Dips are a calisthenic exercise you perform by using support equipment and bending the arms at the elbows to lower and raise the body.

Dips target almost the entire upper body including:

  • triceps (mainly)
  • chest
  • deltoids
  • front shoulders
  • abs – to some degree
  • back muscles such as the rhomboid and lats

Some say dips are more beneficial than pushups, that is a matter of personal preference.  However, we here at Calisthenic Exercise prefer the pushup, but believe dips are also an amazing exercise.  Include both into your calisthenic exercise regime!

How to do standard traditional dips:
  1. Grasp two parallel bars (or as an alternative such as this DipStand or Two stable chairs in your home) with your hands approximately shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise yourself up to to the top position.  Your feet should be off the ground in the air and only your arms should support your body weight. Knees may be bent and legs may be crossed.  Do not lock your elbows, bend them just slightly at the top position.
  3. Begin by lowering yourself by bending your elbows.  Ideally, you want to go as low as 90 degrees with the top part of your arm (between shoulder and forearm) to be parallel to the ground and your forearm perpendicular to the ground.
  4. Once you go as low as you can, use the arms to push yourself upwards to the initial position.
  5. Do not swing!

That’s it!

Some Various Forms of Dips:
  • Bench dips – Your feet on the floor and your hands on the bench towards the back (see picture).
  • Chair dips – Similar to bench dips, to be used at home.
  • Ring dips – Using gymnastics rings to perform dips.
  • Floor/Ground ‘L’ Dips – This is an advanced dip.  Sit upright on the ground with both feet together stretched out in front of you in an ‘L’ position. Place your hands on the floor to your sides next to your torso at about 45 degrees from your legs. Push yourself up only with your hands while remaining in the L position, your whole body should be off the floor except for your hands. You’ll notice that you will not have a lot of arm length to do the exercise, but it is possible.   Try not to lock your elbows at the top position.  An alternative is to perform L dips on parallel bars.
  • Dip stand – Supporting structure which imitate parallel bars to perform the following dips:
  • Chest Dips – Inclining your body approximately 30-45 degrees forward while performing dips.
  • Triceps Dips – Your torso is perpendicular to the ground while performing dips.

As an alternative to a dip stand, you can use two chairs that you believe are strong and stable enough to perform chest and triceps dips.  To make this calisthenic exercise safer with chairs, have a person sit in each chair while you perform the exercise.

Common Mistakes with Dips:
  • Breathing – exhale while going up and inhale while going down
  • Not going down far enough – make sure you bend your elbows at least 90 degrees. In fact, the lower you go the bette r. Although this is difficult if you do not have the flexibility or are having shoulder problems, generally, it is best you avoid t he exercise if you feel any discomfort.
  • Locking your elbows at the top of the dip – Similar to the pushup, this will cause unnecessary strain on your joints. Don’t lock the elbows! Slightly bend them keeping the muscles in the exercise engaged.  Go up as far as possible but do not turn the exercise into a partial “cheating” dip.
  • Flailing your body around while performing dips or swinging –  Doing so will potentially injure the shoulders, elbow joints, necks, chest, etc.  Avoid this by keeping your lower body static; it will also help you strengthen your core.  Take it slow or have someone help you perform the exercise.
Some people may find it easier to bend their legs at the knees and/or cross their feet while performing dips.  This is fine and can actually help strengthen and stabilize your posterior chain.
Who should do dips?

Anyone without shoulder pain or injuries should be able to perform dips. You should have adequate conditioning of the body in order to perform dips. Do not attempt to perform dips if you are uncomfortable with your body in anyway. Be sure to stretch and warm-up before performing this calisthenic exercise.

For those having trouble doing dips or are starting out, bench dips with your feet on the ground will help you perform the exercise. Move your feet closer towards your body to modify the technique and make it simpler.  The further out your legs, the more difficult this calisthenic exercise becomes.  Remember to practice and make take steps towards your goals to improve your fitness levels!

Good luck!