Dips for Beginners
This movement has sometimes been described as the “upper body squat”. This is because for sheer ability to produce strength and growth in the chest and triceps, there is probably no other move quite as effective. Let’s take a look at what dips do, how to do them, how you get good enough to dip, and finally the best way to implement them in to your training.
Why You Should Be Doing Dips
As mentioned above, the “upper body squat” is an incredible exercise for the chest and triceps. Many people may claim that it is to be avoided due to undue pressure on the shoulders, so what should you do? Well, the dip, if done correctly is a safe movement. Of course, if you are riddled with shoulder injuries it can be risky, but if you are a beginner, safely starting this movement is a good idea.
You will make huge gains in your chest and triceps with this move. It can also be adapted, so that if you are trying to hit your triceps a little more you can, the same goes for chest. We will cover this in more detail later. Another great element to dips is that it teaches you to handle your own body weight. There are certain stabilizing muscles that are used when training with body weight, and becoming proficient at this will go a long way for your overall athleticism. Dips will also rev up your metabolism, making fat loss much quicker and regular.
How To Perform a Dip
There are a few ways that you can vary a dip, but we will discuss the standard way of performing it, then go on to tweaking it later.
Hands – Your hands are placed either side of you, and your elbows are kept in tight. Try not to flare your elbows outwards too much.
Head – Your head should be in a position that makes your neck in line with your spine. So don’t look up or down, just keep it tucked in line with your spine.
Abs – Tense them, for the whole movement. It will make you much more stable.
Legs – Cross your ankles for stability, and have your legs running almost straight down. There is wiggle room here, but the essential idea is not to do anything to extreme yet.
Shoulders – Your shoulders should be in front of your hands.
• Descend to roughly where your upper arm is parallel to the floor. There is not a huge need to go further than this, and you risk putting your shoulder under added strain.
• Keep your descent well controlled, and slow.
• Push back up, until your elbows are totally locked out.
• Keep your abs tights throughout. Keep your legs tight so you do not sway too much.
Tweaking The Dip
As mentioned, there isn’t one single way to do the dip, depending on what you are hoping to accomplish there are variations you can implement.
There are several rules that you can keep in mind when changing up your dip.
- Moving your upper body forward places more emphasis on the chest
- Becoming more upright with you upper body shifts the weight more to the triceps
- The position of your legs if moved back will emphasize the triceps, and the chest if moved forward.
This should give you an idea as to how you can tweak the dip further on down the line. However, for now, it is wise to just stick with a neutral all round dip. Once you are comfortable with the movement, it is possible to then move on to more focused variations.
How to Start Doing Dips
Many new trainees will struggle to perform one decent dip. This shouldn’t worry you if that is the case, since there is a way to work up to it. This might even be useful for people who struggle a lot with their dips currently.
You can start with Bench Dips. This is essentially putting a bench behind you, placing your hands on the bench, and your feet on the floor. You can then descend until your upper arm is parallel to the floor, then go back up again. All the cues about keeping the body tight, and moving slowly downwards still apply.
If you are good at this, then start to add a little weight. You could add a plate to your waist as you get more proficient. After you can perform 15-20 reps, it might be time to move over to the parallel dip bar, and start working on your technique there.
How to Progress with Dips
Just like any exercise, adding weight is always an option once you become good at handling just your own bodyweight. If you can easily do 3-4 sets of 10-15 bodyweight dips, then it may be time to start adding weight. Using a weight belt, or even an old fashioned dumbbell between your ankles are possibilities.
Another way to challenge yourself is by doing ring dips. If you have access to gymnastic rings, this dip variation can stimulate the muscles in a whole new way. May often struggle at first with the stability required to do these. After a while, your gains might encourage you to stick with the move.
How To Program Dips
A good method for adding dips in to your routine is to use them towards the end of a pushing session. The reason for this is that at this point your shoulder should be fully warmed up, and then going in to dips should present no problem for you.
As for your sets and reps, you will have to see how they fit in to whatever program you are currently doing. For hypertrophy, 3-4 sets of 8-12 would work. If you are stronger, and looking to improve the weight you can lift, 3-4 sets of 3-6 would work well. We hope that this can help you in your fitness journey, and lead to you on killer chest and triceps!