What are Dips

The dip,  also known as tricep dip is a compound upperbody exercise that develops the triceps, chest, and shoulders. This is one of the fundamental exercises in calisthenics that you shoulder master it will advance your pushing strength, helping you to increase your reps count for the push-up, along with transitional strength in power moves such as the muscle-up.

 

Dips can give you a great chest and triceps workout without having to use a gym membership or any expensive equipment. You can perform chair dips at the comfort of your own home by using chairs, and you can also up the challenge by trying dips on a parallel bar or a straight bar.

 

Our triceps muscles enable us to extend the elbows, and it is a powerful extender of the forearm. Triceps are often used for pushing, which is utilized in our everyday activities such as opening a door, inserting a plug into a socket, or moving furniture across the room. 

Dips Muscles Worked

Dips are synonymous with tricep dips as they target the back muscles of the upper arms, also known as the triceps. The primary muscles worked are the triceps, pectoralis major, trapezius, and anterior deltoids. The secondary muscles worked are the abdominals.

What Level are Dips

Depending on what dips variations you are doing, the difficulty ranges from beginners to intermediate level. Bench dips are beginner’s level because you will place your hands on an elevated surface whilst your feet are on the floor. This will take the load away from your upperbody, which makes them easier to perform. Whereas, regular dips or parallel or straight bars are for those who are at intermediate or above fitness level as you will hoist your full bodyweight.

How To Do Dips

There are three main ways you can practice dips: bench dips, parallel bar dips, and straight bar dips. Within these ways contains different variations, such as progressions, regressions, and grip to target different muscle groups. 

Dips Exercise

Bench Dips

Bench dips, also known as chair dips are the simplest and most accessible form of dips exercise, and there are three progressions within this form alone. Note that the higher the bench/chair, the easier it will be to perform this exercise. To perform this, you will:

  1. Place your hands on an elevated surface such as a bench or a chair. Your fingers should be facing forward and your arms are fully extended. Extend your legs out fully, and keep your core tight. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale as you gradually lower your torso down by bending the elbows until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Keep your core tight and your legs straight. 
  3. Exhale as you push through your palms, extending both arms, and return to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week

 

You can regress by bending the knees at the starting position to reduce the load on the upperbody, and, you can progress by placing your feet on an elevated surface that is in level to your palms. Moreover, dips performed with a wider grip, or elbows flaring outwards will put more emphasis on the chest muscles, whereas, dips with elbows inwards will put more emphasis on the triceps.

 

 

Parallel Dips

Parallel dips are a progression of the bench dips as your feet will be lifted off the floor, therefore, more load will be placed on your upper body muscles. To perform this, you will:

  1. Place your hands on parallel bars with your arms locked out by the side of your torso. Bend the knees slightly to lift your feet together off the ground behind you. Keep your core tight and your torso upright. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale as you lower your body down by bending the elbows. Lower down until your elbows are at a 90 degrees angle. Keep your core, and legs engaged throughout this movement. 
  3. Exhale as you push back up to the starting position, locking your arms out fully to ensure a full range of motion.
  4. Repeat this movement between 6-12 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

 

 

If you cannot yet perform parallel dips sufficiently, you can regress by placing your feet on the ground to reduce the load on the upperbody. Ease to having one leg on the ground, followed by lifting both legs off the ground as you get stronger. Another method to build strength for full dips is to use resistance bands. Place a band across the parallel bars and position your knees on top, this will also take the load away from the targeted muscles.

 

 

You can adjust the width of the parallel bars to target different angles on the muscle. For example, by positioning the hands inward, you will target the outer upper chest. If you position your hands by externally rotating them outwards, in an inverted grip position, it will target the lower chest region.

 

 

Dips For Chest

Straight Bar Dips

This variation is more challenging than the parallel bar dips because of the arm and shoulder position, which puts more emphasis on the chest muscles. Also, it requires greater core activation as your body must move around the bar. It is highly recommended that you master this exercise in order to achieve a muscle-up. To perform this, you will:

  1. Place your hands on a straight bar using a pronated grip at shoulder-width apart. Engaged your core, quadriceps, glutes, and keep your feet together. This is your starting position. 
  2. Inhale as you lower your body into a dip by bending the elbows. Lean over the bar and reach your legs forward slightly to counterbalance, whilst keeping your feet together. Your core is tight throughout this movement. Aim to touch your lower chest to the bar. 
  3. Exhale as you push back up by extending your arms to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this movement between 6-12 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

 

 

The great thing about straight bar dips is that you can modify your hand placement to target different angles within a muscle, along with different muscle groups.  You can switch between short, to shoulder-width, to wide grip, along with using either a pronated, or a supinated grip. For example:

  • Close grip straight bar dips target the inner chest and triceps
  • Shoulder-width grip straight bar dips target the middle chest
  • Wider grip straight bar dips target the outer chest
  • Underhand grip straight bar dips target the lower chest

 

Dips Workout

A great way to structure your dips workout is either by doing them individually between 4-5 sets within the recommended reps and sets ranges or by utilizing them in a superset (performing 2 or more exercises back to back in a single set). For example, if you are having a triceps or a push-focused day, you can do the following:

Workout 1: Parallel dips (6-12 reps x 4 sets)

Workout 2: Straight bar dips (6-12 reps x 4 sets)

Workout 3: Bench dips + diamond push-ups (10 reps + 5 reps x 4 sets)

Dips Benefits

Improve Upper Body Aesthetics

Dips are an upper-body pushing exercise that primarily develops bigger and stronger triceps, moreover, they also target the chest, front shoulders, core, and even the back muscles, which makes them a closed kinetic chain exercise. This exercise gives you varieties to target different angles of muscles, as well as different muscle groups. When done correctly, they can add mass to your upper body. 

Positive Carryover Benefits

Usually in calisthenics, training a fundamental exercise (pull-ups, dips, and push-ups) will give you positive carryover benefits to other achieving other skills at greater ease. Dips will give you a solid pushing strength, which in turn will be beneficial for unlocking or improving awesome skills such as muscle-ups, handstands, and handstand push-ups!

No Gym, No Problem

Dips are a great alternative to gym exercises such as the bench press or the dumbbell bench press. All that is required is two sturdy objects of the same height that is beside one another to appropriately perform reps. This could be two chairs or parallel bars that can be found at your local park! You can target different areas within a muscle by changing the grip, and get a just as good pump, if not better from this, so get dipping!

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.