10 Best Dips Exercise Ideas For Building Full Body Strength

Young fitness muscular man doing dips on parallel bars outdoors and enjoying the music

Dips exercises build upper body strength. Perform these exercises to improve your overall conditioning while keeping the workout interesting.

Dips exercises are a great way to build upper body strength. While most dip exercises involve body weight to target the chest, shoulders, biceps, and triceps, some variations can be performed utilizing weights. 

If you are looking to improve your overall conditioning while keeping your dips workout interesting, here are some of the best dip exercise variations for you.

What are dips exercises?

A dip is an upper-body strength exercise that mainly targets the triceps. However, they also train the chest, shoulders, and even back. Dips are one of the best exercises to build strength and size in the upper body.

10 best dips exercises 

Dips exercises have several variants that can be performed to train the upper body. Here are some of the best dip variations for beginners and experts alike.

1. Bench dips

Target muscles: Triceps, chest, anterior deltoid

Equipment required: Bench or chair

Benefits: Strengthens the muscles in your triceps, shoulders, and chest

How to do

  1. Place your hands on the edge of an exercise bench or a chair [1]Healthier Happier QLD: Dips on floor/bench. It should be facing your back.
  2. Keep your arms extended and the shoulders over your wrist.
  3. Plant your feet on the floor with your knees bent. Alternatively, you can straighten your legs and rest your heels on the ground.
  4. While engaging your core and chin tucked in place, slowly bend your elbows and lower your hips until your upper arms and forearms make a 90-degree angle. 
  5. Pause for a second. Squeeze your triceps and then slowly straighten your elbows.

Summary: Bench dips are tricep dips and a type of in and out exercises that can be performed on a bench or a chair. The aim of this bodyweight exercise is to activate muscles in the arms, chest, and shoulders. 

2. Single leg tricep dips

Target muscles: Chest, shoulders, triceps, hamstrings, glutes, quads

Equipment required: No equipment 

Benefits: Strengthens the upper and lower body

How to do

  1. Sit on a yoga mat with your feet together, and knees slightly bent. Your hands should be behind you with your fingers facing forward.
  2. Raise one leg and keep it extended. From this position, lift your hips off the mat. Make sure the other leg remains perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Now lower your body until your butt almost touches the mat. Repeat the motion.
  4. Now perform the movement with the opposite leg raised and extended.

Summary: If you want to target your legs and upper body simultaneously, rely on single-leg tricep dip exercise. This dip exercise can be performed on a mat without any equipment.

3. Parallel bar dips

Target muscles: Triceps, chest, shoulders, and arm muscle

Equipment required: Parallel bar dips stand 

Benefits: Strengthens the muscles in your triceps, shoulders, chest, and back

How to do

  1. Stand between a pair of parallel dip bars and grasp them while you put your entire body weight on your hands.
  2. Raise your body until your arms are extended straight. 
  3. Then lower your body while keeping your elbows close together. Stop when your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Make sure that your feet do not touch the floor during any part of the movement.
  4. Push yourself back up until your arms are straight to complete a rep.

Summary: Parallel bar dips exercise is an advanced variation of the tricep dip exercise that trains the pecs and triceps muscles. You are advised to not do this exercise everyday. You can do this on alternate days to allow enough time for your muscles to recover.

4. Ring dips

Target muscles:  Triceps, pectorals, and anterior shoulder

Equipment required: Gymnastic rings

Benefits: Better muscular coordination and balance, stronger shoulders, bigger and stronger upper body

How to do

  1. Mount the rings and adjust the height of the rings such that your feet won’t touch the floor during the exercise. 
  2. Grasp the rings and lift yourself above the rings using your body weight. Make sure your arms are straight.
  3. Lower your body while bending the elbows. Avoid flaring your elbows. Keep your hands and arms close to your body.
  4. As you lower yourself, your shoulders should descend lower than your elbows. 
  5. Lift your body back to the starting position. 

Summary: Ring dips are a lot harder, so they are ideal for experts. However, they also happen to be a safer option for the joints and even more rewarding than standard dips. This variation is great for serious upper body mass, better balance, and gymnastics strength and skill.

5. Straight bar dips

Target muscles: Chest, shoulders, triceps

Equipment required: Single straight bar

Benefits: Enhances upper body and grip strength

How to do

  1. The straight bar dip is performed with both hands on a single straight bar.
  2. Position the bar in front of your body. Place both hands on it. 
  3. Your grip must be a little more than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Slowly lower your body until your forearms are parallel with the floor. Do not flare your arms to the sides.
  5. Push through the palms and then drive back to the starting position.

Summary: Straight bar dips are one of the most challenging dips exercises that tend to emphasize more of the chest muscles. They should be performed once you have practiced enough on the parallel bar machine.

6. Plyometric dips

Target muscles: Chest, shoulders, triceps

Equipment required: Parallel bar dip stand

Benefits: Tightens up the triceps and improves overall upper body stability.

How to do

  1. Stand in front of a parallel bar dip stand and grasp the bars with a firm grip.
  2. Start the movement by pushing yourself up until your arms are straight.
  3. Once your arms are fully extended, release your grip briefly to push your body up in an explosive movement. 
  4. Try to achieve 2-4 inches of lift off the bar when you pulse upwards. The movement should look like you are bouncing your body off the bars with the force of your triceps.
  5. When you land back on the bar, lower your body by bending your arms. Repeat this movement.

Summary: Plyometric dips are a great dip exercise that primarily targets the triceps and requires explosive power. They can be added to any variation, such as bench dips, chair dips, etc. 

7. Backpack weighted dips

Target muscles: Triceps, chest, shoulders

Equipment required: Backpack, parallel bar

Benefits: Improves stamina of the upper body and tones it effectively

How to do

  1. Wear a weighted backpack and stand between a pair of parallel bars.
  2. Grasp the handles while you put your entire body weight on your hands.
  3. Extend your arms straight while raising your body. 
  4. Then lower your body while keeping your elbows close together. Stop when your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  5. Do not let your feet touch the floor throughout the exercise.
  6. Push yourself back up until your arms are straight to complete a rep.

Summary: You can use a backpack loaded with weights, such as plates, to put more pressure on the upper body and eventually reap better results. This dip exercise can be easily performed on a parallel bar. 

8. Feet-elevated bench dips

Target muscles: Triceps, chest, shoulder muscles

Equipment required: 2 flat benches

Benefits: Builds stronger and more muscular triceps and chest

How to do

  1. Place a bench behind your back and one in front of you. Hold on to the back bench on its edge with your hands separated at shoulder width. 
  2. Extend your legs forward and place them on the top of another bench. 
  3. Slowly lower your body by bending at the elbows until your upper arm and forearm are nearly at 90 degrees. 
  4. Use your triceps to bring your torso up to the starting position.

Summary: The feet-elevated bench dips exercise is another bodyweight exercise to tone and strengthen your upper body. This dips exercise involves elevating the feet to allow for more movement of the chest and shoulders.

9. Weighted bench dips

Target muscles: Triceps, chest, shoulders

Equipment required: 2 flat benches, weight plate

Benefits: Builds stronger and more muscular triceps

How to do

  1. Perform the weighted dips by placing a bench behind you and another in front of you. 
  2. Hold the bench at the back with your hands on its edge. Extend your legs forward on top of the other bench. 
  3. Ask someone to place a weight plate or dumbbell on your lap. 
  4. Slowly lower your body by bending at the elbows until your upper arm and forearm are nearly at 90 degrees. 
  5. Use your triceps to bring your torso up to the starting position.

Summary: The weighted bench dip involves placing a dumbbell between the legs or a weight plate on the legs while performing dips. By adding weight to the dip, you challenge your muscles to work harder, resulting in greater muscle growth. 

10. Dipping belt dips

Target muscles: Triceps, chest, front shoulders

Equipment required: Dipping belt and a chain, parallel bar

Benefits: Strengthens the upper body and lower body

How to do

  1.  Wear a dipping belt and chain with plates attached to it around your waist. Adjust the chain length as needed. The suspended weight plate must hang comfortably near your knees.
  2. Grab the handles of the dip station with a firm grip and lift yourself until your arms are fully extended. 
  3. While maintaining tension, lower your body until your arms are parallel with the floor.

Summary: Dipping belt dips are an effective dip exercise that engages both upper body and lower body muscles. Be sure to keep your body upright and your core engaged throughout the move to prevent injury.

1 week sample workout plan for dips exercises

DaysExercises – sets and reps
MondayBench dips –  3 sets, 10 reps each
Single leg tricep dips – 2 sets, 10 reps each
TuesdayRing dips – 3 sets, 5 reps each
Straight bar dips – 5 sets, 15 reps each
WednesdayPlyometric dips – 3 sets, 5 reps each
Backpack weighted dips – 2 sets, 10 reps each
ThursdayFeet-elevated bench dips – 3 sets, 10 reps each
Weighted bench dips – 2 sets, 10 reps each
FridayDipping belt dips – 1 set, 10 reps
Parallel bar dips – 2 sets, 10 reps each
SaturdayRest
SundayRest

5 best alternatives to dips exercises

For some reason, if you are unable to perform these tricep dip exercises, here are some of the best alternatives that you can try.

1. Close-Grip Bench Press

Target muscles: Shoulders, upper chest, and triceps

Equipment: Barbell/bar and weight bench

How to do

  1. Lie on a flat bench with a weighted bar. Make sure your shoulders are a little ahead of the bar.
  2. Hold the bar with a narrow grip that is slightly closer than shoulder width and wrap your thumb around it.
  3. Unrack the bar and bring it forward until it is in line with your lower chest. 
  4. Push the bar up and lock the arms at the top of the movement.
  5. Press the bar down to the starting position. 

Summary: Performing the close-grip bench press will enhance muscle strength and also improve overall muscle balance. This compound exercise is performed by lying on a flat bench and lifting a weighted bar. 

2. Decline Bench Press

Target muscles: Upper and lower pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, and triceps

Equipment: Barbell/bar and weight bench

How to do

  1. Lie on a flat bench set to a 15-30 degree decline, with a barbell on top. Make sure your shoulders are slightly in front of the bar.
  2. Adjust your legs and place your feet firmly under the leg brace. Grip the barbell with your palms facing forward, arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Unrack the barbell and move it over your shoulders while locking your elbows.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell until it touches your mid-chest area. 

Summary: The Decline Bench Press is an excellent exercise for those seeking to build strength and muscle mass in the upper body. Remember to keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement to avoid injury. 

3. Diamond Push Ups

Target muscles: Triceps, deltoids, pecs, and shoulder muscles

Equipment: No equipment required

How to do

  1. Lie on a mat facing down in a normal push-up position. 
  2. For this exercise, your index and thumb fingers of both hands should touch each other to form a diamond. 
  3. Perform the regular push-up.

Summary: Diamond push-ups are a great bodyweight exercise that engages the triceps more than conventional push-ups. This compound exercise provides a workout for the upper body as well as the lower body.

4. Cable Chest Fly

Target muscles: Pectoralis major muscles, anterior deltoid, and biceps brachii

Equipment: Cable chest fly machine

How to do

  1. Set the pulleys on a dual-cable machine to chest height, and then piston yourself between the two weighed stacks.
  2. Stand with one foot in front of the other.
  3. Grab the handles and maintain an upright posture. Make sure your core is engaged, and your spine is straight. 
  4. Maintain a slight bend in each elbow and stretch your arms out to your sides with your palms facing forward. 
  5. Pull your hands toward each other, allowing them to touch before slowly returning to the starting position. 

Summary: Cable chest fly workout works your pectoral muscles while targeting the main pec muscle. Therefore, this is a great way to build muscle and strength in your chest. You can use a lower weight and perform more reps, or use a higher weight and perform fewer reps.

5. Dumbbell Bench Press

Target muscles: Shoulders, triceps, forearms, lats, pecs, traps, rhomboids, and upper body

Equipment: A pair of dumbbells, an adjustable bench

How to do

  1. Set up a bench at an incline of 30-45° and lie on it with your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing forward and then lift them to chest height. 
  3. Push the dumbbells up until your arms are extended. 
  4. Pause for a second at the top and then slowly bring them back to the starting position. 

Summary: The dumbbell bench press is a well-known exercise to boost upper body strength and muscle mass. You can also increase the weight of the dumbbells as you get stronger. 

Common mistakes when doing dips exercise

To perform the dip exercises effectively, make sure to maintain proper form [2]American Council on Exercise: American Council on Exercise (ACE’s) Top Ten Mistakes People Make in the Gym. Also, avoid these common mistakes to reap their benefits at large:

1. You’re not dipping low enough

Lowering your body down enough is crucial to working your upper arm muscles. So, make sure you’re dipping low enough. However, keep in mind not to let your body touch the ground.

2. You are doing the dip exercises too quickly

Doing the dip exercises too fast will not give your muscles enough time to contract and relax. Hence, you need to perform them at an optimal speed to allow for better movements. 

3. You are lifting your body using your legs

In every dip exercise, you need to lift your body using your triceps and not your legs. This is crucial if you want to target your upper arms. 

4. You are not locking your arms 

If you are not locking your arms correctly, your muscles won’t feel the flex. At the end of each rep, you should lock out your elbows to prevent injuring your joints. 

Safety measures For Doing the dip exercises the right way

Follow these safety measures while performing dip exercises.

  1. Keep your shoulders down and tucked away from your ears while performing dips.
  2. Focus on pushing from your triceps and not from your legs.
  3. Always do the dips exercises in proper form. 
  4. Take a big breath before you dip. Similarly, exhale while you perform the opposite movement. 
  5. Always dip with a full range of motion, but make sure you don’t go too low while dipping to avoid strain on the shoulder joint. 
  6. Do not perform challenging variations of dip exercises until you have mastered the standard exercises. 
  7. Start with bodyweight dips before moving to weighted dips.
  8. If you are a beginner, perform the dip exercises under the guidance [3]Better Health: Exercise safety of a certified fitness trainer.

Conclusion 

Dips are one of the best upper-body exercises to tone your muscles and build strength. These dips exercises target your chest, pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. Some variations even work your lower body, including your legs, hamstrings, and glutes. 

The key is to pick a few easy dips exercises and perform them consistently. Once you have mastered those exercises, you can exercise harder with challenging variations. You can also perform alternative exercises for dips. If you are a beginner, always exercise with a fitness trainer.

References

References
1 Healthier Happier QLD: Dips on floor/bench
2 American Council on Exercise: American Council on Exercise (ACE’s) Top Ten Mistakes People Make in the Gym
3 Better Health: Exercise safety

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