DIP Exercise

The dip is an exercise used in strength training. Narrow, shoulder-width dips primarily train the triceps, with major synergistsbeing the anterior deltoid, the pectoralis muscles (sternal, clavicular, and minor), and the rhomboid muscles of the back (in that order). Wide arm training places additional emphasis on the pectoral muscles, similar in respect to the way a wide grip bench press would focus more on the pectorals and less on the triceps. To perform a dip, the exerciser hangs from a dip bar or from a set of rings with their arms straight down and shoulders over their hands, then lowers their body until their arms are bent to a 90 degree angle at the elbows, and then lifts their body up, returning to the starting position. Short people are able to cope better with a narrower grip, but not with a wider one. Due to natural flexibility in the shoulder joints, it is important to try to “lock” them as much as possible during this exercise. Otherwise, the supporting rotator cuffs may become strained.

Usually dips are done on a dip bar, with the exerciser’s hands supporting his or her entire body weight. For added resistance, weights can be added by use of a dip belt, weighted vest, or by wearing a backpack with weights in it. A dumbbell may also be held between the knees or ankles. For less resistance, an assisted dip/pull-up machine can be used which reduces the force necessary for the exerciser to elevate his body by use of a counterweight. One may also use resistance bands hooked under his feet to help if he lacks the strength to properly perform a dip. In the absence of this equipment, a lighter variation of the dip can be performed called the “Bench Dip”. The hands are placed on one bench directly underneath the shoulders or on two parallel benches. The legs are straightened and positioned horizontally; the feet rest on another bench in front of the exerciser. This variation trains the upper body muscles in a similar though not exact manner as the normal dip, whilst reducing the total weight lifted by a significant amount. This exercise can be done also off of the edge of a sofa, a kitchen counter, or any surface that supports the lifter.

Step DIP:

  1. Find an assisted pull-up/dip machine at the gym. Most gyms with extensive weight sections will have this piece of equipment. It has a platform where you place your knees or feet and weights that can be adjusted to counterbalance your body weight.
  2. Ask for assistance from a gym employee or personal trainer the first time you use this machine. If you are a first time weight lifter, assistance will reduce the likelihood of injury.
  3. Set the weight to approximately two-thirds of your body weight the first time you do a dip. The more weight you use, the less of a challenge the exercise will be. Try out this easier setting while you learn proper form.
  4. Let your arms hang down at your sides and grasp the handles on the dips bars on either side of your torso. The handles are usually covered in rubber for traction. Wrap your fingers around the outside and keep your thumbs on the inside.
  5. Kneel on the platform. If the platform is on the ground, rather than at knee height, it is likely a standing platform.
  6. Form a plank with your body. Imagine you are doing a pushup and you have one straight line from the top of your head to the knees. Lift and flex your stomach muscles inward to keep this strong position during the duration of the exercise.
  7. Relax your shoulders. They should be as far from your ears as possible. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders.
  8. Bend your elbows directly behind you. As you do this, the platform will lower slightly. Bend them until your elbows are parallel with your shoulders, at a 90 degree angle from your forearms.
  9. Pause, and then push your weight into your hands to straighten your arms all the way. Repeat eight to ten times with two to three sets. Rest for 30 seconds between sets.
  10. Adjust your weight setting as you get stronger. Reduce the amount of weight by 5 to 10 lbs. as the exercise gets easier. When the amount of weight you use is one-half or less of your body weight, you can move on to bench dips.