Weighted Dips with Knee Flexion Barbell Loading: Why and How
Dr. Joel Seedman
As most of you know, the two leg positions I most commonly advocate during pullups are either the straight leg dorsiflexion position or 90 degree knee flexion position. That’s because they help to promote optimal body mechanics from head to toe particularly when performed in a loaded fashion. The same is true of dips.
One of my favorite variations of weighted knee flexion dips and also the most challenging is the barbell variation. Similar to the dorsiflexion version involving the barbell, there is literally no room for cheating, excessive momentum, twisting, or body shifting. Any deviations in form or technical breakdown and the bar will tilt or fall off the legs. In addition the lifter will have to keep a strict 90-degree knee bend with the legs glued tightly together from the knees to the ankles. This absolutely crushes the hamstrings and posterior chain more so than most direct hamstring exercises.
You’ll also be required to dorsiflex your ankles and feet (one of the most underrated components of proper body mechanics and performance) to angle your legs in such a way that keeps the heels at the same height as the knees. If you go into plantar flexion, lose ankle positioning, or begin driving your knees forward even slightly, the bar will roll off your calves. In other words no kipping. This requires a very high level of motor control from head to toe while simultaneously exposing even the slightest imbalance or misalignment.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with using the typical bent leg position during dips, the way it’s commonly incorporated by most lifters often contributes to lethargic muscle activation particularly if the lifter does not keep the lower body tight and rigid. This often manifests itself in a sloppy half-bent, crossed-leg position where the lower body is practically dormant and void of any significant muscle recruitment. This disconnect of the lower body promotes energy leaks and lethargic activation patterns up the kinetic chain, ultimately compromising force production and torque in the upper extremities. The knee flexion loaded dip resolves this issue almost entirely.
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