on each lifter and how their bench microcycle is set up. But the majority of lifters are going to be best suited to either have weighted dips programmed on their primary or secondary bench days, where stress is already high and likely is set up to have ample recovery afterwards.
Lastly, weighted dips are not for everyone. For some it tends to cause excessive fatigue that leaks into their competition bench. For others I have found weighted dips, likely due to their anthropometry, is just a bit too hard on their shoulders. For others though, I have seen a direct correlation to bench progress when their weighted dip strength is drastically increasing, and it may be the only accessory movement I can say that for in regards to bench press. I want to keep from giving too many broad generalizations on who weighted dips works best for, because honestly they could be a good fit for just about anyone, but if I had to give 3 main characteristics of lifters who respond best it would be…..
-Lifters with a more normalized range of motion on bench press.
-Lifters who have a bench frequency of 4 or less days, in particular those who bench 2-3 days a week.
-Lifters who need to prioritize gaining upper body muscle mass.