18 Week Chin Up & Dip Program For An Impressive Upper Body

18 Week Chin Up & Dip Program
Chin ups and dips are 2 overlooked but important bodyweight exercises. This 18 week workout protocol features a single training day dedicated to these movements.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Single Muscle Group
Beginner
4
Bodyweight, Other
Male & Female

Workout Description

What would you say if I told you that two moves could drastically change the way your upper body looks and feels?  What if I told you that those two moves have been around since the dawn of training and offer excellent results?

You would probably think it sounds like the standard fitness sales pitch.  But, what I am about to tell you is definitely 100% true.  Chin ups and dips are the keys to building a complete upper body.

Prioritizing Chins and Dips

In today’s get fit quick society, no one wants to put in the hard effort to become what they desire to become.  Many males desire to have a full and ripped upper body.  The problem is that many males want to take shortcuts to try to achieve that goal.

Lame workout design, too much volume, and avoiding progressive overload are the three biggest causes for concern.  The typical meathead routine of flat bench, incline bench, decline bench, horizontal machine press, dumbbell fly, and cable crossover all in the same day with a ridiculous amount of volume is not the answer for the complete upper body.

Chest Dips

When you add in way too many drop sets and forced reps into oblivion, you have the recipe for total disaster.  I know many folks who perform this routine weekly and have nothing but a wide, unsculpted chest to show for it.  It is absolutely appalling.

I love to study other disciplines in the world of athletics.  Every sport has a bodypart that stands out due to the training used in that field.  Sprinters have the greatest hamstrings and glutes on the planet.  Speed skaters and sprint cyclists have quads that put some bodybuilders to shame.  And male gymnasts have supreme, superhero like upper bodies! And from what I know these guys are doing a lot of upper body pushing and pulling namely a great, great amount of chinning and dipping variations.

In my opinion chins and dips are the ultimate moves for the upper body.  Chins and dips have always been a staple of my training but normally as part of a training session.  The new thought in my brain early last year was what if I dedicated a separate day to only chins and dips?  The mere thought of this had me fired up like Ray Lewis during the pre game.

The results were astounding.  I programmed the chins and dips into my training as a separate day and before I knew it, I had developed a thicker and fuller upper body.

Hitting chins and dips with heavy weight offset with high volume forced me to grow.  A thicker chest, a much wider back, and larger arms were all a result to this programming change.  The frequency of doing them as a separate day combined with my training protocols plus the progressive overload had my upper body growing like Rocky’s beard in Russia.

I also noticed that as my chins and dips became stronger, my other pressing and pulling moves were getting stronger too.  But enough about me because now it is time for you to grow.

Below I will outline a basic 18 week chin and dip protocol to get you going in the right direction.  And please remember this very important fact.  A lot of phony fads in the game today promise you some unbelievable results in a very limited block of time.  4 week abs, 60 days to a massive chest or similar gimmicks.  I am not about that and I do not stand for it.

Real results take time and effort.  What I will promise you is this though.  If you follow this chins and dips and protocol, you will be stronger and more muscular in your upper body at the end of 18 weeks.  I do not know how dramatic the results will be because everyone responds differently and everyone’s nutrition will be different.  But you will be better, believe that.

Chin UpsOverview

You will perform your chins and dips as a separate day each week for 18 weeks.  On that day you will only perform chins and dips.  The scheme will be a basic Legs-Push-Pull split.  Your training week will look like this:

  • Monday - Chins and Dips
  • Tuesday - Legs
  • Wednesday - Off
  • Thursday - Push
  • Friday - Pull
  • Saturday - Sprints or Off
  • Sunday - Off

The Training Scheme

You will need to purchase a dip belt so make that a priority and get one.  Remember, progressive overload is a very important key to making great gains.  We are not doing all the difficult movements that gymnasts perform daily so our challenge has to be adding more weight or working faster.

Once you can complete the whole day without a missed rep, it is time to move up in weight.  Doing bodyweight dips for 5×10 for three weeks makes you Anderson Average.  You do not want to be the run of the mill stagnant lifter.

For the first three weeks you will use a basic 5×5 training scheme for your chins and dips.  Remember with 5×5 you have two options.  You can increase the weight slightly each set, or use the same weight for each round even if it starts off as bodyweight.

For the second three weeks you will use more volume and use a basic 5×10 scheme.  Again you can increase the weight slightly each set, or use the same weight for each round even if it is bodyweight.  You will also be performing the moves as a superset but with a slightly longer rest than a typical superset.

For the 5×5, after you start with your chins, you will rest 1 minute before performing the dips and then rest 2 minutes before starting the rounds over again.  For the 5×10 you will rest 45 seconds before performing the dips and then rest 90 seconds before starting the rounds over again.

The third scheme of the phase will be performing the chins and dips RP-21 style with the 7×3 and 6×5 schemes.  Please refer to my article on RP-21 for a detailed explanation of RP-21.

  • Week 1-3 - 5×5 Chins and Dips, rest 1 minute between moves and 2 minutes between sets
  • Week 4-6 - 5×10 Chins and Dips, rest 30-45 seconds between moves and 60-90 seconds between sets
  • Week 7-9 - RP-21 Chins and Dips, use the 7×3 and the 6×5 scheme on the same day.  Perform the Chins 7×3, rest 2-3 minutes and then perform the Dips 7×3.  After the dips rest 2-3 more minutes before performing the 6×5 chins.  Rest 2-3 minutes and then perform the 6×5 dips.  Please refer to my RP-21 training scheme for the details of the 7×3 and 6×5 sets.
  • Week 10-12 - Repeat week 1-3, but with heavier loads
  • Week 13-15 - Repeat week 4-6, but with heavier loads
  • Week 16-18 - Repeat week 7-9, but with heavier loads

Conclusion

Simplicity is the key to life.  When things are made supremely complex, the natural human nature is to lose focus and eventually quit.  With this simple scheme here you can begin to improve your upper body.

Chins and dips are basic movements that are thee go-to movements for the upper body.  All you need to do is simply record your weights/reps and move forward.

Eat accordingly to your goal whether it is to lose fat or gain muscle mass.  And if you train hard enough, you too may develop that superhero upper body.  But also make sure you definitely have the solid wheels to match the upper body.

People fear and respect a character like Batman.  He has a balanced and imposing superhero physique.  People laugh at a character like Johnny Bravo.  His legs were used as pipe cleaners for my kitchen pipes last week.  Keep it simple and make progress!

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About The Author
Eric "Fitman" Brown is the owner of The Fitman Performance Center in Roslyn, PA. He is a top sports performance and physique coach, a two-time Men’s Health Next Top Trainer Finalist, and a motivational speaker.

184 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Tue, 02/14/2017 - 15:21
Kevin

First off, I really like this setup! Dips and pull ups have always been my favorite exercises, along with push-ups. My question, I mainly have done boxing my whole life, except in college were all I did was lift weights. If I incorporate my normal boxing routine with this plan and push/pull routine, will I be fatiguing my muscle groups too much? Or should I modify my routines? Thanks

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Posted Mon, 01/09/2017 - 18:01
Kenneth

Instead of Monday 'Chins and Dips' + Thursday 'push day' + Friday 'pull day,' could I just do 'Chins and Dips' two days a week (Mon & Thur)? I only do bodyweight workouts in my basement. Thank you.

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Posted Sun, 04/24/2016 - 09:33
mama sgoo

great article! very thorough. thanks a lot!
i'm a petit woman (1.58cm, 49kg) and i dont want to become bulky. just to get stronger so i can punch harder (i do mma for over a year anf it shanged my body- great!) and so i can be able to reach the floor when i do pushups, to strengthe my back and to shape my armes.
What weight should i use? or should i only use bodyweight and more reps?

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Posted Sun, 07/03/2016 - 18:21
Janga

You won't get bulky .
That is an outdated notion. Women have to work hard to get even a bit muscular.
Focus on strength.
The crossfitter women you see who are bulky are on steroids.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:01
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Janga,

You are right! Women will not become super-muscular from lifting.

There are definitely other "factors" in play when you see the extreme muscularity of some female bodybuilders or athletes.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:56
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Mama Sgoo,

Thank you for the kind words!

You will not become bulky from lifting heavy weights.

If your goal is strength gains for athletics, then you will want to keep your reps lower. 3-6 reps will do the trick. This is how I would design a program for an athlete looking to sustain their body weight, but get stronger.

However that will change parameters of the program that you will do. This program as written is about strength and size gains.

But while you will increase the size of your muscles, do not expect to become a super-muscular professional female bodybuilder from lifting heavy. That will not happen.

There are other factors in play when you see the extreme muscularity of some bodybuilders and athletes.

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Posted Sat, 03/19/2016 - 15:19
Kamal

For the dips, are they tricep dips or chest dips?

MikeWines's picture
Posted Mon, 03/21/2016 - 09:47
MikeWines

Kamal,
Chest dips.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:48
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Kamal,

Dips in the fashion that I normally perform them are a cross between both styles.

I do not have a big forward lean, nor am I perfectly upright. I feel that this is the strongest position that you can be in during the dip.

But you can definitely dedicate a phase to a specific dip variation if you are trying to hit your chest or triceps harder.

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Posted Sun, 10/25/2015 - 21:24
Steve

I really like the idea of doing this program as I try to increase strength and some size and definition while also losing a few pounds. That said, I also play semi competitive soccer Tuesday and Wednesday nights back to back (yes, it's brutal!) and curious how could I structure your program within those constraints.

Much appreciated!

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:45
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Steve,

If you are playing semi-competitive soccer then the program would be structured around that. You want your performance on the soccer field to be fantastic!

With you playing soccer on back-to-back nights, you could lift 3 days per week. 2 days would focus on upper-body training, and 1 day could focus on lower-body.

The upper-body workouts should not impact your soccer performance greatly but you definitely want your legs to be fresh during the competitive season. This is why the lower-body lifting is reduced.

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Posted Thu, 10/01/2015 - 10:48
Nacer

In the program, do you mean chin up and dips every day or only once a week. I have started the program two weeks ago doing chin up and dip once a week. However, I was not able to progress as expected. Would you recommend to do chin up and dip everyday plus the schedule or solely do it once a week?

Thank you in advance

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:39
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Nacer,

In the context of this specific program, you are performing the chin/dip day 1x per week.

You could add chin-up variations to your pull day.

Progressive strength training is not a linear process. There are some weeks when you will not progress as expected even if you do everything right. When you are increasing the weight each week, increase slowly so that you do not overwhelm your body.

Physique-building is a beautiful process but it will require time.

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Posted Fri, 09/04/2015 - 19:28
oscar

Hi Eric, I get the 5x5 (5 sets for 5 reps) but how many rounds of these do we do? Thanks!

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Posted Sun, 09/27/2015 - 22:28
sylwia

It's just 5 set of 5. 5 sets means 5 rounds.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:36
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Oscar,

You would perform the 5x5 for 1 round. This will give you 25 healthy reps of the pull-ups and dips!

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Posted Fri, 05/22/2015 - 13:05
Tivon

Hi Eric, I'm just curious as to why you chose chin-ups as opposed to pull ups. Does it make a difference or is it just a personal preference? Can we choose between the two or would you recommend sticking with chin-ups?

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Posted Fri, 07/01/2016 - 20:58
Steven Porricelli

Tivon, did you ever receive an answer to your question? I was wondering the same, is it a Chin up, or a Pull up? The pictures show Pull up.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:34
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Steven,

I have answered Tivon's question. You can use either the chin-up or the pull-up and attain great results.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:33
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Tivon,

The pull-up and the chin-up are interchangeable. The chin-up has a bit more bicep involvement during the move.

You can easily do pull-ups instead of chin-ups and get the same phenomenal results. After you run through one run of the program you could switch the grip.

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Posted Fri, 04/24/2015 - 12:24
Haris Usman

Hi everyone, I am doing weight trainig from many years but from last three years suffering from knee pain after some knee injury. Initially I was unable to even sit easily but I have started yoga and recovered alot but still not perfectly fit hat I can again do proper bodybuilding. If anyone can assist in this please reply.

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Posted Mon, 04/20/2015 - 12:27
Seth

Do I have to do this on a separate day dedicated to just dips and chins? Or can I do my regular 4 day split

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:30
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Seth,

The chins and dips are performed on their own day. Then you can implement your regular split for the rest of the week.

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Posted Sun, 04/19/2015 - 18:21
Shane F

For instance the Monday is it only chin ups and dips nothing else ? . be a very short workout.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:29
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Shane,

The chins and dips day will focus only on the chins and dips.

You will have other days during the week to implement more upper body movements.

The workout is short but if you attack it correctly it is intense!

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Posted Sun, 04/19/2015 - 10:56
Ray

I am confused... Am I supposed to do pull ups on my pull days and dips on my push days? Also, how exercises should I be doing on my push and pull days?

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:27
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Ray,

Generally, on your pull days, you can incorporate movements like barbell/dumbbell rows as well as pull-up variations (neutral grip).

On your push days, you incorporate movements like barbell/dumbbell presses as well as push-ups.

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Posted Tue, 03/24/2015 - 15:52
Tony

Hi Eric can i continue to train to muscular failure on my push and pull days as well as incorporating the chin and dips day because i was on the understanding that you can only train each body part once a week. Im worried i might over train and not grow as a result or is this not the case? or on my push and pull days shall i stop 1 or 2 reps short of failure? Im currently taking creatine ethyl ester if this helps answer your question. Im really looking forward to starting this program. Thanks

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Posted Sun, 04/19/2015 - 10:46
Ray

How many exercises should I be doing in push and pull days?

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:16
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Ray,

2-3 exercises per push/pull will suffice.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:21
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Tony,

I do not think you need to train to muscular failure on every push or pull day. There is a time and place for training to failure but it does not need to be every workout.

Training muscles 2x per week is a great strategy. I have found through personal experience that 2x per week training has resulted in faster muscle growth for myself and my clients.

You do not have to worry about overtraining. Focus on making progressive gains in your training, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough recovery from your workouts. Doing those things will allow you to grow.

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Posted Fri, 03/20/2015 - 21:02
Manuel toledo

Hey was just wondering do you think it would be a good idea to use rp 21 as my push pull routine and switch it off every 3 weeks with a push pull gvt routine?

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:14
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Manuel,

That split will work fine.

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Posted Sat, 03/14/2015 - 01:09
Andy

Thank you for this routine. What about training biceps and triceps the same day after Chins and Dips?

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:13
Eric "Fitman" Brown

Hey Andy,

I am glad you appreciated the Chin/Dip program. You could do direct arm work and superset your triceps and biceps for 2-3 sets afterwards if you choose.

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Posted Thu, 03/05/2015 - 18:46
Terry O

Hi, As this is only a 20-30 mins session, could you do say 30 mins cardio after, ie: run/swim? Or even an abs workout? Thanks!

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Posted Fri, 03/06/2015 - 10:50
Eric Brown

Hey Terry,

You can definitely perform conditioning afterwards.

My personal preference would be to have you run sprints on the track. Sprints ranging from 30m-120m will work. You can check out some sprint workouts at my article here at http://fitmanperformance.com/2013/12/08/glutesrus/. They are listed after the lifting workouts.

A tough pool workout, hitting the heavy bag for rounds, or even a bodyweight conditioning session (burpees, push-ups etc) would be great too.

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Posted Mon, 03/02/2015 - 10:11
Chris S

i like Your program! but i dont understand "thursday - push" and "Friday - pull". What should I do on those days?

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Posted Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:20
Eric Brown

Hey Chris,

I am glad you like RP-21. Push simply refers to your pressing muscles. You would train your chest, your shoulders, and your triceps on this day. Pull simply refers to your pulling muscles. You would train your back and biceps on this day.

Good luck with RP-21!

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Posted Fri, 02/20/2015 - 12:53
Kristján

Hello Eric, Im starting this program and made a push/pull/legs split with your RP-21 style and I was wondering if I should be deloading? and if so how would I do it without messing up the chinup/dips progress?

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Posted Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:18
Eric Brown

Hey Kristjan,

Deloads are all so very individual. Some trainees deload every 4 weeks. Some trainees deload every 8 weeks. You should try a few different deload frequencies and see what works best for you.

On a deload you will not ruin your progress on your chins and dips. The deload is where you will allow your body to grow and become stronger. On deload weeks aim to reduce the total volume of the workout. You could perform 3 sets of 6-12 reps for your dips and chins using less weight.

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Posted Wed, 02/18/2015 - 18:30
Thomas T

Hello Eric, i do only bodyweight workout i'm wondering to start following so program. My question is : why did you combine chins and dips ? in my workout plan chins and dips are separated. i not that you said this is an apart routine, but since i do only bodyweight can i include this scheme in my workout i mean : on tuesday i do the 18 week program with only chins and on friday i do it with only dips. Is it as effective as your method ? Thank you.

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Posted Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:15
Eric Brown

Hey Thomas,

Dips and Chins go together like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. You will have great success with building your upper body when using them in tandem.

When you combine dips and chins you are able to save time in the gym and effectively hit your entire upper body in one session.

Using them separately will garner results too, but in my experience using them together has brought even more muscle growth. If I were you I would begin to combine your chins and dips on one day and gauge how your body progresses.

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Posted Sun, 02/08/2015 - 23:02
Preston

I have been super setting Tricep Dips and Close Grip Chin ups after my back workouts and Same but Machine Dips on Chest Day (too tired) noticed good results, and getting stronger.

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Posted Tue, 02/24/2015 - 17:23
Eric Brown

Hey Preston,

Chins and Dips have always and will always work for building a strong and muscular upper body. As your chest, shoulders, and triceps get stronger and more conditioned you will be able to continue with parallel bar dips on your chest day and no longer need to use the machine dips due to fatigue. Keep moving forward with your progress!

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Posted Thu, 02/05/2015 - 15:22
Rory

So if you're doing weighted pullups and dips during the 5x5 scheme, when moving to the 5x10 scheme will you have to reduce the weight used in the 5x5 scheme, since the volume is doubling?

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Posted Tue, 02/24/2015 - 17:20
Eric Brown

Hey Rory,

The weight will definitely be lower when you increase the volume during 5x10. Initially many folks begin with bodyweight only and then build from there.

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Posted Thu, 02/05/2015 - 11:57
Steve

Eric,

I tried your 4 Day RP-21 workout and liked it. I plan on revisiting that program and turning it into a 3 day split to incorporate with this program for improving my chins and dips. I feel it would make a great combination. What say you?

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Posted Tue, 02/24/2015 - 17:18
Eric Brown

Hey Steve,

I am glad you enjoyed RP-21. The combination of having the one Chin/Dip day that follows this scheme and then using RP-21 as the 3 day split can definitely work for you. Try out that combination and be sure to record the results. Good luck moving forward!

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Posted Fri, 01/23/2015 - 17:27
Gergo

Hi Eric
Very nice workout program!
I got a question, Thursday - Push and Friday - Pull means push ups and pull ups only?
If not what should i do on these days?

Thank you!