How To Perform The Dip
The dip is a basic move for building strong and impressive arms in the gym or at home. It’s a simple exercise, with a LOT of variations to suit your strength level. Both men AND women will appreciate the versatility and options for this move.
Watch the video above to see how I do it, and then read the remainder of this article for precise instructions on how to perform this exercise.
The dip is an exercise that works the tricepsAdd a Tooltip Text and chest. The muscles of the shoulder (deltoidsAdd a Tooltip Text) are also involved, so take special care if you have any history with rotator cuffAdd a Tooltip Text injury or strain.
The dips demonstrated in the video (aka “bench dips”) are performed with the feet on the floor and arms set behind your back on a flat, elevated support such as a step, chair, or bench. Select the height to accommodate your strength level. The lower the bench or step, the easier it is since you aren’t fighting gravity as much. You may wish to use another bench or stool to prop up your feet; or have a dumbbell, weight plate, or other weighted object handy, to increase the difficulty.
Because no specialized gym equipment is required, this is an exercise you can easily perform at home.
All individuals can perform this exercise—beginner through advanced, all levels. Remember, there are many options to make the exercise easy or VERY hard.
Description of action:
- Sit on a bench. (We’ll call it a bench from here on out, although a step or chair will do.)
- Set your hands beside your hips and grip the bench. Place your feet approx. hip-width apart with your knees either bent (easiest) or straight (harder).
- Slide your butt off the bench, so that your the hands are now behind your back, about shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your body by bending at the arms until your arms reach a 90-degree bend in both elbows or your butt touches the floor. Keep your torso upright, abs tight and elbows close to your body as you descend.
- Pause at the bottom of the movement, then straighten the arms to lift your body back to the starting position.
Remember to use your arms to drive the movement: rise powerfully and don’t push too much with the feet (that’s cheating!).
The dip is not meant to be an endurance exercise. Once you are easily able to perform 12 dips in a row with perfect form, you should increase the difficulty level. Use the tips in the variations section to make it more challenging.
To define and strengthen the triceps, I recommend performing a range of 8 to 12 repetitionsAdd a Tooltip Text for this exercise and for 3 working setsAdd a Tooltip Text.
- One of the biggest mistakes beginners make with this exercise is allowing the elbows to flare out. When you flare your elbows, you are no longer recruiting the triceps muscles appropriately, and could be putting undue strain on your shoulders, wrists, or elbows.
- The hands should be placed about shoulder-width apart, and not much wider.
- Control the descent of your butt towards the ground or step – do not simply drop down.
- Elbows should not go past a 90-degree bend, as suggested in the instructions above.
- Complete the full range of motion from the arms-straight position, to the elbows-bent position, and back again. If you are only completing half-repetitions, you may need to decrease the level of difficulty by decreasing the height of the bench.
Variations On The Dip:
- Perform it with your legs straight out in front of your body; with one foot up; or with both feet up on a raised object, like a second bench or step (this increases the difficulty level)
- You can also load the working muscles by setting a plate, dumbbell, or other weighted object (toddler, lap dog, milk jug, cat, etc.) on your lap, and adding the variation mentioned above.
- If you’re at a gym with a dip station, you can perform full bodyweight dips. This variation is fairly difficult, since you have to support and stabilize your entire body throughout the movement. Like chin ups or pull ups, most people have to work up to these, so we are mentioning it here for completeness. Weight (and difficulty) can be increased by using a dip beltAdd a Tooltip Text.
- Some gyms also have plate-loadedAdd a Tooltip Text or selectorizedAdd a Tooltip Text dip machines. I’m a big advocate of body weight work, but if you want more variety or prefer the stability factor in machine work, you may choose to use the machine. The set up, however, will differ from what is described here.
Over time, doing dips will become easier, so know that you can always make it harder. And enjoy flaunting those strong, head-turning arms!