Looking for serious upper body gains at home? It’s time to do some dips!
Dips are an upper body compound pushing exercise that hits various muscle groups all at once. It is also a versatile exercise, boasting multiple variations that can decrease or increase the difficulty.
The best thing? You can do dips at home. That’s right - dips are a body weight exercise, so there is no equipment needed. No need to go to the gym!
In this complete dips exercise guide, we go over the difference between chest dips and tricep dips, the benefits of doing dips, best dip form, and a full list of home dips exercises that you can try today.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips
What is the difference between tricep dips and chest dips?
When someone mentions dips, they could be referring to either chest dips or tricep dips (also known as bench dips). Yes - there are two main variations of dips, which obviously target the two different muscle groups.
As dips are compound exercises, both chest dips and tricep dips target multiple muscle groups - specifically, the chest, triceps, and deltoid muscle.
But the main difference between chest dips and tricep dips is that they favor one muscle group more than the other. Chest dips will work the chest more, while tricep dips will work the triceps more.
This also means that the way the exercise is performed is different.
What are Dips Good for? (Dips Benefits)
There are multiple benefits to doing dips! Dips are good for building upper body muscle and upper body strength, specifically targeting your lower chest, triceps, and front delts.
Dips also help to increase pushing strength, which can translate to other pushing exercises such as push-ups, bench presses, and overhead presses.
Another benefit to dips is that you do not need gym equipment to do them. As dips are a body weight exercise, you can do dips at home by simply pushing your body weight in space.
There are also multiple variations of dips exercises, offering the ability to target different muscles as well as increase the difficulty.
- Summarized, dip exercise benefits are:
- build chest, triceps, and shoulder muscle
- increase chest, triceps, and shoulder strength
- increase pushing strength overall
- no equipment needed (body weight only)
What Is Proper Dips Form?
How do you do chest dips? And are chest dips safe?
Chest dips have a reputation for being an unsafe exercise that can cause different kinds of shoulder problems.
But that is only if they are performed with incorrect form! And as with any exercise, it’s important to use proper form.
Correct chest dips form involves depressed shoulders and a protracted chest, with tucked elbows (not flared) while keeping the forearms vertical.
In addition to this, you should lean forwards slightly and lower yourself down so that your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. This is comfortable for most people and low enough to make the exercise effective.
Chest dip injuries, particularly shoulder injuries, tend to arise from dipping too low and flaring the elbows, which can be problematic for those with reduced shoulder flexibility.
If in doubt, only dip as low as it feels comfortable.
Chest Dips Exercises
Now, it’s time to get to the good stuff!
Below, find out how to do dips at home for serious gains. These chest dip exercises will hit your chest, triceps, and front deltoid muscle all in one go, requiring little or no equipment at all.
For those of you with a little cash to spend, we have included how to do dips on gymnastic rings, as well as how to do dips on a dip station. Both of these are relatively inexpensive.
But don’t fret if you don’t want to spend. You can still do chest dips at home without any equipment!
Got a home dip station, or a pair of tall parallettes? Then you are all set to bring on the chest gains.
How to Do Chest Dips
Get a good grip of the parallel bars, then push down to bring your body off the floor. For correct form, your shoulders should be pushed down and pulled back (depressed), with your chest pushed out (protracted).
Cross your legs behind you if your body is not high enough to keep them extended. This does not reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
Maintaining depressed shoulders and a protracted chest, tilt forwards slightly and lower yourself, bending your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Make sure to keep your elbows tucked and not flared, and your forearms perfectly vertical.
At the bottom portion of the dip, you should feel an intense stretch on your lower chest and the side of your pecs, as well as your front delts. Complete one rep by pushing back up, engaging your chest and tricep muscles, before locking out your elbows.
Don’t have a dip station or a set of parallel bars? No problem, you can do dips with a pair of chairs!
In this case, the taller the chairs, or stools, the better. This will ensure that you can lower yourself down properly.
The only difference between doing dips on chairs to doing dips on a dip station (or a set of parallel bars) is that you will be placing your hands flat on the chair, as opposed to gripping bars. If desired, you can place a pair of small parallettes onto the chairs if available.
All in all, the movement of the exercise is the same.
Make sure to maintain depressed shoulders and a protracted chest as you lower your body into the dip, keeping your forearms vertical. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, then push back up to the starting position, locking out your elbows, for one perfect rep.
Kitchen Counter Dips
Yes, it’s possible - you can do chest dips using a kitchen counter!
You will, however, need two kitchen counters that meet at a 90-degree angle where you can place both hands on.
To do kitchen counter dips, position yourself in front of the inside corner of your kitchen counter where the two counters meet. Place your palms on each side, bring your body off the floor, lean forwards slightly, and perform the dips as usual.
Remember to maintain depressed shoulders and a protracted chest, and to keep your forearms vertical.
Despite the convenience of kitchen counter dips, it is important to remember not to flare your elbows too much. The position of the hands on the counter might influence flared elbows, which can lead to shoulder injuries.
Gymnastic Ring Dips
Gymnastic ring dips can also be done at home if you have gymnastic rings (relatively inexpensive) and somewhere to hang them from, such as a door frame pull-up bar, pull-up rack, or ceiling beam.
What are the benefits of ring dips?
Ring dips are significantly harder than regular chest dips. This is because the rings are unstable, forcing your muscles to work harder to maintain stability and correct form throughout the full movement of the exercise.
Due to this, you can receive serious gains from ring dips!
Before you attempt gymnastic ring dips, however, it is important to be comfortable with regular dips. If you are not comfortable with regular dips (able to complete multiple sets comfortably, with good form), attempting ring dips as a beginner can quickly lead to shoulder injury.
How to Do Ring Dips
To do ring dips, first get familiar with how rings feel by performing a ring support hold. This gymnastics exercise will help you to learn to control the rings in your grip, with your body suspended in the air.
Once you get comfortable doing ring support holds, perform a ring chest dip by tilting forwards slightly and lowering yourself as slowly as possible. It’s important to go slow, as ring dips require greater control to remain stable.
Remember to bend your elbows to 90 degrees only (to begin with). The risk of shoulder injury is greater with ring dips due to the instability factor, which makes it even more important to maintain correct form.
Weighted Chest Dips
Yes, it is possible to add weight to chest dips. If any of the above exercises get too easy - i.e. you can complete multiple sets of twelve reps and over with perfect form - then that is a good indicator that you can move on to weighted dips.
As extra weight makes chest dips significantly more difficult, it’s extra important to maintain correct form (depressed shoulders, protracted chest, tucked elbows, and vertical forearms).
For best results, the weight is positioned directly under your center of mass, typically beneath your waist.
This can be done with a dip belt, from which you would hang a weight plate or dumbbell.
However, you can also use a sturdy backpack with heavy items placed inside - books, water bottles, or bricks - worn backwards (on your chest).
What are the benefits of weighted chest dips? Simply put, the more weight you add to the exercise, the more of a challenge it is going to be. This means building more muscle, in addition to greatly increasing your strength.
Best Chest Dip Variations
What’s great about the chest dip is that there are countless variations. These variations allow you to increase the difficulty of dips, as well as target different areas of your chest more effectively.
And just like any exercise or workout, it’s important to mix it up to make sure that you are constantly challenging your muscles - both for progressive overload and for greater muscle activation.
Check out a list of the best dip variations below!
Explosive Chest Dips
One of the best chest dip variations is the explosive chest dip. To do an explosive chest dip, or plyometric chest dip, perform the negative (eccentric) phase of the exercise slowly, before pushing back up (the concentric phase) with as much speed and power as possible.
Slow Chest Dip
Another chest dip variation is the slow chest dip. To do this variation, simply perform the dip as slow as possible. For example, time the negative phase of the exercise to last 20 or 30 seconds, before performing the concentric phase for the same amount of time.
To do a walking chest dip, you will need a longer set of parallel bars. It can, however, be done on a dip station. In this variation, the dips are performed by putting one hand in front of the other, moving forwards (also backwards) in a “walking” fashion. This activates more areas of the outer chest.
Straight Bar Chest Dip
The straight bar chest dip is a dip variation that is typically seen at the top of a muscle-up. This is done on a single straight bar, using a pronated (knuckles up) grip. The straight bar dip requires greater balance and technique, but is effective for targeting the lower and outer chest.
The archer dip is a variation of the straight chest dip (requiring a single straight bar) - and similar to the archer push-up or archer pull-up - in which you perform the exercise from side to side. For building a wide chest, the archer dip is one of the most effective chest exercises you can do!
The Korean dip is an advanced dip variation that involves performing the dip with the bar (a single straight bar) positioned behind your body. This requires significant strength, technique, and balance, and should only be attempted if you consider yourself a dipping master.
Bulgarian Ring Dip
The Bulgarian ring dip is a variation of the regular ring dip that involves widening the arms (a wide grip) on the negative portion of the rep. This makes the exercise a lot harder as it forces a greater stretch of the chest, with more ring control. However, Bulgarian ring dips are super effective if you want to build a wide chest.
The impossible dip is a notoriously difficult variation of the chest dip, hence the reason for its name! It involves performing a regular chest dip on parallel bars, or on a dipping station, but with one difference: you are leaning back instead of lowering yourself forwards. This puts a greater strain on the triceps and is a challenge even for experienced gymnasts and athletes.
We have covered everything you need to know about chest dips. But what about tricep dips?
Chest dips are a compound movement that still requires some help from the triceps. In other words: you can increase tricep strength by some degree by doing chest dips.
If, however, you want to target your triceps and build tricep muscle specifically, then you want to include tricep dips in your workout.
Tricep dips are also called bench dips. They involve sitting in front of a gym bench (the gym bench positioned behind you) and pushing your upper body weight up and down with your arms behind your back.
Tricep dips are a beginner-level exercise that anyone can do, which offer great activation of the tricep long head - the big, long muscle at the back of your upper arm. The long head is the largest part of your tricep muscle.
The good thing about tricep dips is that they can be done at home without any equipment. In place of a gym bench, you can use any elevated surface, such as two low chairs, the edge of a sofa, or even a solid coffee table.
How to Do Tricep Dips
To do a tricep dip, sit down with your choice of elevated surface positioned behind you. Bring your arms behind you and place your palms flat on the surface. Your arms should be bent at 90 degrees, with your forearms vertical and your elbows tucked in.
With your feet on the floor (easier version) or extended in front of you (harder version), push your body weight up and lock out your elbows. Make sure not to bend your hips at any point of the exercise. As you perform each rep, you should feel a good burn in your long head tricep!
Similar to chest dips, remember to maintain good form by avoiding flared elbows, and by keeping your chest protracted and shoulders pulled back and depressed.
If you find the exercise unchallenging, you can increase the difficulty of tricep dips by elevating your feet on a stool or chair.
Frequently Asked Questions
Skim through some frequently asked questions about dips that we have listed and answered below!
What Muscles Do Dips Build?
Dips are an upper body compound pushing exercise that builds your chest muscles, triceps muscles, and front delt muscles. The chest dip focuses on the chest - mainly the lower chest and outer chest - while the tricep dip (bench dip) focuses on the triceps.
Essentially, the chest dip is a decline bench press in terms of movement, which uses your body weight as the resistance. For this reason, it is considered by many to be one of the best exercises for building lower chest.
How Many Dips Should I Do a Day?
You should aim to do a number of dips that challenge your body. This can be done through sets and reps or timed sets. You can do dips daily or as part of a weekly full workout routine that is included with other exercises.
If you want to build bigger chest muscle, perform dips at a medium rep range for 3 or 4 sets. For upper body strength, aim for a low rep range of 4 to 5 sets. For endurance, perform dips of 15 reps and above for any number of sets.
Are Dips Better Than Pushups?
Both dips and push-ups are effective compound body weight exercises for building chest muscle and increasing upper body strength. While the push-up is better for beginners, the dip is more effective for targeting the lower chest, outer chest, front delts, and triceps.
Push-ups activate a broader area of the chest, including the lower, middle, and upper chest, with many variations such as the diamond push-up and archer push-up. Dips, which replicate a decline bench press, are considered harder but more effective for building lower chest muscle and bigger triceps.
How Far Should You Go Down on a Dip?
As a general rule, you should not dip lower than 90 degrees at the elbow. This will reduce the risk of common shoulder injuries, while being effective enough to build muscle and strength. It is also important to always maintain correct form when doing dips.
To make sure you are performing dips with correct form, keep your shoulders depressed and your chest protracted (pushed out) throughout the exercise. You should also keep your elbows tucked in (not flared). This will help to avoid injury as well as ensure you are fully activating your chest muscles.
How Do You Dip at Home?
Dips are a great upper body pushing exercise that you can do at home without any equipment. For chest dips, you can use two tall chairs or kitchen stools, or even the inside corner of a kitchen counter.
For tricep dips, also called bench dips, you can perform the exercise with any kind of low elevated surface. This can be a low bench, low coffee table, two low chairs, or the edge of a sofa, armchair, or bed.
Dips are one of the best pushing exercises that you can do for serious upper body gains. Dips are a compound exercise, meaning they hit different muscle groups, and are possible to do at home without any equipment.
Chest dips are essentially a body weight version of the decline bench press, ideal for building lower chest muscle. Tricep dips, on the other hand, are more effective for targeting the triceps. Both chest dips and triceps dips use your body weight as resistance.
There are many variations of dips that you can utilize to increase the difficulty and activate different areas of your chest. If you want to build chest muscle fast, or increase pushing strength overall, start including dips in your workout today!