I'm a new lifter about two months into Starting Strength. Recently I bought myself a dip tower so I could add some chin-up/pull-up accessory work. My gym buddy mentioned that potentially I may be wasting my time with this and that my gains are coming from heavy weights and body workouts aren't going to really contribute anything for me.

Is there any truth to this?

  • 2
    Short answer: dips are cool, but doing anything other than the program will impact your gains. I'll pull the relevant quotes from the book later, assuming no one else answers.
    – VPeric
    Aug 4, 2012 at 7:50

3 Answers 3


Rippetoe says:

Any supplemental exercises other than chip-ups must be chosen very carefully so as to not interfere with progress on [the main 5 lifts].", and "If progress is being made on the primary exercises, you are getting stronger and your objective is being accomplished. If in doubt, leave it out.

So, you're friend is correct, in general, but not about chin-ups/pull-ups. Chin-ups/pull-ups are the only accessory lifts that are explicitly programmed into Starting Strength (3rd Edition).

If you can't do many chin-ups, your press and bench press will increase as you get stronger on this very important exercise. And that is why it is the only ancillary exercise included in the novice program.

Rippetoe also has a lot of good things to say about dips: good substitute for bench during injury, the best exercise for targeting lower pecs and triceps (better than decline bench), better than push-ups because they can be weighted. It's basically the closed kinetic chain partner of the bench press.

You bought a very useful piece of equipment.


There's no rule preventing you from doing pull ups with weights. You can get a belt to attach weight plates too. Works the same as any other lift, except the baseline is your bodyweight instead of 45lbs for the Olympic bar.

  • But - is it hurting my starting strength gains? Is it even contributing anything?
    – Michael A
    Aug 4, 2012 at 8:31
  • 2
    Pull ups balance out overhead presses, so it's definitely contributing to strength gains. The worst that could happen if you're not adding weights is you're not making any additional strength gains, but pull ups aren't easy, and doing work that isn't easy won't hurt your strength gains. My only concern is if you're not adding weight, you're eventually only able to add progressive overload for endurance, and that gets tedious after a while.
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 4, 2012 at 20:37

If you want to do pull-ups and chin-ups, then do another variant of the various Starting Strength programs that includes them. Otherwise you're not doing the program, which means you will more quickly cease being able to progress.

Heavy squats are hard. Chin-ups done properly are hard. Power cleans should be hard. If you have energy to do extra work on Starting Strength, wait. In a few weeks you won't. Starting Strength gets heavy and challenging very quickly, and sticking with your progression in the face of that challenge is an enormous factor in how strong you get.

Chin-ups, dips, and bodyweight exercises are awesome. They can get people very strong. But being consistent and sticking to your selected program is more important than what exercises you pick.

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