This best dip for beginners article will serve great as a guide to those whom wish to master this exercise, and use if to progress farther. Whether you are a total beginner or advanced athlete I hope you will find something to take from this information, and maybe improve your own training with it.
Dip anatomy – muscles worked
Due to it’s compound multi-joint nature, the dip is a movement that works several muscles at once. As I mentioned in my “tricep mass builders” article, whether the dip is more of a tricep exercise than a chest one, can be modified by working through it’s range of motion in different angles. That being said, here is a list of the muscles being emphasized in a chest dip, and it’s tricep variant.
|The Chest dip||The Tricep dip|
|Main: Pectoralis Major||Main: Triceps Brachii|
|Triceps Brachii||Anterior Deltoid|
|Pectoralis Minor||Pectoralis Major|
|Latissimus Dorsi||Levator Scapulae|
|Teres Major||Latissimus Dorsi|
Getting started with dips – beginner exercises
if you do not yet have the strength to perform a dip, you can work on obtaining sufficient strength for it with the following.
Exercise number 1 – Push ups
If you can work up to a single set of 10 full clean push ups, you are ready to start doing full chest or tricep dips. Work on improving your strength on this exercise and you will quickly progress. Read along to see an easy way of increasing your push up number and pushing strength in general if you have yet to perform a perfect full push up.
Method – Grease the groove
This is basically doing sub maximal sets throughout the day. If you can perform something like 20 push ups in a row, you will perform 5 to 6 sets of 8 to 15 push ups in a single day. You can do one set every 2 to 3 hours in a way which spaces your sets out equally throughout the day. Over a long period of time, this will greatly increase the maximum amount of push ups you can do.
Exercise number 2 – Bench dip
This is another effective way of isolating your triceps and building up your strength for dips, or even to increase the number of push ups you can do.
Exercise number 3 – Band assisted dips
If you already have a basic understanding if form, you can also use resistance bands to provide you with assistance during a full dip, gradually working with bands that offer less resistance, until you can do it without any assistance at all. To do this, simply wrap the band from the dip bars handles, and stretch it down to place it under you knees.
Exercise number 4 – Dip eccentrics
Another great way of building strength for a full range of motion dip. The great thing about this exercise is that you are training the exact muscles you need to perform a full dip, in it’s range of motion. To do this exercise, grab the bars firmly and jump up into a locked elbows position. Then, proceed to a controlled and slow descent, all the way to the bottom of the movement, and jump back up into your locked elbow position. You want to perform 2 to 3 sets of this movement, staying away from muscle fatigue. This means that you should not do reps until your arms and chest give out completely at very set, but rather until you feel like you are 2 reps or more away from failure.
If you can already do dips – intermediate to advanced
Now if you have already master the dip and can perform sets of over 15 clean repetitions, you may find the following information useful ! As I stated in the beginning, one obvious way of adding difficulty to the dip is by using a dip belt and progressively adding weight from week to week.
You can also increase the difficulty through bodyweight progressions like:
- Performing dips on gymnastic rings
- Performing RTO ( rings turned out ) dips on gymnastics rings
- Increasing forward angle from 30°, all the way to 90° ( all the way to a full planche push up )
If you want to use weights to gradually increase your strength, here are the difficulty level milestones to aim for:
- 1.55x Bodyweight
- 1.7x Bodyweight
- 1.85x Bodyweight
- 2x Bodyweight
- 2.12x Bodyweight
- 2.25x Bodyweight
Chest or tricep dip ?
Further up in the article I said that you can choose to emphasize the amount of work one main muscle group is doing over an other by changing a few things. Here is a list of the different adjustments you need to make to turn the dip into either more of a tricep, or chest exercise.
|Chest dips||Tricep dips|
|Torso forward||Torso vertical|
|Legs forward||Legs under/behind hips|
|Elbows slightly flared||Elbows tucked|
|Soft lockout||Hard lockout|
|Medium - wide hand placement||Narrower hand width|
Using the right form
When training we always want to maximize our efficiency by training with the right intensity, the right exercises, but most importantly if you want to make progressive long term progress; proper form. Doing the exercise with the correct form will insure you get the most out of it strength and muscle building wise, but also that you remain injury free.
What to aim for:
- keep constant tension
- full range of motion at all times
- squeeze shoulder blades at the bottom and push them apart at the top
What to watch out for:
- over extending the elbows
- going to deeper than your shoulder mobility allows
- spine position
Other interesting dip variations
Once you are easily able to do regular parallel bar or ring dips, there are quite a lot of dip variations available for you to try. Some have their advantages in terms of which muscle is being worked the most, whilst others have clear bio mechanical disadvantages. Here a a few effective variations that you may want to try out.
The classical chest/tricep dip being the king of dip exercises, you want to focus on this exercise the most, as it’s possibilities for overloading through harder progression or addition of weight are endless.
Best dip for beginners – Incorporating dips into your routine
Dips being a pushing exercise ( and a formidable one at that ), you can incorporate it on your push days, or just as well your separated chest or tricep orientated training sessions. It’s also a good idea to super set them with a pulling exercise such as pull ups or rows to have a balance workout. Here’s what a basic push and pull workout with dips could look like:
Exercise 1 :
Dips superset with ring or bar rows – 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Push ups superset with pull ups – 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Leg, core, or assistance work on an area you wish to strengthen