Decline Barbell Press vs Dips

Decline Barbell Press vs Dips


Execution Cues:


Decline Barbell Press:

- These can be done in an adjustable power rack OR using a fixed decline bench press station. I will proceed describing the former but understand that the latter will have the same cues outside of initial set-up. 

-Start by creating a ~30º decline using an adjustable bench or elevating the feet of a flat bench (under the seat) using stable blocks or bumper plates. Set the bar up in the power rack so it is about 1.5-2 inches lower than your full lockout position. This means that you should be able to clear the J-hooks by about an inch when unracking and racking the bar. 

- Make sure that the bar is lined up with the top of your head when you are lying down. Ideally, your feet should be flat on either the floor or stable blocks to create a secure foundation or support (though this becomes somewhat more difficult for those with short legs and/or poor mobility). Glutes should be contracted and hips slightly abducted to create a wide base. Low back should be slightly arched so that only your glutes, upper back and head are in contact with the bench. 

- Before unracking, ensure that your shoulder blades are retracted and depressed (think back and down) in order to keep your lats tight and shoulders stable. 

- Place your hands on the bar just outside shoulder width. This "normal" grip position can vary wildly between individuals so it will be beneficial to experiment once you're comfortable with the movement.

- As you unrack the bar, make sure to get it over the "lip" of the J-hooks and bring it over your shoulders. Ideally, a spotter would be able to assist with this as the position of the bar is further back here than with flat bench. Once in the “ready” position, your arms should now be locked out with the bar directly over the lower chest/upper abdomen and perpendicular to the floor.

- Begin the eccentric by flexing at the elbows and allowing bar to begin its descent. 

- The eccentric should follow a path in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen. The bar should be carefully controlled all the way down. Note that this bar path will run slightly inferior to that of a flat bench press. 

- Think about "bringing the chest to meet the bar" as you get closer to the bottom of the range of motion. Once you touch your chest softly, reverse the motion back to lockout with arms again perpendicular to the floor.

- Throughout the whole rep, keep the forearms vertical with wrists directly over the elbows. Elbows should stay tucked in to better bias the triceps. Shoulder blades should stay "down and back" to prevent instability and "dumping" at the bottom.

- Once the set has been completed, carefully return the bar to the J-hooks.



- Set up using stable parallel (or slightly angled) bars. These should be at least mid-abdomen in height off the ground to allow for a full ROM.

- Grip should be shoulder width or just outside it.

- Try to start from the lockout (top) in order to perform the eccentric first and ease into the tension. Use a bench or box to stand on if needed.

- Once in the start position and supporting your bodyweight, ensure your abs are braced and sternum dropped (hollow body position) and your shoulder blades are depressed. This will engage your pec minor and ancillary stabilizer muscles to provide support through the eccentric.

- As you begin to descend, start to lean forward with your torso to lessen the shoulder extension requirements and allow the pecs to take over some of the tension from the triceps. Your shoulder blades should now be retracting in reaction to the changing angles.

- Because there is no terminal end point to the ROM, the bottom position should be in accordance with your own shoulder/elbow mobility and pec flexibility. Do not attempt to push beyond what is organic.

- Once you reach this depth, reverse out of the bottom by strictly maintaining the hollow body position and your forward torso lean. The concentric should mirror the eccentric all the way back to lockout.


Key Similarities: 

- Primarily target the pecs and triceps

- Similar angles on the press

- Most effective with the intent of overloading within moderate rep ranges (i.e. 6-12 reps)

- Applicable intensity techniques include Rest-Pause, Cluster Sets, and Load Drop Sets

- Both come with injury risk (though the mechanism is slightly different—see below)

- Each can be used efficiently to build strength

- Both can be used as primary movements for progression or as accessories (as in the case with flat bench press being the primary exercise)


Key Differences: 

- Decline Press is closed chain while Dips are open chain.

- Dips are more unstable due to the above, but come with the benefit of unrestricted scapular movement. 

- Dips open up to a larger ROM (though the stretch/lengthening). Decline Press is pretty restricted in its ROM (even more so than flat bench press).

- Decline Press comes with load-based risk whereas Dips have risk related to the ROM. In other words, injuries with Decline Press most often are associated with load on the bar. Injuries with Dips are generally more of a function of getting too much stretch/ROM.

- Decline Press is inherently a fixed pronated grip. Dips are neutral (or sometimes semi-pronated). There are pros and cons to each grip.

- Decline Press is much easier to scale in load and intensity. Dips are more portable.

- Dips can be more easily integrated into supersets and circuits due to the lower (comparative) risk with fatigue and failure

- Dips have a higher skill and proprioceptive requirement even when performing assisted


Primary Use Case for Decline Barbell Press:

- Hypertrophy of the Pecs and Triceps


Primary Use Case for Dips:

- Hypertrophy of the Pecs and Triceps

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