Whether you’re a professional athlete, or someone just beginning your physical fitness journey, incorporating dip bars into your routine can prove immensely beneficial. Dip bars, also known as parallel bars, are a versatile piece of gym equipment used primarily for upper body exercises, specifically Dips.
They are pivotal in developing and strengthening multiple muscle groups, including the pectorals (chest), triceps (back of your arms), and deltoids (shoulders).
However, not all dip bars are made the same. One of the most significant and often overlooked aspects of selecting a dip bar is its width.
The width of the dip bar has a profound effect on the quality of your workout, muscle engagement, and most importantly, your safety. Using a dip bar that’s too wide for your body frame can lead to strains and injuries, while one that’s too narrow might limit the range of motion and effectiveness of your exercises.
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Types of Dip Bars
The market offers a variety of dip bars, each designed to cater to different needs, preferences, and workout spaces. Below are the three most common types:
Dip Rack Attachments
These Dip Bars attach to a squat rack in the same way a set of J-Hooks or Safety Bars do. (Specifically, how they attach will depend on the rack and dip attachment brand.)
Dip Rack Attachments come with two major benefits.
First, you can easily adjust the height of your Dip Bars.
If Dip Bars are too high they can be a pain to get up into a starting position. If they’re too low you can end up hitting your feet (or even knees) on the ground at the bottom.
Being able to easily adjust the height to your needs is very convenient.
Second, they take up much less space and can be stored away when not being used.
A Dip Station (more on a Dip Station is just a second) can be a great piece of equipment, but it does take up a significant amount of floor space and space can often be at a premium when outfitting a home gym.
Dip Stations are stand-alone pieces of equipment that are often designed and used for 3 primary exercises: Dips, Hanging Leg Lifts for Abs and Pull-Ups (if the Dip Station is a combo Dip/Pull-Up station which is the most common).
Dip Stations can vary from commercial-level stations all the way to cheap at-home varieties.
Commercial stations sometimes even include weight stacks that can be used to assist you in doing Dips and Pull-ups. These machines are absolute tanks that weigh a ton and don’t budge an inch.
At-Home versions are much more economical, but are also generally much lighter. Being lighter makes them easy to move around in your home gym, but too light can make the Dip Station unstable and potentially even dangerous.
Understanding the features of each type of dip bar will help you make an informed decision about which model suits your needs the best, especially concerning the width of the bars.
These are dip bars that are most often found in a park.
These are the simplest designed bars, literally sturdy metal beams setup parallel to one another.
Factors Influencing the Width of Dip Bars
When selecting the optimal width of your dip bar, there are several crucial factors to take into account. These include your body dimensions, your level of experience, and the muscle engagement you aim for.
Let’s explore these factors in more detail:
Shoulder Width and Personal Comfort
Shoulder width is a significant factor (maybe the most important factor) when determining the appropriate dip bar width.
As a rule of thumb, the width of the dip bar should be similar to your shoulder width. This configuration ensures the most natural movement of your arms and shoulders, reducing the risk of injury and strain.
However, personal comfort is also a crucial element to consider. You should feel comfortable and stable while using the bars. If you feel any discomfort or excessive strain, it may indicate that the bar width is not right for you.
Level of Training and Experience
Your experience level also plays a role in choosing the right dip bar width. If you’re a beginner, a narrower width might be more comfortable and manageable, allowing you to build up your strength and technique gradually.
On the other hand, experienced athletes might prefer a wider bar to challenge their strength and stability more intensely, as wider bars generally require more control and effort.
The Effect of Dip Bar Width on Muscle Engagement
The width of the dip bars also influences muscle engagement during workouts. A wider grip focuses more on the chest muscles, while a narrower grip targets the triceps.
By varying the width of the dip bars, you can effectively target different muscle groups in your upper body. Therefore, understanding how bar width affects muscle engagement can help you to better tailor your workout to your fitness goals.
Each of these factors plays a significant role in determining the optimal width for your dip bars, making it a highly individual choice. By considering these aspects, you can ensure that your dip bars will serve as an effective tool for your workouts.
Popular Brand Specs
Here are some brand specs for some of the most popular Dip Attachments on the market. These attachments are all angled – they’re wider at the ends and narrow toward the base. This makes it much easier to find the width that is most comfortable for you.
|Brand||Model||Dip Bar Width||Fits|
|Titan||Y Series Dip Bar||18″ – 24″||3 x 3|
|Titan||T2 Series Y-Dip||16″ – 22″||2 x 2|
|Titan||T3 Series Y-Dip||20″ – 25.5′||2 x 3|
|Rogue||Infinity Matador||17.75″ – 24.75″||2 x 3|
|Rogue||Monster Matador||17.75″ – 24.75″||3 x 3|
|Rogue||Monster Lite Matador||17.75″ – 24.75″||3 x 3|
Considerations (other than width) to Keep in Mind When Purchasing
Perhaps the most important consideration to keep in mind, even more so than the width of the bars, is the size of upright that the dip attachment fits.
Squat Rack Specs vary from rack to rack. Knowing the size of your uprights is critical to making sure your dip attachment will fit properly. The most common sizes are 2 x 2″ (2 inches wide by 2 inches deep), 2 x 3″ and 3 x 3″.
I strongly recommend double and even triple-checking your upright size along with your potential dip attachment size to ensure it will fit properly.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Different Dip Bar Widths
Dip bars come in varying widths, each presenting its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Below we explore the benefits and drawbacks of narrow, wide, and neutral/medium dip bars.
Narrow Dip Bars: Benefits and Drawbacks
- Greater Triceps Engagement: A narrower grip places more emphasis on the triceps, providing a targeted workout for this muscle group.
- Stability: Because your arms remain closer to your body, a narrow grip generally offers more stability, making it suitable for beginners.
- Comfort: Narrow dip bars can be more comfortable for those with a smaller frame or shoulder width.
- Limited Chest Engagement: A narrow grip may not fully engage the chest muscles, which could be a downside for those looking to work this area.
- May Not Fit Wider Frames: If you have a wider frame, then you may simply not fit inside a narrow grip dip bar.
Wide Dip Bars: Benefits and Drawbacks
- Greater Chest Engagement: A wider grip targets the chest muscles more effectively.
- Increased Difficulty: Wide dip bars provide a greater challenge, making them suitable for experienced athletes looking to push their limits.
- Potential Shoulder Strain: A grip that is too wide can put excess strain on the shoulder joints, increasing the risk of injury.
- Less Stability: Wide dip bars may provide less stability, particularly for beginners or those with less upper body strength.
Neutral/Medium Dip Bars: Benefits and Drawbacks
- Balanced Muscle Engagement: A neutral or medium grip offers a balance between chest and triceps engagement, providing a well-rounded workout.
- Less Targeted: While a medium grip works multiple muscle groups, it might not target the chest or triceps as effectively as a narrow or wide grip would.
- Comfort: For some people, particularly those with broader or narrower frames, a medium width may not be as comfortable.
Understanding these benefits and drawbacks can guide you in selecting the appropriate dip bar width for your individual needs, goals, and comfort.
The width of your dip bars is not a trivial aspect to overlook. It significantly influences the effectiveness of your workouts, muscle engagement, and most importantly, your safety and comfort.
Ultimately, the correct width should align closely with your shoulder width measurement, but also consider how the different widths affect muscle engagement.
I suggest experimenting with different widths. If possible, try adjustable dip bars or dip bars in a ‘Y Design’ that allows you to find the perfect fit. In doing so, you’ll be better able to find what works best for you, aligning with your individual goals and comfort.