Building A Strong Upper Body With Just Dips And Pull-ups All you need to acquire a strong upper body are two exercises.

It’s funny how people often lose themselves looking for complex ways to get things done. Lifting weights is an incredibly simple task and it doesn’t take more than a year to understand the basics. If you have someone with experience who is willing to share his knowledge with you, it will take even less.

Pat Casey - the first man to bench press 600 lbs

Pat Casey – the first man to bench press 600 lbs

One of the best ways to stay away from unwanted problems is to stick to the basics. The more basic the exercise, the easier it is to track progress.

When it comes to upper body training there are two exercises that offer infinite progression – dips and pull-ups.


Dips work the pushing muscle – chest, triceps and front shoulders, while the pull-ups attack the back with more emphasis on the lats. Together they form an almost perfect upper body routine. You will rarely see someone who is good at doing dips and pull-ups and has a weak upper body.

The only lacking part would be the lower back which is not heavily worked during either of the exercises. Therefore, adding exercises such as deadlifts and lower back hyper-extensions is needed to strengthen the spinal erectors.

If you want to only do two specific upper body exercises, the dip and the pull-up are the perfect choice.

NattyOrNot.com recommends the following progression:

Without a doubt the majority of the population cannot do even a single dip or a pull-up. If you fall under that category, we recommend that you read the following articles.

The Most Complete Pull-up Tutorial On The Internet

Getting Your First Dip

Doing Your First Pull-Up As A Girl

Once you can do a few pull-ups and dips, you can follow many different routines to get your numbers up. One of the most popular ways is to do the ladders method which is described in the link below. However, there are many other approaches as well.

Improve Your Pull-ups By Doing Ladders

The next progression is to add weight to your pull-ups and dips by using a weight vest or a belt. Unfortunately, far too many people add weight before they are ready for it.

There is no need to add weight unless you can do dips for 3 sets of 20 and pull-ups for 3 sets of 15. This approach will allow you to condition your joints before attempting heavy weights.

Such high numbers may surprise those of you who are used to watching the “get ripped quick” commercials, but in the long term building a base before adding additional weight will be very beneficial.

Somebody who puts some serious effort into dips and pull-ups will see faster results than the regular “brah“, reading Flex and looking for “the perfect exercise for upper chest muscles”.

For naturals such mindset is a waste of time. Just get your dips and pulling strength up. Leave the upper chest drama to the drama queens in walking around the gym in wife beaters.

Related article: Building Big Arms With Bodyweight Exercises

A special note on dips

Recommended articles: 

Fixing Shoulder Pain During Dips

How To Use The Dip As A Primary Chest Exercise

Unfortunately, some people will experience shoulder pain when doing dips. In that case you can replace dips with weighted push-ups. The push-up is also a solid pushing exercise, but you will need a weight vest or some sort of a weight system that allows you to add weight. Before adding weight make sure than you can do 3 sets of 20 push-ups with perfect form.

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