Pictured here, the triceps dip/pull-up assist machine offers two compound exercises that work all of the major muscle groups of the upper body. Some days, when I have a run planned but I need to get in some quick upper body work, I do just two or three sets of dips and pull-ups and that’s all I need. It only takes 10-15 minutes to get a complete upper body workout on this machine!
If you’ve seen this monster lurking in a corner of your gym’s weight room and been too intimidated to approach it, you shouldn’t be! It’s one of the easiest pieces of equipment to use, and safe for nearly everyone.
You begin by putting the selector pin in the hole for the amount of weight you want the machine to subtract from your body weight–that’s why it’s called the pull-up/dip “assist” machine. The numbers on the plates represent multiples of 10 pounds, so selecting 6 will make you 60 pounds lighter, for example. If it’s your first time using the machine, pick a high number, like 9, 10 or even 12 or 15, depending on your body weight. You’ll want to do a few repetitions at a very light weight to get used to the machine and to see where you’re at in terms of upper body strength.
To perform pull-ups/chin-ups, stand on the foot rests and grasp the overhead bar, with a wide overhand grip for pull-ups, and with a narrow underhand grip for chin-ups. (Pull-ups will work your latissimus dorsi a bit more, and chin-ups will target your biceps a bit more, and chin-ups may be just a bit easier for you.) Next, kneel on the knee pad. When you do, the knee pad should drop slightly (if it doesn’t you’ve selected a weight that is greater than your body weight). From a hanging position, try pulling yourself up until your chin is just above the overhead bar. If you can’t pull yourself up, put your feet back on the foot rests and move the pin to a higher number on the weight stack, so that you are pulling less of your own body weight.
For triceps dips, the method is the same, except that you’ll begin by gripping the lower set of handles near your hips, palms facing toward you. When you kneel on the knee pad, you should be able to support your body weight easily with your elbows straight, but not locked. Slowly lower yourself until your elbows are bent about 90 degrees, then press yourself back up. If you can’t press yourself back up, don’t worry, just step one foot off the knee pad onto a foot rest and stand up. The knee pad will return to it’s original position and you can increase the level of assistance by selecting a higher number on the weight stack.
For the triceps dips, it’s important that you don’t let your shoulders dip below your elbows and that your torso stays mostly upright. If you find that you are leaning far forward, the weight is a bit too heavy for you, so try moving the pin down one or two notches.
I wanted to share one last thing with you today: If you’re having trouble convincing yourself to go to the gym or to do your home workout, read this post by Leo Babauta on his blog, Zen Habits. It’s a great reminder of why we should all be exercising daily, and what we can tell ourselves when we don’t feel like it.
Well, I’m off to the gym now to do some pull-up and dip assists. Maybe I’ll see you there!