How to do Dips
Dips are listed in a previous post as one of the top 5 best triceps exercises. They can be useful for both chest and triceps training.
Based on the principle that exercises in which you move your body through space are better than the exercises that keep you in a stationary position, dips are actually better than push ups. It is also easier for you to add weight to your dips than it is to add weight to a push up.
What are Dips?
Any exercise where you use your triceps to elevate your body is a dip.
To execute a traditional parallel bar dip, find a set of parallel bars and climb up. Start at the top position with your arms straight, elbows locked and body hanging in space. Lower your body until your shoulders are parallel to your hands, then push yourself back up to the top, stopping just short of lockout.
In this post I want to discuss how to do dips the right way, several variations of dips, how to do dips if you can’t do dips, and what to watch out for when first learning how to dip.
- Ring Dips – Gymnastics style, ring dips are harder than parallel bar dips because they require more arm and core stabilization.
- Bench Dips – With feet elevated and your hands on a bench, dip down and press back up. Place weights in your lap for weighted bench dips.
- Chair Dips – The homemade version of bench dips. Put 2 chairs about 3 feet apart facing each other. Put your hands on one chair palms down, fingers wrapped around the chair edge, and place your feet on the other chair. Dip down and press back up.
To use parallel bar or ring dips in your triceps training, be sure to keep you your elbows in and your body straight.
To use parallel bar or ring dips in your chest training, flare your elbows out to the side and lean forward from 30-45 degrees.
Squeeze the bar harder to apply more force, which will make you stronger and will make it easier to push up.
Look forward, and straight ahead or slightly up, rather than looking down and definitely don’t be looking to the side.
Take a deep breath at the top of the rep to increase intra-abdominal pressure. This will make you stronger. Breathe out during the last half of the eccentric (up) phase of the rep.
Most people find it easier and most effective to bend their legs at the knees and sometime cross their feet. This actually helps you to squeeze your posterior chain for added strength and stability.
You want your shoulders to drop below your elbows. You might not be able to bring your shoulders as low as your hands, either do to poor flexibility or shoulder discomfort. This is OK. Please do not hurt your shoulders.
Do not lock your elbows at the top, but come as close to lock-out as possible without actually locking out. Just because I told you not to lock your elbows doesn’t mean you can do partial dips.
Keep your core tight throughout this movement. Doing dips with a loose core can throw off your form and cause injury to the shoulders, elbows, neck, and spine.
Once you can do at least 10 reps with proper technique, feel free to occasionally or frequently (or primarily) use weighted dips.
Here are some ideas for adding weight to your dips:
- Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball between your legs or feet. This can become cumbersome and uncomfortable as the weights get heavier.
- Load up some plates, dumbbells, sand, rocks, or pellets into a backpack and wear it while you dip. Choose a strong, well-made backpack.
- Suspend a dumbbell or plates from a belt and chain that you secure around your waist. This is the most widely used method for weighted dips.
If your shoulders hurt in the bottom portion of the dip you should either avoid them, get shoulder therapy, or try shallow dips until you can work up to deeper dips.
If you are not strong enough to do dips: there are many assisted dip machines like assisted pull up machines. This is NOT the machine where you sit down and press the bars down. That is some sort of triceps press machine that is pretty much useless unless you are circuit training or are elderly. The machine to choose actually mimics parallel bar dips, but you stand on a platform or bar that helps to push you back up from the bottom position.
If you use an assisted dip machine you should still attempt to complete a couple regular assisted dips using one of the techniques listed below:
- Your partner can spot you by pushing upwards with his or her hand in the middle of your back.
- Your partner can spot you by placing their hands under your feet in case you need to push off slightly.
- You can jump up to the top position and then lower your body under control to at least practice the negative portion.
Ring dips are utilized constantly at Crossfit, but your gym will probably not have any rings. In this case I guess you will have to settle for parallel bar, bench, or chair dips. Ring dips are not really appropriate for beginner athletes anyway, it is better to have built a foundation for shoulder stability before attempting ring dips.