How to Perform Dips with Proper Technique

Parallel Bar dips
Image credit: auntsmack4u

Dips are better than Push-ups. Your whole body is moving & you can do them weighted more easily. Like Pull-ups & Chin-ups, Dips force you to lift your own body-weight. Stressing your upper-body & thus building muscle.

All strength training exercises have a technique to master. Dips are no different. Here’s how to perform Dips with proper technique.

What are Dips?
Raise yourself on 2 supports with elbows locked. Lower your body until your shoulders are lower than your elbows. Push yourself up by straightening your arms. Variations for Dips:

  • Parallel Bar Dips. Parallel bars that are 55cm/22″ apart. My Squat Rack has 2 removable parallel bars I use for Dips.
  • Rings Dips. Dips using rings are harder than parallel bar Dips: you need to stabilize yourself more.
  • Chair Dips. Put 2 chairs back to back & dip in between. Make sure the chairs are stable enough so you don’t fall.
  • Bench Dips. Feet elevated, hands on a bench. Avoid. The torso position is unhealthy for your shoulders, especially when you do them weighted.

Benefits of Dips.
Push-ups have your feet planted. Dips move your whole body through space. Dips are harder and thus superior to Push-ups because you have to balance your body. Other benefits of Dips:

  • Build Strength. Dips build lockout strength: straightening your elbows. This helps the Bench Press & the Overhead Press.
  • Build Muscle. Dips will develop your triceps & chest muscles.
  • Rehab. Try Dips if you can’t do the Bench Press because of a shoulder injury. Dips work similar muscles, do them if your shoulders can take it.

What If You Can’t Do 1 Rep?
Stay away from Dip Machines. The strength you build on machines doesn’t transfer. Dips are harder: you have to balance yourself. If you can’t do 1 rep, try one of these:

  • Ask for Help. Ask someone to help you on the way up by grabbing your side with his hands and squatting up & down.
  • Partials. Get on the 2 supports with locked elbows. Unlock your elbows, lower yourself slightly & push back up. Gradually increase the range of motion as you get stronger until you can break parallel.

Weighted Dips.
Switch to Weighted Dips once you can do 10-15 reps with proper technique to keep the exercise challenging.

  • Dumbbell Between Legs. Hold a dumbbell between your feet while doing Dips. Doesn’t work well with weights above 10-15kg.
  • Rucksack. Wear a rucksack & put plates in it. Make sure you use a strong rucksack so it doesn’t break.
  • Belt + Chain. Wear a belt. Attach plates to a chain and to your belt. I recommend this method for Weighted Dips.

Weighted Dips
Weighted Parallel Bar Dips. Image credit: Beast Skills.

Dip Technique. You might not be able to lean forward & go as deep as James on the picture above. If your shoulders or sternum hurts, stay more upright with your chest up. But always apply the following rules on Dips.

  • Squeeze The Bar. Put your thumbs around the bar & squeeze it hard. The more force you apply to the bar, the stronger you are.
  • Look Forward. Don’t look straight forward, don’t look the floor. Look to a point slightly in front of you.
  • Breathing. Take a big breathe while hanging with locked elbows & hold it. Lower yourself & come back up. Breathe at the top, not during reps.
  • Chest Up. Don’t let your shoulders roll forward. Keep your chest up & shoulders back. It’s easier on your shoulders.
  • Bend Your Legs. And cross your feet. Letting your legs hang means less strength in my experience. Squeeze your glutes on the way up.
  • Break Parallel. Your shoulders must go lower than your elbows. Deeper stretches your chest more, but your shoulders might not agree with it.
  • Lock Elbows. Drive out of the bottom until your elbows are locked. Squeeze your triceps. No partial Dips.

Common Problems.
Break parallel on each rep just like with Squats. Use a complete range of motion from start to finish.

  • Not Hitting Parallel. Don’t cheat by doing partial Dips. Your shoulders must go lower than your elbows on each rep.
  • Not Locking the Elbows. Lock your elbows at the top. Squeeze your triceps & keep your chest up.
  • Shoulder Issues. Don’t go too low. Stop when you break parallel, keep your chest up & torso upright. Try shoulder dislocations.
  • Torso Pain. Don’t let your shoulders roll forward & don’t let your torso shift forward too much. Keep your chest up.

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