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How To: Chest Dips

Chest Dips

The dip is an excellent exercise for adding mass to both the chest and the triceps, there’s a few different variation of dip which although look quite similar a few small changes In your positioning make a big change in what muscle group you’re primarily hitting.
Dips are in my top 3 exercises for both chest and triceps, and the progression on dips is constant – With the ability to assisted dips, negatives, bodyweight dips, and heavy weighted dips as your chest and triceps grow stronger.
Unlike many other chest and triceps exercise which merely relying on your pushing and lowering a barbell or a pair of Dumbbells the dip is slightly more technical – shoulder positioning, depth, leg placement, there’s a lot more to take into account as you begin to dip on those parallel bars..

Movement: Compound

Targets: Chest & Triceps

Required: Parallel Bars

Optional: Weight Belt/Dumbbell

Chest Dips Form:

Raise yourself up onto a pair of parallel bars.

With your elbows slightly outward tilt your torso forward by looking ahead and bringing your legs up behind you.

From this position contract your arms while maintaining this slight angle in your torso, this ensures we're targeting the chest and not the triceps as our primary muscle group.

See also
How To: Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

Lower yourself down as far as possible, hold this contraction for 1 second.

Driving through your chest explode upward and extend your arms to return yourself to the starting position above your parallel bars.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, add a dumbbell between your legs or strap on a weight belt when possible.

Chest Dips Variations

Triceps Dip

Very similar to the chest dips (it comes as no surprise that many guys don't actually realize that there are multiple variations of dips!) the triceps dip opts for a more upright position with a closer grip on the parallel bars - your arms will stay by your sides and go behind you as opposed to slightly flaring out due to the wider grip as on the chest dips.

The triceps dip is one of the best mass builder for the triceps as the load it places on the targeted muscle cannot be replicated by minuscule isolation exercises such as the dumbbell triceps kickback.

Common Chest Dips Mistakes

Swaying Between Reps

This is the most common mistake I see being made on the chest dip, in order to maintain the correct angle to target the chest as opposed to working solely on the triceps you need to keep your legs back and your core tight for the duration of your set, if you’re disengaging your core and lowering your legs you’ll soon find yourself swaying forwards and backwards after a couple of reps – this takes the tension off your chest, which we ideally want to keep constant.

See also
How To: Pull-Ups

Partial ROM

Whether you’re doing chest dips or triceps dips is irrelevant, a full range of motion should be utilized.
Lowering yourself half way down or doing only the bottom half of the movement (maintaining a large bend in your arms) is not the way to go – professional bodybuilders work in a very small range of motion… but professional bodybuilders are also injecting themselves with large quantities of anabolic steroids, how they train is not necessarily how you should train.

Work the entire range of motion of the dip, from as low as possible without compromising your shoulders to having arms fully extended at the top of each repetition.

Exaggerated ROM

This is quite rare to see, however still worth noting.
At the opposite end of the range of motion spectrum we’ve got the excessive range of motion issue.
If you’re lowering yourself to an extreme at the bottom portion of your dip you’ll run the risk of injuring your shoulders and joints – as the weight will be moved off of your chest/triceps once such a plain of movement is entered.

Work the full range of motion but don’t exaggerate this to the point of excess, risking injury.

Dipping Too Fast

Building muscle and in this case, stimulating your chest and triceps is a matter of time under tension.
We overload our muscles (promoting size and strength gains) via constant increases of this tension.

See also
One Arm Pushup Progression - Creating Crazy Chest Strength
Excessively fast reps and sets will have you applying tension to the muscle for a very brief period of time.
Focus on working with a 2 -1 – 2 tempo.
It should take you 2 seconds to lift the weight, you should pause for a 1 second isometric hold at the top of your movement before taking 2 seconds to lower back to the original position.
Failing To Apply Progressive Overload On Your Dips
In order to build strength and size in your chest and triceps it’s imperative that additional tension be placed on the muscles when performing your dips.
Performing 3 sets of 10 reps of bodyweight dips week in week out will assist in maintaining the muscle mass you have… but don’t expect any additional progress.
Once you’re at the stage where you’re able to perform 8 – 10 reps of dips at bodyweight it’s time to take things to the next level by adding additional weight.
Get a dip belt or hold a dumbbell between your legs and focus on building strength in the lower rep range – when you’re able to dip an additional 45lbs for 8 – 10 reps you won’t have to worry about the size of your chest or triceps anymore as they’ll take care of themselves…
As Arnold said, size is a by-product of strength.
Flaring Your Elbows
Flaring your elbows outward when performing dips places your shoulders in a compromised position and increases your risk of injury.
Your shoulders should be tucked in to ensure you’re isolating your chest and triceps, the flaring of the elbows is generally a sign that you’re attempting to recruit your shoulders to assist in the movement.
If you’re performing dips with additional weight I’d recommend lowering the weight and building up a bit more strength before going too heavy and compromising your form.
If you find your elbows flaring out towards the end of your set of bodyweight dips instead of battling through those questionable reps jump up into position and perform several negative reps to overload the muscle, ensuring your elbows remain tucked in.

Similar & Substitute Exercises 

  • Push-ups
  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Flies
See also
How To: Side Plank

Any Questions Regarding Chest Dips? Ask Below!

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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