A dip is a compound, push-type exercise which works a large number of muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms at the same time.
The following table lists information about dips and the muscles that you use when performing dips.
Basic Exercise Data For Dips
You can perform dips by grasping two parallel bars that are approximately shoulder-width apart. Raise yourself up to an initial position with your arms extended and supporting the entire weight of your body. Next, lower yourself to a final position where your elbows are bent and your shoulders are mildly stretched.
Variations Of Dips: Chest & Triceps
Depending on the type of training routine you're using, you may want to use dips to bring special attention to your chest muscles. You can do this by performing Chest Dips in which you lean your body forward while dipping. To do this, grasp the handles of the parallel bars and push yourself up to the initial position.
While keeping your elbows close to your body and your hips straight, lower yourself to the final position. Note that the final position should be just enough to slightly stretch your shoulders. While keeping your body leaning forward at all times, push yourself up to the initial position again. The following table summarizes the muscles worked during Chest Dips.
Muscles Worked With Chest Dips
Targeted Muscles: Pectoralis Major
Synergists: Anterior Deltoid Triceps Brachii Pectoralis Minor Rhomboids Levator Scapulae Latissimus Dorsi Teres Major
Stabilizers: Trapezius (lower)
Just as you can use dips to emphasize your chest, you can alternatively use dips to give special attention to your triceps. The triceps can be emphasized by keeping your body straight at all times while performing dips. This variation of dips is typically referred to as Triceps Dips.
To do Triceps Dips, grasp handles of the parallel bars and push yourself up to the initial position. While keeping your elbows close to your body and your hips straight, lower yourself to the final position.
As with all forms of dips, your final position should be just enough to slightly stretch your shoulders. While keeping your body straight at all times, push yourself back up to the initial position.
Depending on how high you are above the floor, you can either bend and cross your legs or you can keep your legs straight while performing dips. Whether you cross your legs or not, just don't forget to keep your body straight throughout the exercise! The following table summarizes the muscles worked during Triceps Dips.
Muscles Worked With Triceps Dips
Targeted Muscles: Triceps Brachii
Synergists: Anterior Deltoid, Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae Latissimus Dorsi, Stabilizers, Trapezius (lower), Dynamic Stabilizers, Biceps Brachii
When Bodyweight Is Not Enough
The resistance you use during dips is provided by your bodyweight. As you gain strength, however, you'll likely need more resistance than bodyweight alone. A solution to this problem is to suspend weight plates from your waist by using a Dipping Belt.
The Dipping Belt has a support ring on one end and a chain and clasp attached to a similar ring on the other end. These components enable you to hang weight plates from your waist. You can use the dipping belt by placing it around your waist and then passing the clasp and chain through the ring on the opposite end of the belt.
Pulling the chain tightens the belt around your waist. Next, pass the clasp and chain through one or more weight plates and then fasten the clasp onto the ring that the other end of the chain is attached to.
You'll notice that the weight of the plates keeps the belt tightened around your waist. You can now carefully walk over to the parallel bars and perform some weighted dips.
When Bodyweight Is Too Much
Some trainees may not yet have the strength to support their bodyweight on the parallel bars. In this case, Bench Dips are a great way to gain the benefits of performing dips until the trainee's strength is great enough to perform regular dips.
You can perform Bench Dips by placing your hands on a bench, or a suitable pair of handles, and placing your feet on a support of some type. The trainee has placed his feet on a bench and is supporting his body by grasping a pair of parallel handles. The primary advantage of Bench Dips is that they remove a large portion of the weight of the legs.
As you can see, performing Bench Dips is very similar to performing regular dips. When you do Bench Dips, grasp the two handles or parallel bars and then place your feet on the support. While keeping your legs straight, raise yourself up until your arms are fully extended. Next, lower yourself down until your shoulders are slightly stretched.
While still keeping your legs straight, raise yourself upwards to the initial position then repeat. As with other forms of dips, you can emphasize your chest by leaning forward, or you can emphasize your triceps by keeping your body straight throughout the exercise.
As your strength increases, you can increase your exercise resistance by placing weight plates on your lap. Given time, your strength will increase enough for you to perform regular dips.
An alternative to performing Bench Dips is to use a Dip Machine. With a Dip Machine, you can select the weight you want to use. This makes things easy when your strength increases; you simply select more weight. The Dip Machine has a seat, a pair of parallel bars with handles, and a weight stack.
To use the Dip Machine, generally you select the weight you want to use and then belt yourself into the seat. You can then grasp the handles, and then push the parallel bar down. As with all machines, however, you should be sure to read and follow the instructions that accompany the Dip Machine.
Incorporating Dips Into Your Training
Now that you know how to perform various forms of dips, let's take a look at how to incorporate dips into your training routine.
Recall that a dip is a pushing exercise that generally works the chest, triceps, and front shoulders. Thus, it's a good idea to combine Dips with pulling exercises that train muscles that work in opposition to the chest, triceps, and front shoulders. For example, one choice is to combine Dips with Chins or Pulldowns.
Chins and Pulldowns generally train the back, biceps, and rear shoulders. Another option is to combine Dips with different types of Rows. Following is one example of a full-body routine which includes Dips with One-Arm Rows.
- Leg Curl
- Inclined Bench Press
- Wide Grip Pulldowns
- One-Arm Rows
- Inclined Hammer Curls
- Lying Triceps Extensions
- Abdominal Crunches
Also, note that the chest, triceps, and front shoulders are trained by the Inclined Bench Press, too. Because of this, the Inclined Bench Press is followed by Wide Grip Pulldowns, which work the back, biceps, and rear shoulders.
Arranging the exercises in this way ensures that the chest, triceps, and front shoulders get a break before being worked again with Dips. Now let's take a look at an abbreviated version of the above routine that includes Chins.
- Leg Curl
- Inclined Bench Press
- Seated Rows
As you can see, this routine has Chins placed before the Dips and Seated Rows placed afterwards. Thus, the chest, triceps, and front shoulders get a rest after the Inclined Bench Press.
Another popular approach is to select alternating exercises that are performed every other workout day. For example, you might choose the following alternatives for a full-body workout.
- Squat Leg Curl, Bench Press, Chins, Rear Delts, Shrugs, Curls, Triceps Extensions, Calf Raise
- Leg Press, Leg Curl, Dips, Rows, Rear Delts, Shrugs, Curls, Triceps Extensions, Calf Raise
In this routine, Inclined Bench Presses are alternated with Dips, and Chins are alternated with Rows. Also, note that with these exercises, A is performed on one workout day, B is performed on the next workout day, and so on.
Still, another popular idea is to split your training into push exercises and pull exercises. With this approach, muscles that push (i.e., chest, triceps, and front shoulders) and muscles that pull (i.e., back, biceps, and rear shoulders) are trained on different workout days. Following is a group of upper-body exercises that alternate push and pull exercises.
- Bench Press Dips Triceps Extensions
- Chins Rows Bicep Curls
Workout A includes Bench Press and Dips, both of which are compound pushing exercises, and Workout B includes Chins and Rows, both of which are compound pulling exercises. Triceps Extensions and Bicep Curls are isolation exercises that are thrown in for a little extra arm work.
Alternatives To Performing Dips
It should be recognized that although Dips are a great exercise, they aren't for everyone. Trainees having existing shoulder pathology may find Dips painful.
Indeed, any exercise which causes pain beyond normal muscle soreness should be discontinued, and a qualified health care professional should be consulted. If you cannot, or just don't want to perform Dips, any of the following exercises can be used to train the chest, triceps, and front shoulders.