A Dips and Pullups Regimen
The alpha male crowd would have you believe that your worth is determined by how many plates are clanging on the bar when you're squatting. Well, there probably isn't a guy out there who doesn't want to have a better squat, or the sick wheels that come with it. However, in all of the fuss about maxes and plate-hogging, mastering one's bodyweight in the gym has become a lost art.
Lonely pull-up bars and dip stations are like Kryptonite to the silverbacks roaming the gym, even though they provide huge muscle-building benefits. While we'd never discourage you from pursuing the aforementioned jaw-dropping weight loads, we think it's important that you become a complete lifter - one whose form is as functional as it is formidable. This mini-routine will help you do just that - no weight required.
It's one of the most gag-inspiring sights in the gym: some sweaty, if well-muscled super jock grunting his way through a heavy but sloppy, swinging set of lat pulldowns. Not only is he failing to isolate his lats but he is one tug away from a visit to the ER. To engage the lats from top to bottom, it's important to keep the elbows in line with the torso throughout the pull. This is part of the reason why so many shun the pull-up bar: years worth of bad training on the pulldown will not build strength in the proper, vertical range of motion. The pull-up also requires you to control your body on the negative and positive portions of each rep in order to avoid swinging, further adding a technicality that most lack on back day. But done right, the pull-up will help to correct bad habits at the pulldown station, swelling your lats to a width worth grunting about.
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BE A BODYWEIGHT BEAST
With both of these exercises, the best way to conquer them is to practice. Often. Try incorporating the following pull-up/dip routine into your regular split for six weeks, either as a substitute for your normal chest and back training or as an off-day skill practice at home. Each week, your goal is simply to reach the listed number of pull-ups and dips in a given workout. To keep the workouts short and to add a fat-burning element to things, you'll superset the two exercises. But since studies show that working antagonist muscle groups back-to-back shows that you'll be stronger on the second exercise, switch which one you lead off with from week to week. Rest 1-2 minutes between supersets.
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If you find that you are much stronger on one move or the other, try using a weight belt to increase the difficulty so that you keep your rep totals close on each superset. In other words, if you can do 15 dips but only 9 pull-ups, add 10-20 pounds using a dip belt or by holding a dumbbell between your feet.