How to Dips

Chest dips are a fairly advanced bodyweight exercise in that they may take some time to work up to, but they’re a great addition to any serious fitness enthusiast’s routine. This maneuver is known as a closed kinetic chain exercise for its ability to target opposing muscle groups.

The exercise targets the pectorals of the chest, triceps of the upper arms, deltoids of the shoulder and the following muscles in the back: rhomboids, levator scapulae, latissimus dorsi and the teres major.  This exercise will help you perform any daily activity that includes pushing or pulling.

How To

  • To perform a dip, stand between the parallel bars and grasp the bars with a closed hand grip— fingers on one side, thumb on the other. Palms will be facing each other. You will begin with your weight supported on fully extended arms. Bend the knees and cross one ankle over the other to stabilize the lower body and avoid hitting the floor at the bottom of the motion.
  • Set your shoulder blades by pulling them together and down the back. Engage your glutes and core.
  • Exhale as you bend your arms and slowly lower your body until your upper arms are at 90 degrees. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides throughout the entire motion.
  • Take a breath here and then exhale as you straighten your elbows and push back up to the starting position. Make sure to keep your whole body inline and tipped just slightly forward. Make sure to keep your wrists straight throughout the entire maneuver.


The number of repetitions to perform will depend largely on your level of fitness. In the beginning you may only be able to complete one unassisted dip. As you progress and get stronger, two to three repetitions of 10 are a good number to work toward. Allow two or three days in between to allow the muscles to recover.


Assisted dips: If you aren’t able to perform a dip but would like to, many gyms have assisted dip machines. These machines help to offload a set amount of weight so that you can practice the full movement and work toward moving more and more of your full bodyweight.

Weighted dips: If you can easily perform 10 chest dips, you may want to look at adding weight to increase the difficulty. This can be done by using a weight belt or weighted backpack, or by gripping a dumbbell between your feet.

Bench dips: This is a great workup to full-body dips. Using a bench or chair, place your hands on the edge and walk your feet out until you have enough room to lower yourself down in front of the chair or bench. Keep your bum at the height it was when you were seated to begin.  You will lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and then push back up.

Negative dips: If you aren’t able to push yourself back up from the lowered position, know that the first portion of the exercise where you are lowering yourself down can be really helpful in working toward a full dip. To get the full benefit of the motion, go as slowly as possible. Stand up once you reach the bottom of the movement and start over from the top.

Cautionary Notes

Don’t allow your upper back to round and your shoulders to roll forward. This puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder and can lead to injury. Always be mindful of keeping the shoulders blades pulled together and down the back.

Allowing your elbows to flare out as you lower your body can also put too much strain on your shoulders. While it puts more emphasis on the chest, it is not worth the risk of injury to the shoulders. Grip the handles or bar really tightly as you perform your dip; this will help to stabilize the wrist and reduce your chances of injury. You want to maintain a strong wrist position and not allow them to bend during the exercise.

Other Triceps Exercises

Close-grip bench press
Triceps extension

More Dips Related Resources

How To Do Triceps Dips | Coach Exercise Guide
Bodyweight Dip 101 (How to Perform the Dip Exercise) | Nerd Fitness
Essential Exercises: Why You Should Be Doing Dips | Muscle & Fitness
How to Do Dips the Right Way | STACK

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