When you do your next workout make sure you add a few sets of bodyweight dips into the mix. This effective, multi-joint exercise is considered one of the best bodyweight exercises available. Talk about getting a lot of “bang for your buck” from one single compound movement. Let’s take a deeper look at why this exercise is so beneficial.
Muscle Recruitment During the Movement
One of the many great things about performing dips is, depending on how the body is positioned, will ultimately dictate how the load is placed on the prime muscle groups. Meaning, as you lean forward slightly (45-degree angle), you’ll put more demand on the chest muscles as the movement is executed. When trying to involve more chest, the arms are angled away from the body slightly. In contrast, when the body is positioned and held more vertical, the demand shifts more towards the triceps. If the goal is to target the triceps more, then keep the arms closer to the body. As seen in the left photo below.
- Take hold of each handle with a firm grasp. Extend both arms until they are almost locked out and the body is vertical.
- Engage the core by drawing the navel in towards the spine.
- Inhale as you lower the body downward by flexing the arms.
- Slowly lower the body until the triceps are parallel to the floor while keeping forearms vertical. Arms should be at a 90-degree angle.
- The upper body is leaning forward slightly throughout movement. Pause and return to the starting position as you exhale.
Primary Muscle Groups
The exercise is ideal for building strength and muscle mass in both the chest (pectoralis major, pectoralis minor) and arms (triceps brachii). There is also demand placed on the shoulders, especially the anterior head of the deltoid. In addition, the back also gets worked (latissimus dorsi, rhomboid and trapezius). This is one reason why it’s considered, by many, one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do!
One of the great things about this particular movement is its versatility. The options and exercise variations are many.
- Machine-based dips
- Machine-assisted dips
- Bench dips (feet on the floor)
- Bench dips (feet elevated)
- Traditional dip (as pictured)
- Weighted dip (*hold off until you can perform 10-12 bodyweight repetitions using good form*).
Muscle Recruitment During the Exercise
The great thing about performing bodyweight exercises like dips is depending on how you position the body, can dictate the load placed on different muscle groups. Meaning, as you lean forward slightly (45-degree angle), on the upward and down phase, you’ll put more demand on the chest muscles. When the focus is the chest, the arms are angled away from the body slightly. In contrast, when the body is positioned and held more vertical, the demand shifts more towards the triceps. If the goal is to target the triceps more, then keep the arms closer to the body. As seen in the left photo below.
How Dips Help Other Exercise (like Bench Press)
By doing dips, you’ll end up getting not only stronger, you’re able to push through plateaus better for exercises like bench press. Research shows that exercises that require you to move your body through space, versus stationary exercises, require more muscle recruitment. This is why an exercise like a squat will always be superior to a stationary or supported movement like a leg press. A dip exercise also develops a large proportion of muscle that sits on the upper body. Dips will get the chest and arms stronger as well as the shoulder muscles. The shoulder muscles are used as stabilizers during the movement. As a result, performing dips will increase strength in the shoulder joint. If you have any type of shoulder issues or have a shoulder impingement, this should be a contraindicated exercise.
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