Dips vs Push Ups (Is One Better For Strength?)


Dips vs Push-ups

Push-ups and Dips are both classic exercises that are often used to strengthen the upper body, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps. While both exercises are pushing movements, there are some key differences between Dips and Push-ups that you should consider when deciding which exercise to include in your workout routine.

One main difference between Dips and Push-ups is the way that they target different muscle groups. Push-ups primarily work the chest muscles (pectorals), with the triceps being secondary. Dips, on the other hand, primarily target the triceps, and the chest muscles to a slightly lesser extent.

Another difference between Dips and Push-ups is the equipment needed. Push-ups can be done almost anywhere with no equipment needed, while Dips require a specific piece of equipment, such as parallel bars or a dip station.

Despite these differences, both Dips and Push-ups can be effective exercises for building upper body strength and endurance.

In this article, I’m going to break down how to do both exercises including the muscles worked and the benefits. I’ll also do a side-by-side comparison to see if one exercise is better than the other for some common lifting goals.


Dips


Man Doing Dips on Dip Rack Attachment

Equipment Needed

  • Squat Rack
  • Dip Attachment
  • A Dip Station can be used as well if you have access to one.

Muscles Worked

  • Chest
  • Shoulders (Anterior Delt)
  • Triceps

Step By Step Instructions

  • Attach your dip rack to your rack. This process will vary based on your rack and dip attachment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
  • Set your dip rack just above waist height. This will allow enough room for your feet not to hit the ground while doing reps, but not so high you feel you have to jump up into your first rep.
  • Starting position is hands on bars, arms extended, knees slightly bent and feet crossed (crossing feet is optional but does help with unwanted swinging in my experience.
  • Descend down by bending the elbows and slightly leaning forward.
  • Lower yourself under control until the triceps become parallel with the ground and then drive yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with dips is poor range of motion. If someone is struggling to be able to do reps, the easiest solution is to simply not lower yourself into a full rep, but this is incorrect. If a lifter cannot perform a full rep they should switch to one of the variations listed below.

The other issue I see my athletes run into is unwanted swinging front to back while doing reps. Stay under control, keep a consistent rep path, bend the knees and cross the feet. These are all solutions that I have seen help eliminate swinging while doing Dips.

Don’t have a dip attachment? Here are 10 alternatives for Dips you can do instead.

Benefits of Dips

There are several benefits to incorporating Dips into your workout routine:

  1. Increased upper body strength: Dips require a significant amount of strength in the triceps, shoulders, and chest, and performing them regularly can help you build muscle and improve overall upper body strength.
  2. Enhanced functional strength: Dips require you to support your own body weight, which can help improve your functional strength and stability.
  3. Greater range of motion: Dips allow for a greater range of motion than many other upper body exercises, which can help improve your mobility and flexibility.
  4. Versatility: Dips can be performed with a variety of equipment, including bars, rings, and even parallel bars, giving you plenty of options for mixing up your workouts.

Overall, dips are a valuable exercise that can help you build strength, improve muscle definition, and enhance functional strength and mobility.


Push-Ups


Equipment Needed:

  • None

Muscles Worked

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Biceps (Isometric and eccentric contributors)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Lie face down on the floor.
  • Pull your toes in so that you’re on the tip of your shoes.
  • Eyes should be focused straight down or slightly up.
  • Pull your hands close to about the nipple line of the chest and bring them out about 2-3 inches away.
  • Take a deep breath, engage the core and brace.
  • Push yourself up in one unit. There should be no sagging of the waist. The entire body from head to toe should move up and then back down in unison.
  • Feel your scapula upwardly rotate and make sure the antagonist muscles (Back and biceps) are fully engaging.
  • Lock out your push-up and pause.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down and get ready for the next repetition from just above the ground. Do not fully relax at the bottom of the push-up unless your program specifies.

Coaching Points

Take your time and master the Push-up. The benefits of doing sound push-ups will pay dividends for your shoulder health and the potential to maximize your upper body strength.

Keep the elbows at a 45-degree angle. For maximal chest, shoulder, and rotator cuff engagement, do not let the elbows flare out away from the middle. Also, do not let the elbow hug right next to the torso.

I would highly recommend this movement to any athlete. It provides all the benefits a pressing movement can offer with minimal risk.

Common Mistakes

By far the biggest mistake I see in the push-up is lifters not using a full range of motion. Push all the way up and slowly lower yourself back to about an inch of the ground.

Elbow angle. Another common mistake in pressing movements is lifters letting those elbows flare. Remember to keep your elbows at 45 degrees to keep your shoulders healthy.

Another mistake is lifters go too fast with their push-ups. Push-ups are commonly programmed for strength and hypertrophy. This means time under tension is key. Take them slow and perfect the movement to yield maximal results.

Benefits of Push-ups

Some of the key benefits of push-ups include:

  1. Strengthens the upper body: Push-ups are an excellent way to build strength in the chest, shoulders, and arms.
  2. Increases muscle endurance: Push-ups can help to improve your muscle endurance by challenging your upper body muscles to work for an extended period of time.
  3. Can be done anywhere: One of the great things about Push-ups is that they can be done almost anywhere with no equipment needed, making them a convenient exercise to incorporate into your fitness routine.
  4. Improves overall functional strength: Push-ups require a combination of strength and stability, which can translate to improved functional strength in everyday activities.

In addition to these physical benefits, push-ups can also be a great way to boost your mental toughness and confidence.

Dips vs Push-ups: Which is Better?

Now, let’s do a side-by-side comparison of both exercises and discuss if one is better than the other for some common lifting goals.

Better For Building Size and Strength: Toss Up

It’s hard to definitely say one exercise or the other as being superior because both Dips and Push-ups can be effective exercises for building upper body strength.

Dips emphasize the triceps a bit more, while Push-ups target the chest. However, both exercises will effectively work the chest, shoulders and triceps.

Ultimately, having both exercises in your training program is the best way to go to maximize upper body strength and muscle mass.

Better For Beginners: Push-Ups

Push-ups are generally considered a more accessible exercise for beginners compared to dips. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Push-ups require less equipment: Push-ups can be done almost anywhere with no equipment needed, making them a convenient exercise for beginners who may not have access to a dip station or parallel bars.
  2. Push-ups allow for easier modification: It is easier to modify push-ups to accommodate different strength levels compared to dips. For example, beginners can start by doing push-ups with their knees on the ground. Dips can also be modified, but it’s much more complex.
  3. Push-ups are easier on the joints: Dips can be hard on the shoulders and elbow joints, especially for beginners who may not have the necessary strength or mobility. Push-ups, on the other hand, place less strain on the joints and are generally easier on the body.

That being said, dips can still be a great exercise for beginners, as long as they are performed with proper form and with the appropriate level of intensity. If you are new to exercise or are unsure about your fitness level, it may be a good idea to start with push-ups and gradually progress to dips once you have built up the necessary strength.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Dips vs Push-Ups. The truth is, there is no reason (assuming you have the available equipment) you shouldn’t have both exercises in your training program.

Both are excellent exercises for developing upper body strength and muscle mass. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Dips and Push-ups in your training plan.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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