Benefits of the Chest Dip
Chest dips are one of the most advanced bodyweight exercises you can do to develop your pectorals, shoulders, triceps, and core. The goal with the movement is to grab a dip bar and support yourself without letting your feet touch the floor. Once in position, you have to use your upper body musculature to lower yourself (dip) and push back to the starting position.
The chest dip is beneficial because it allows you to leverage your body for resistance instead of external weights. As such, dips are fantastic to do on the road, at the local park, or in a crowded gym.
Changing the angle of your torso allows you to place more emphasis on your chest or triceps. A more upright torso shifts the focus to the triceps, whereas leaning forward works the chest more effectively.
We recommend doing the movement early in your training, preferably as a first or second exercise. Dips are challenging, so it’s best to perform them while you’re fresh and strong.
How to do a Chest Dip
- Grip a parallel bar slightly outside shoulder-width level.
- Raise yourself so you can stand over the dip bar with your elbows fully extended. If the dip bar offers foot support, use it until its time to start doing the repetitions.
- Simultaneously, tilt your body forward slightly and curl your legs. This will place your weight on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
- Tilt your body a bit more and extend your chest forward to place your shoulders in a safer and more advantageous position.
- Inhale and begin to lower yourself by breaking at the elbows. Maintain your body’s rigid position during the repetition.
- Lower yourself until you feel a good stretch in your pecs (generally to the point where your elbows are at 90 degrees) and then push through your elbows and exhale to get back to the top.
What muscles does the chest dip activate?
Chest dips are an excellent movement for developing your chest muscles (pectorals). The pectorals cover the front side of your upper torso and play an essential role in numerous arm motions (1). One of the pecs’ functions is to press, which occurs during dips.
The second muscle group that works during dips is the triceps, which cover the rear of our upper arms and produce elbow extension (2). Our triceps produce force to control the descend and contract to bring us back to the top position. Since the long head of the triceps crosses the shoulder, the muscle group also provides support at the joint.
The chest dip also involves the deltoids, which support the shoulder joint. Our deltoids also assist the pectorals and triceps during the exercise.
Performing chest dips is also excellent for core strength because the muscles in the midsection (abs, transverse abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae) flex isometrically to keep the upper body stable.
Chest Dips Vs.Tricep Dips
As briefly mentioned in the introduction, the torso angle can affect which muscles you emphasize during a dip. A more upright torso puts your pectorals at a mechanical disadvantage, forcing the triceps to do more work. In contrast, leaning forward allows the pectorals to contribute better, making the movement chest-focused.
Both variations have their unique benefits, and you can include either in your training. For example, chest dips are good for emphasizing the lower portion of the pectorals, leading to more balanced development. But, tricep dips are also beneficial because the movement allows you to overload the triceps with greater resistance.
What matters most is that you find the movements comfortable, and neither variation leads to shoulder or elbow discomfort.
A drawback of dips is that not everyone feels their chest muscles working. While relatively simple, mastering the dip isn’t always easy, and some folks need to perform the exercise for weeks before they can feel the correct muscles working. Tricep dips tend to be simpler, but keeping your shoulders down and back can be challenging. Some trainees allow their shoulders to shrug, placing unnecessary stress on the muscles and connective tissues.
Variations and Modifications of the Chest Dip
1. Tricep Dip
Tricep dips are the most straightforward variation of the classic exercise. The primary difference is that your torso is more upright, allowing you to place greater focus on the triceps.
2. Bench Dip
Bench dips, also known as chair dips, are a variation where you face away from the bench and place your hands on the edge. You then have to extend your body and support yourself with your arm muscles. Once in position, dip and push yourself back to the top.
3. Weighted Dip
Weighted dips are an even more advanced variation reserved for the strongest trainees. The goal is to attach a weight plate to yourself via a special belt and perform dips as you usually would. The additional resistance would force your muscles to work extra hard and develop further.
Mistakes to Avoid
A common mistake with dips is introducing external weight too quickly. Many eager trainees ditch the bodyweight dip in favor of the seemingly more effective weighted dip. The trouble is, doing so can hinder your technique, making the movement less effective and increasing your risk of an injury. We recommend attaching a weight on yourself once you can comfortably do at least 20 bodyweight dips.
Another mistake with dips is shortening the range of motion by not pushing to the top or lowering yourself enough. Doing so isn’t ideal because you cannot train the involved muscles effectively. Lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, and press until your arms are straight.
The third mistake with dips is allowing your shoulders to shrug. Doing so increases the risk of injuries, creates upper body instability, and hinders your performance. The goal is to bring your shoulders back and down and maintain that position for the duration of each set, similar to how you would on any other chest exercise.
Similar Exercises to the Chest Dip
Decline Bench Press (Dumbbell)
Like dips, the dumbbell decline press overloads your muscles with a lot of weight and emphasizes the lower pectorals. The movement prioritizes your lower pectorals because of muscle fiber orientation. Fibers that make up the lower region run horizontally and up. So, when performing activities that bring our arms in and down, these fibers activate more effectively.
Bench Press (Barbell)
While not a lower-chest exercise, the barbell bench press is effective as it allows you to develop your pectorals (3). Similar to chest dips, bench pressing is also good for shoulder, tricep, and midsection development. These muscles play an essential role in providing stability and moving the barbell from point A to B.