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You Can Do Dips: Your Guide To This Upper-Body Blaster!

Whether you're working toward a muscle-up or just looking to mix up your upper-body training, dips have a lot to offer. If you've been avoiding them just because they're hard, it's time to get back on the bar!

Not every exercise earns distinction as a member of the royal family of mass building. You've probably heard of squats (or deadlifts) referred to as the king of lower-body exercises. Well it's time to get acquainted with the king of upper-body mass builders: the dip.

I realize there are some who may dispute the dip's claim to the throne, saying instead that the bench press or pull-up is king. Disputes over the throne are a historical inevitability, and this is not the place to settle such battles! At least we can all agree that dips are worthy of the title of Archduke.

Like archdukes in general, the dip seems to have fallen by the wayside over the years. Like many other old-school, simple-yet-brutally-effective exercises, it has been labeled as dangerous and has suffered slanderous injuries to its reputation. Well, it's high time that the dip is vindicated! Your chest and triceps deserve that much.

But, Dips Are Bad! ///

OK, I'll admit it. There are people who just probably shouldn't do dips. Not every exercise is good for everybody. This is a basic rule of strength training, and it's one that you may ignore at your own peril.

If you have a history of shoulder injuries, particularly injuries involving the AC joint, you're probably better off just leaving dips out of your program. The movement puts the shoulder joint in a less-than-optimal position and could make your problem worse.

However, if you absolutely insist on doing dips anyway, try restricting the range of motion to one that is comfortable and painless. You can also experiment with these different versions of the exercise to see which feels best.

Bench Dips ///

Bench dips are a great place to start if you don't have the strength yet to do a parallel bar dip. If you're totally new to strength training, you may need to start off with your feet on the floor and your hands on the bench behind you. If you've got a good level of strength, you can elevate your feet on another bench to make the movement more difficult. Increase the difficulty further by placing some weight on your lap.

The bench dip places more emphasis on the triceps and shoulders than other versions of the movement. Given how common shoulder pain and impingement are among weightlifters, this has no doubt helped to build its "dangerous" reputation.

The bench dip can still have a place in a balanced program, though. Even for an advanced trainee, it is great way to burn out your triceps at the end of your workout.

Parallel Bar Dips ///

This is the dip in all its glory. One of the best exercises you can perform to build the chest, triceps and shoulders, parallel bar dips train these muscles in a completely different angle and range of motion than push-ups and bench pressing.

Unlike the push-up, parallel bar dips provide no support, so you are forced to lift your entire bodyweight. You can also easily add resistance by attaching weight to a dip belt.

Another great thing about parallel bar dips is that you can directly influence which muscles do the most work by changing your body position. Lean forward to activate the muscles in the chest more. Keep your torso vertical to make the triceps do more work.

Not ready for bodyweight parallel bar dips? No problem. Either stick to weighted versions of the bench dip to build strength, or attach a resistance band to the bars.

Hook one end to each bar so it hangs down in the middle and step on the band or put your knees in it. It will provide assistance at the bottom of the movement, but then helps less as you reach the top.

Straight Bar Dips ///

The straight bar dip is a variation you probably won't often see. It's a step above the parallel bar dip in difficulty and is essential to practice if you ever want to be able to do a muscle-up.

To do it, place both hands on a bar in front of you and lower yourself down just like a regular dip. The main difference here is that both hands are on a single bar in front of the body as opposed to at your side in the parallel bar dip. This means that unlike other dip variations, you can adjust the width of your grip on the bar. Keeping your grip narrow focuses resistance on the triceps; going a bit wider grip emphasizes the chest.

Ring Dips ///

Ring dips are a whole other animal when compared to bar dips. They require much more stability to perform. As such, they are one of the harder variations you can do.

Keeping your arms close to your body is essential to being successful at this movement. If you let your hands drift out, you'll lose your stability and leverage and increase your risk of injury.

When to Add Weight ///

There's no law that says you have to add weight to a dip. After all, you can always perform high-rep bodyweight dips to build endurance or get a pump.

However, if you decide to get serious about dips, experimenting with adding weight will probably be a good idea at some point.

A simple guideline is that once you can perform 12-15 non-weighted reps with good form, it's time to grab the belt. Just don't be the guy who is so anxious to add weight that your ego gets in the way and you go from executing great reps to barely knocking out a few crappy ones.

Control is essential to safely doing dips. Don't forget it!

Fit Dips into Your Program ///

Dips are an excellent addition, but they probably shouldn't serve as your primary pressing exercise when you train. That honor still goes to movements like bench and overhead presses, in my opinion.

However, dip variations make an excellent addition as assistance work, and they might be just what you need to take your triceps development to the next level.

In this role, you can do them weighted for lower reps, or with bodyweight to rep out. Here's an example of how to use dips as assistance work in an advanced chest-and-back workout:

Little Dipper Workout

Since dips are a compound exercise, another great use for them is as your first exercise in an arms workout. This is an excellent time to use weighted dips when you're ready.

Big Dipper Workout

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About The Author

Chris Smith is a strength coach from New York City and the founder of Train Better Fitness.

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ryabie

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ryabie

When I first started training I loved being able to see my results from dips and not being able to do any to doing many. Dips to me were the easiest to improve and definitely a confidence booster when i was a beginner

Apr 2, 2013 7:30pm | report
 
Smoothcut

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Smoothcut

Weighted Dips are becoming one of my favorite mass builders. I use to struggle with just my bodyweight doing 1 rep, love weighted dips now!

Apr 2, 2013 7:35pm | report
 
itsJustAROD

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itsJustAROD

Always been able to do dips like this. just naturally had the strength. but i love em and will definately start doing them again with weights! and yes for those of you who havnt done these, they give your triceps a very badass pump and some nice definition

Apr 2, 2013 7:53pm | report
 
mccollard

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mccollard

I remember dips being part of my "routine" when I was in my parents basement as a kid pushing two chairs together. Still are to this day.

Apr 2, 2013 9:05pm | report
 
ccorn329

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ccorn329

Dipping! Love em. I like to slowem down and work them in at the end of my chest work out. May try early with the weighted belt. Thanks, Good stuff.

Apr 2, 2013 10:24pm | report
 
Tjones18

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Tjones18

The best is adding on 45 lbs. To your body weight and reporting like a mad man

Apr 2, 2013 10:37pm | report
 
iarestronk

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iarestronk

Dips are awesome to have in your routine. I used to do a set till fail on the end of my chest routine, and liked it a lot.
The article is great. Very informative and makes me wamt to do dips right now

Apr 3, 2013 1:17am | report
 
ktvz87

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ktvz87

Dips are becoming one of my favorite exercises. I absolutely see and feel a difference when I incorporate them into my programs. I started out barely being able to do 1, now I'm working my way to weighted dips.

Apr 3, 2013 6:14am | report
 
TraeE3

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TraeE3

I do dips on shoulder/arm day that also adds an extra workout for chest. Gives a great pump!

Apr 3, 2013 6:52am | report
 
ACE0809

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ACE0809

Weighted dips are a staple to my chest workout

Apr 3, 2013 7:03am | report
 
krelubot

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krelubot

Dips are great! I start out chest/tri day with forward bodyweight dips and and end with assisted straight dips.

Apr 3, 2013 9:57am | report
 
marydietz

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marydietz

I got my first totally unassisted dip a few weeks ago, now I have 8! They're definitely a great exercise and hit the chest & triceps from different angles than you'd get with others.

Apr 3, 2013 10:49am | report
 
ashmk117

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ashmk117

Oh! This is one of my biggest struggles. I have gone lower in weight on the assisted but still not to the point where I can do it completely on my own! Way to go!

Apr 4, 2013 12:01am | report
body_sculptor

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body_sculptor

Hoo yeah one of my favorite to hit d triceps, chest amd shouldrs. Great info!

Apr 3, 2013 11:57am | report
 
artin1

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artin1

I first started training i could not do but now i can and is my favorite movements

Apr 3, 2013 2:03pm | report
 
rudedebo

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rudedebo

Yeah good article. To avoid pain to the shoulder is not to let your elbow past your shoulder. You will still have the results.

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Apr 3, 2013 3:38pm | report
 
mrlongisland1

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mrlongisland1

I've been doing more dips then I have in a long time. The results show.

Apr 3, 2013 4:48pm | report
 
olneymaniglia

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olneymaniglia

I had great difficulty, today can do it easily with 20 kg bodyweight dips

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Apr 3, 2013 4:53pm | report
 
ken1421

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ken1421

Dips are one of my favorites.

Apr 3, 2013 5:30pm | report
 
lastmill

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lastmill

i love doing dips, i usually do them with my own bodyweight ..i do reps of about 30 until i reach about 200

Apr 3, 2013 5:34pm | report
 
lastmill

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lastmill

i love doing dips, i usually do them with my own bodyweight ..i do reps of about 30 until i reach about 200

Apr 3, 2013 5:34pm | report
 
Clinto85

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Clinto85

Good article. I used to superset dips with pull-ups when I was doing a upperbody/lowerbody split

Apr 3, 2013 5:51pm | report
 
SistaGirl

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SistaGirl

Thanks for this article. Very informative.

Apr 4, 2013 4:24pm | report
 
awlareau

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awlareau

I love dips soooo much, but my shoulders get injured easily, or at least the left one because of a previous injury, so I unfortunately can't do them anymore or at least go all the way down :( ,but they are a terrific tri/pec exercise if done correctly!

Apr 4, 2013 8:36pm | report
 
TheSecondName

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TheSecondName

Ring dips are king. Even unweighted to increase your parallell bar dips!
Parallell bar dips on the dip station are a great, chest, tricep and (front) delt exercise as well!
Chest dips (on a straght bar) are very dangerous for your shoulders (rotator cuff especially) so don't do them, I've injuried myself this way 2 times on my left rotator cuff.

Apr 5, 2013 10:28am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 28 Comments

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