Dip Basics

17-08-2018
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The dip is quite a controversial exercise. Some people swear it is the best exercise ever. Others don’t think it is really effective. Moreover, it is straight harmful and painful.

This article is for the latter group, because they are probably doing this exercise deadly wrong.

It is only not effective for lightweight individuals with short arms or those who use a wrong technique.


One of the most important things you should be familiar with is the basics of the mechanics of the human shoulder (or glenohumeral joint, for a smart asses).

Since it is a 3D joint, it is most important to make sure your body is positioned in the middle, in a stable position. To ensure this, keep to the following:

  • Pull your shoulders and shoulder blades together and backwards.
  • Meanwhile, force your full shoulder girdle downwards by flexing your lats. To be more picturesque: pretend that you are squeezing something under your arms.
  • Keep your shoulders slightly rotated outwards throughout the full motion range, by pulling your shoulder blades together.

If you always follow these basic rules, this painful “shoulder-killer” exercise will immediately become a beneficial one for the shoulders, while the pushing muscles including the pecs, the triceps and the front delts start to develop, too.

However, if you want to do it perfect, there are still some things to learn.

If you can master them all, your development will get kickstarted for real. The good news is that once you master one thing, the next will be easier and, as you are putting together the proper posture and movement pattern, the “puzzle” will gradually get completed. Now let’s get down to it!

1 Lean Forward

Many think that the dip is a tricep exercise. This is just as right as thinking that the bench press is a chest exercise. True, there are dips for the triceps, but now we are talking about standard dips for the pecs, which requires a different technique.

This is a complex move, involving several muscles. But you can exert most of the load to your pecs if you are leaning forward by 45 degrees and go as deep that you can feel your pectorals stretch intensely. Make sure you are keeping your shoulders down and flexing your back muscles.

2 Flex Your Trunk

By flexing your abdominals your will get your hips into the right position. Doing so, you will prevent overstrain in the lumbar spine, and your whole spine will get into a healthier, straight and more stable position.

3 Don’t “Snake”

A lot of people arch their backs backwards as they are pushing themselves up. This mistake is related to the previous point: the trunk is not flexed properly. Doing so, you will move in a snake-like manner like crossfitters, which is far from effective dips.

4 Don’t Arch Your Back

This is the opposite of the previous point: when one is dipping in a “fetal position”, with a round upper back. This should be avoided, because in this case the shoulders are starting to rotate inwards, which can be very harmful to the shoulder joints, especially under load.

5 Keep Your Back Straight

The primary goal is to flex the latissimus dorsi. This will help you keep a straight posture during the exercise. Plus, this is the most efficient way of keeping your shoulders in their place.

6 Control Your Shoulders

During the negative phase, you should keep in mind the following: pull your shoulders backwards and push them downwards, and keep them in this position throughout the whole move.

7 Focus on the Negative Phase

Instead of focusing your mental powers on using the heaviest weight possible, you should rather concentrate on doing the exercise in a strict form. Focus on the negative phase, lower your body slowly, hold for a moment at the lowest point, and push up explosively. As if you were doing bench presses. I mean, properly.

8 Look Ahead

Proper head position is a critical part of this exercise. If you let your head drop or, on the contrary, you are arching it backwards, the whole move can fall apart. Keep your head in a neutral position all along. Look straight ahead.

If you are a beginner with low strength level, this will definitely be a complex exercise for you.

It is a huge misconception that the dip is an easy exercise just because it requires no weight or machine. On the contrary: it is really hard, provided that you are doing it right. Difficulty also depends on your bodyweight. The heavier you are, the more difficult you will find exercises using your own bodyweight, even if you have a large muscle mass.

And if you are a beginner, don’t take it as a chest or tricep exercise, because it works them both. But, once you start doing it RIGHT, your back, your shoulders and maybe your abs will feel sore, too. And, if you eat right, too, the mass of your upper body will start to grow for sure.


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