- 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.
- Poor body awareness/proprioception
- Trunk/ab stability
- Elbow pain
- Shoulder pain
- Shoulder mobility
- Elbow mobility
- Restricting flexibility through pecs
- Breast Augmentation
- Bench Dips
- Seated Machine Dips
- Band Assisted Dips
- Machine Assisted Dips
- Partner Assisted Dips
- Eccentric Dips
- Close Grip Pushups
- Neutral Grip Decline DB Press
- Weighted Dips
- Banded Dips
- Ring/TRX Dips
- Band Suspended Dips
-2-5 sets per week
-6-15 rep range
Applicable Intensity Techniques:
- Load Drop Sets
- Mechanical Drop Sets
- Cluster sets
- Rest Pause sets
- Supersets (These work particularly well when paired with an isolated pec or tricep movement)
- Most intensity techniques apply well to dips!
Often anecdotally referred to as the "upper body squat", Dips have a general utility that tends to validate the analogy. Gymnasts and calisthenic enthusiasts have long shown visible benefits of becoming a proficient "dipper" (massive pecs, cannonball delts, and hanging triceps are pretty difficult to hide), but there is still a surprising lack of proper integration into widespread strength and hypertrophy programming. It's not uncommon to see multiple variations of barbell, dumbbell and machine pressing variations in training split yet no consideration of the Dip. Rather than assuming this is a function of a subpar variation, it is probably more appropriate to assume that the complexities underlying where exactly the Dip is best suited in a well-designed program are acting as a barrier; and one that needs to be knocked down.
It is a logical leap to look at the mechanics of a Dip and conclude that it is just a progression from a Push-Up. They are both closed-chain pressing movements that depend heavily on the upper body musculature being able to handle the bodyweight of the trainee. However, Dips tend to function more like Pull-Ups; not many people can execute them well enough to get the maximal benefit. This has lead to a somewhat low ratio of popularity relative to usefulness.
Admittedly, Dips have a specific range in which they exhibit a large use case which makes programming them more complicated.
It's not a great idea to try to maximize strength expression by working in low rep ranges (<6 reps) with high intensities (>80% of 1RM) and putting the movement first in a training session due to the potential for pec injury. Instead, using it as an accessory OR performing higher reps with more moderate loads is a better option.
Similarly, those that struggle with body awareness through movement might be better suited for a seated machine dip (with back support) or even a Push-Up variation rather then attempting to overcome the prerequisites that come with a free Dip. So much of the utility also is dependent on being able to find, maintain and control various positions that are all relatively advanced and coordination-demanding.
Breast augmentations are most likely a no-go due to the extreme stretch through the pecs. Mismatched dip bars can easily create sheering forces at the elbow. Poor scapular mobility and movement will definitely put stress on the shoulder capsules.
There are a lot of potentialities to keep in mind before even programming a Dip much less improving upon it long term. But the key is to ease into the progressions ensuring proficiency at each stage before moving up the totem pole. Once the bodyweight Dip has been mastered, specific nuances (such as prioritizing for pecs versus triceps) can begin to be integrated into the pattern and the vastness of applicable intensity techniques can be tapped into.
Ironically, Dips have shown to be one of the more functional and joint-healthy movement patterns at a high level when performed properly and without underlying restriction (again, just look at gymnasts). There seems to be a steep bell curve from the "severely deleterious" side of the spectrum to "universally beneficial" that is dependent almost entirely on the individual trainee and how the Dip is utilized. Pragmatism would dictate that those who trend towards negative outcomes with repeated exposure should limit their volume or completely avoid the movement all together (or at least until some contraindications have been rectified).
However, trainees who can consistently incorporate Dips will be able to benefit from minimal equipment requirements, low-risk of training to and beyond failure, and systemic coordination adaptations that are timeless characteristics of this primitive-yet-underappreciated exercise.
Primary Use Case:
- Hypertrophy of the pecs and triceps
- Increase strength for pressing movements (especially through lockout)
- Increased proprioception and body control