Dips are one of the most effective exercises for building upper body strength. I would place them right up there with Bench Press and Pull-ups in their effectiveness in building both strength and mass.
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do dips including some specific coaching points and a few alternatives in case you don’t have a dip attachment available to you.
How To Do Dips
- Squat Rack
- Dip Attachment
- A Dip Station can be used as well if you have access to one.
- Shoulders (Anterior Delt)
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.
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.
Benefits of Dips
There are several benefits to incorporating dips into your workout routine:
- 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.
- Enhanced functional strength: Dips require you to support your own body weight, which can help improve your functional strength and stability.
- 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.
- 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.
How Many Reps?
Rep ranges for Dips can vary pretty widely depending on strength levels. I encourage any of my athletes who can do as few as 2 or 3 dips on their own to continue doing them in small sets as they begin to build their strength.
On the other end of the spectrum, once an athlete can do sets of about 15 to 20 without much issue I will encourage them to start adding extra resistance to their Dips.
Dips, similar to Pull-Ups, are not easy for a beginner. On the flip side, advanced lifters may get to a point where even sets of 25 dips start to not be challenging enough. Here are a few variations for both sides of this spectrum.
(Want even more options? Here is a list of our 10 favorite Alternatives for Dips.)
Band Assisted Dips
If you’re struggling with Dips, grab a resistance band to help you out. Loop the band around the dip rack and then pull the band down under one knee. When you get into the starting position place your other knee on top of the band as well.
The band will now give you added assistance as you lower yourself down into the rep. Thicker bands will get more assistance while thinner bands will give less. This gives you the ability to create a natural progression until you no longer need the assistance of bands at all.
Another alternative for Dips if you’re struggling (or if you don’t have Dip Attachment) is Bench Dips.
Use a bench (or a sturdy box), place the heels of your hands on the edge of one side of the bench and extend your legs straight out in front of you.
Start with your arms extending and then lower yourself down until your triceps become parallel to the floor. When you reach the bottom of the rep, drive yourself back to the starting position. Make sure to keep your back close to the bench throughout.
If regular Dips are no longer challenging then it’s time to progress to Weighted Dips. There are many different ways you can add extra resistance to your Dips. Choose whichever implement you have access to and are comfortable using.
Some examples are a weighted vest, squat/bench chains, holding a dumbbell between your feet or using a weight belt with a chain designed to hold weight plates.
If you have a set of rings, Ring Dips are another great dip variation that will up the difficulty of the movement. Set your rings up and perform Dips the exact same way you would with a Dip Attachment.
The added challenge of having to balance and stabilize while pressing is huge.
More Links and Info
For more great exercises focusing on the biceps and triceps, check out the Arm Farm section of the Exercise Library.