Bodyweight only training is great when you have little-to-no equipment or very little room to train. But if you want to develop big powerful arms, shoulders, and an upper back, you’ll need to add more resistance than using bodyweight alone. Using a dip belt to get big by adding resistance on pull-ups and dipping exercises is the best way to overload your body for more progress.
How to Put on a Dip Belt
Harbinger makes one of the best dip belts on the market. I’ve been using a Harbinger for years now and I don’t see myself replacing it any time soon. Here’s a great video from them that breaks down the process of putting on a dip belt into very easy to follow steps.
The method described in the video is the way most people put on a dip belt. To make it a little easier, you can simply slip the chain through the center hole in the plate weight and clip the chain to the opposing ring.
This method requires a bit more balance because the belt can slip off down off your lower back if you’re not careful. The big benefit though is how easy this method is when removing the belt between sets. When you’re done with a set, simply slide the belt down off your waist and set the weight on the ground between your feet.
Using a Dip Belt for Dipping Movements
Think of dips as the big brother to standard pushups. Pushups are one of the go-to upper body moves in any bodyweight-only training routine. Dips are what you want to do when pushups aren’t doing enough anymore. You can get some serious overload training by using a dip belt to add resistance.
Dips are one of the best compound movements for building the chest and triceps. You can add all sorts of variety with unweighted dips, but you can get some serious strength progression by loading up the resistance by using a dip belt.
Chest Dips vs. Triceps Dips
You may not know that you can easily change the focus of the dip exercise from your chest and to your triceps by making a slight variation in your body position. While in position up on the dip stand, leaning your upper body slightly forward and flaring the elbows outward will cause your chest muscles to work harder at moving the body. Keeping the upper body upright with the elbows drawn inward will focus the resistance back onto the triceps.
Not understanding the difference between chest focused dips and triceps focused dips is one of the biggest mistakes people make when starting out with this exercise. When working through a set, you’ll even notice a slight lean forward or backward in the movement as you try to squeeze out extra reps.
If you feel your upper body moving out your intended position due to fatigue, stop the set. Forcing extra reps puts undue pressure on the shoulders and is one of the easiest ways to injure yourself on this exercise.
Using a Dip Belt for Pull Ups
The pull-up is one of greatest tests of real upper body strength. Performing a pull-up engages all the muscles of the upper back, shoulder, and arms to work in unison.
Depending on your hand position on the bar, you can change the focus of the movement to overload different muscles groups. An overhand grip will train the upper back and lats, while an underhand grip will change the focus to the biceps and middle back.
But let’s say pull-ups are a regular component of your upper body training program and bodyweight only has become a bit easy. Throw a weighted dip belt around your waist and you get instant progression.
You don’t even have to put on a big weight to make a difference. Start small with 5 lb or 10 lb weights and build up from there.
And if you haven’t been doing strict form pull ups, your body will tell you when you throw on a dip belt. The added weight around your midsection forces you to keep your body aligned and completely prevents any kipping or cheating in the movement.
To give you some perspective of how difficult pull-ups can be, the US Marine Corps Initial Strength Test (IST) only requires men to do 2 pull-ups and women to hold in the flexed-arm position for 15 seconds. This is all the Marines require to be considered fit enough to join.
That’s only the beginning though. From there, pull-ups are the go-to upper body exercise for all Marines. If the Marines (famous for strength and discipline) only require 2 pull ups to get in, then you can see how difficult pull-ups are for the average untrained person.
Other Ways to Use a Dip Belt
Believe it or not, you can also use a dip belt for building the lower body too. Many people with lower back issues can no longer do traditional barbell squats. You can go with heavy dumbbells, but then your weakest link is your grip strength. Dip belts are a great alternative because you can load up your squats without worrying about hand strength or the risks that come with traditional barbell squats.
You may be thinking to yourself that using a dip belt for squats might not allow for a full range of motion. You would be correct if you’re thinking about squatting with your feet on the ground. A good solution to this problem is to stand with your feet on separate wooden boxes. This allows you to break parallel and get a full range of motion in your dip belt squats.
When using a dip belt to get big, be sure to focus on slow progression over time. Get familiar with your equipment and know your belt’s weight capacity. When you train smart and eat right, the results you want will surely follow.