Bodybuilding Exercise: Chest Dips
Chest dips are an excellent alternative to the decline barbell/dumbbells bench press, although they require some strength and are therefore not recommended for beginners. Performed with the body held vertical and elbows close to the sides, the exercise works primarily the triceps, while performing it while leaning forward with the elbows flared out makes it primarily a chest exercise. Most gyms have parallel dipping bars but you may have access to bars that form a V. Try both and see which feels the most comfortable, particularly on the shoulder joint.
Other Names for Chest Dips
- Parallel Dips
- Parallel Bar Dips
- Bodyweight Dip
How to Perform Chest Dips?
STARTING POSITION: Stand between the bars. Grasp the parallel bars with your arms extended and locked. Lean forward, bend your knees slightly (to keep your feet from touching the floor) and cross your legs (or keep them together).
ACTION: Keep your elbows out to your sides as you lower yourself down, dropping until your upper arms are about parallel to the floor. In other words, go deep but not so deep that you aggravate the shoulder joints. Squeezing your palms toward each other in an isometric fashion, begin pressing back up until your arms are again fully extended. Be sure to keep leaning forward or the exercise focus will shift more to your triceps. The wider your grip, the more the exercise will work the chest, and the less it will work the triceps. However, the risk of muscles tears increases because of the greater stretch in the pectoralis major.
- Main muscles: pectoralis major (lower part), triceps, deltoids (anterior), pectoralis minor
- Secondary muscles: serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, subscapularis
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids (posterior), trapezius
Exercise Variations – Make it Harder
- If you perform dips where the bars are farther apart, your outer pecs will get more work. If the bars are closer together, the effort shifts to your inner pecs.
- Chest dips with weights (Weighted chest dips). The movement and technique are the same as for the basic exercise. The only difference is to hang a weight from your waist or a belt (or hold a dumbbell between crossed feet). Don’t try this until you are very comfortable with regular chest dips.
Substitutes (Replacement Exercises)
- Assisted dip machine. You can perform this exercise while seated on a machine. However, because most
dip machines restrict torso motion, they tend to target the triceps more than the chest.
- Decline barbell bench press
- Decline dumbbell bench press
Chest Dip Tips & Tricks
- The more the chest is angled forward during the exercise, the more the inferior fibers of the pectorals are used. Conversely, the more vertical the chest, the more the triceps brachii will be used. If you lift your ankles toward your buttocks, you’ll naturally lean forward more.
- Your elbows should move backwards away from the trunk as you come down.
- This exercise is excellent for stretching the pectoralis major and for working on the flexibility of the shoulder girdle. However, it is not recommended for beginners because it requires a certain amount of initial strength.
- At first, don’t lower yourself too far on the bars or you may strain your shoulders. However, the lower you can safely go, the more your outer pecs will benefit.
- If you are a beginner, use a dips machine to familiarize yourself with the movement.
- For developing more strength and also more size, athletes used to this movement may use a weight belt, or hang a weight from their legs.
- Absolutely never bounce (or “pre-stretch” as it may euphemistically be called) at the bottom of the dip; and avoid doing reps in a rapid style.
- Your head position is critical. Keep your chin down near your chest. This position optimizes the recruitment of the chest muscles and minimizes the involvement of the triceps.
This great lower chest exercise is very demanding on the shoulders, even if done under good control and without bottoming out. But most people can do it safely if they use good form. If you have had shoulder problems in the past, and the dip still bothers you no matter how careful you are, then forget the dip. But while you may not be able to do the orthodox parallel bar dip safely, you may be able to do the machine version.
While simple to look at, dipping bars are one of the most effective apparatus for working the chest, shoulders and triceps. Dipping bars can be parallel, like gymnastics bars, or V-shaped (coming closer together at one end). Performed with the body held vertical and elbows close to the sides, the exercise works primarily the triceps, while performing it while leaning forward with the elbows flared out makes it primarily a chest exercise.
A properly executed chest dip not only works your chest, but also involves most of all the upper body pushing muscles as well. In order to have a well developed chest, performing chest dips is a must! The great thing about doing dips is that you use your own body weight. The chest dip exercise is an advanced pectoral movement that requires tremendous upper body strength, especially for larger people. If you can’t complete a full set of dips, then do as many as you can.