Diving Deeper into Dips as Multi-muscle Exercises

April 30, 2016
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Dips are both chest and triceps exercises. The difference lies in the execution of the dips to target either one of these areas of the body.  

Dips are among the most effective exercises for bodybuilding purposes because of their beneficial impact on chest and triceps development. The trick is in the execution of dips in different ways, often in a slight manner yet with significant effects, to place greater focus on either the chest or the triceps. Dips, nonetheless, are multi-joint exercises in that multiple muscle groups are involved in proper execution regardless of how these are performed.

In the following sections, you will learn the numerous differences between dips for chest muscles and dips for the triceps. Your basic knowledge in this area will contribute to your progress in the bodybuilding aspect of your life, too.

Dips for the Chest

In this case, your first step is choosing bars where your hands will be placed outside of shoulder width so that you have a relatively wide grip. In gyms like David Barton Gym, which has dozens of locations across the United States, you will find assisted-dip stations that have wide and narrow settings that allow for a wider or closer grip depending on your preference. You can also just find bars that are narrow on one end and wide on the other end to use for your chest-targeted dips – just use the wide end.  

One you’re up on the bars with your arms extended, you should bend your knees while pushing back your legs as far as possible without being uncomfortable. Your torso will be more horizontal and your chest will receive more emphasis in this position.  

When lowering your body, your elbows should flare out to the sides. You have to stop the dip when your upper arms are approximately parallel with the floor – any lower than this position and your shoulder joint will be subjected to risky stress, not to mention that the expected chest growth will be insignificant. You also have to contract your pectorals during the press up movement and flex them as hard as possible at the top but avoid locking your elbows.

The result: Your pectorals’ lower region will get more of the dips’ resulting muscular stress. You may even perform dips instead of decline presses in your chest workout.

Your chest workout with the dips can look like the following routine:

  • Incline barbell press 4 sets of 6 reps each set
  • Rest for 2 minutes
  • Flat-bench dumbbell press 4 sets of 10 reps each set  
  • Rest for 2 minutes
  • Cable cross-over 3 sets of 10 reps each set
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Chest-focused bodyweight dips 3 sets to failure
  • Rest for 2 minutes

You can decrease or increase the reps and sets depending on your physical condition and bodybuilding goals. You may even perform weighted reps in case you have already developed strong dips yet you want to keep your rep counts to a moderate level for strength-building purposes.

Dips for the Triceps

In case of triceps-focused dips, the body mechanics are opposite in comparison with the chest-focused dips. Keep these tips in mind to maximize your movements:

  • Use a shoulder-width or narrower grip. You should choose the narrowest setting possible on the dip bars but not too narrow as to increase your risks for injuries. You should always listen to your body and use your common sense when performing exercises.  
  • Keep your body in a vertical position for both the ascent and descent of each rep. Your legs should be as straight as possible below so that your body remains upright and you place more emphasis on your triceps’ muscle development.
  • Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides so that their points are behind your body during the descent movement; always remember that that your elbows should never significantly flare out during triceps exercises. You should also keep in mind that your upper arms should always be approximately parallel with the floor.
  • Focus on your triceps while pushing your body back up. You have to contract them as hard as possible while in the top position so that you have a full lockout condition but avoid using ballistic motion to achieve it.  

Your triceps-focused dips workout can include these exercises:

  • Close-grip bench press 4 sets of 8 reps each set
  • Rest for 2 minutes
  • Dips 3 sets to failure
  • Rest for 2 minutes
  • Rope press-down 3 sets of 10 reps each
  • Rest for 1 minute

You may also use the assisted-dip machine when you are not yet as strong as you want to be. You can also perform the triceps-focused dips later in your workout routine or you may also perform weighted early in your training session. Just remember that keeping under 10 reps per set is crucial to focus on strength.  

Furthermore, dips can be performed either at the start (i.e., when you are not sufficiently strong) or at the end (i.e., when you have built up sufficient strength) of your workout. You will have a new respect for these movements for these reasons.  

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