Have you ever seen the rippling pectorals on a statue of a Greek god or hero and wondered how the ancients managed to achieve such bodily perfection? Was it simply divine genetics or years of physical training?
What if we told you that the secret to a chest worthy of a Greek god can be accomplished in the comforts of your own home and you hardly have to spend anything at all?
Well, let me introduce to you the little-known secret of dips. When talk goes in the direction of chest sculpting, many would say that the bench press rules all and dips may not even be mentioned. However, the dip is easily one of the best chest exercises you can do with just your body weight.
But first, what are dips and how are you going to do all that at home?
What are Dips?
The dip is a strength-training exercise that has been around for millennia. It involves hanging with your arms straight down and your shoulders over your hands. Then, you lower yourself until the arms are bent ninety degrees at the elbow then slowly raise yourself back up to the starting position with arms straight down.
It sounds easy in theory, harder in practice.
Greek soldiers have been known to include dips in their training as early as 300 B.C. and if the statues of Greek gods and heroes are any indication, dips are a great way to achieve those rippling pectorals Hercules himself would be proud of.
Benefits of Dips
Still not convinced about going into dips? Let us break down why you should include dips in your repertoire of chest exercises.
- Dips are a compound type of chest exercise that works not only your pectorals but also your other muscles like you triceps, your deltoids, as well as the muscles of your back. You see those Greek statues with swoon-worthy chests and shoulders? Dips could give you that.
- Dips also have a larger range of motion than the typical bench press. The larger the range of motion, the more muscles you recruit in the workout. In turn, you gain more in terms of size and strength in comparison to the bench press where you pile on the weights and move the bar just a couple of inches. The limitation on the range of motion in bench presses also limits the recruitment of muscles and makes them work harder to stabilize the weight instead of moving it.
- You can do these exercises at home. Even if you can’t make it to the gym due to time or financial constraints, you can easily do dips at home and it will cost you nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
Contraindications to Doing Dips
Fitness training is not without its risk and just because you can do dips at home does not mean you can go ahead and proceed without caution. As with other exercises, you have to consider the limitations of your own body or risk a possible injury, which will set you back even further in your training.
If you are thinking of learning how to do dips, you must first consider the following things:
- Previous shoulder injury: As you will be exerting a lot of stress on your deltoids as well as your levator scapulae muscles, it would be best to seek the expert opinion of your physician if you have had a previous shoulder injury. Depending on your condition, your doctor might tell you to either take it easy or avoid dips entirely.
- Newbies: If you are new to strength training and bodybuilding, it makes sense to take things slowly and not let your excitement get ahead of you. At this point, you might not have built enough muscle yet to perform dips properly and should probably start with assisted dips or build more muscle to prevent a possible injury from attempting dips at home.
Variations of Dips
1. Assisted Dips
For those who are new to bodybuilding and strength training but want to start easing their way into dips, this variation is for you. However, you will need a specialized kind of equipment - a dip machine - that is available in most local gyms but can be quite expensive if you are planning to purchase it for yourself.
This dip machine usually comes with a pull-up bar overhead and parallel bars somewhere in the middle for a dip station. It has a platform where you can counterbalance your weight as you do your dips.
This is a great exercise for those who want to get their feet wet with dips. However, they are obviously not as efficient as other kinds of dips.
2. Bench Dips
This is the kind of dip you can easily do at home and one I have seen my father do many times when he was younger. These dips target your triceps and make a great addition to those days when you are working out your arms.
3. True Dips
When the going gets tough, the tough get going!
This is the toughest kind of dips and will require a bit of investment on your part in the form of a dip station because you will need the stability it lends as you perform this exercise. True dips require a lot of physical strength if you are to do the exercises properly so build up on both strength and muscle before trying them out!
How to Do Dips at Home
Now we go to the fun part - how to do dips at home.
Like pushups, you can easily do dips at home with the help of a chair or a stable bench, a wall, and at least five feet (depending on the length of your legs). Other important things are inversion table and adjustable weight bench. That’s basically all you need and you’re set to do dips!
1. Position the Chair or Bench.
First things first - you will need a sturdy support where you can do your dips.
You will need this base to be able to lift yourself back into the starting position after your dip so make sure that it is as wide as your shoulders and will not move around or it might cause you to fall and get injured in the process.
You can place a chair or a bench against a wall to enhance the sturdiness and stability.
2. Get a Good Grip.
If you have tried pull-ups and weight lifting before, then you know that a good grip is essential to strength training exercises.
Get a good grip with your palms facing inwards. Grip tightly at the edge of your chair or bench and not just the surface. Gripping the surface of the bench might cause you to slip in the middle of your reps and cause you to fall. You can do this while still seated.
3. Position Yourself.
The first position in the dip is with your arms straight down with your shoulders directly over your hands.
This is also the part where your butt leaves the bench or chair. Assume a position where you are technically “sitting on the air” with your feet squared shoulder-width apart to give you stability as you do your dips.
Slowly lower your body with your elbows pointing straight to the back until your arms are at a ninety-degree angle at your elbows. Do not point your elbows outward as this is not the correct form and will not help you work out the muscles you are targeting.
Maintain a good position by keeping your shoulders straight and your chin up.
5. And Lift!
The hardest part of the dip is the “lift” wherein you slowly raise your body up to the starting position with your arms straight down. Keep your shoulders straight and aligned with your arms as too much movement in your shoulders during this phase can result in shoulder injuries.
You do not have to do this fast, especially if you are still new to dips. Slowly dipping and lifting will bring the right amount of pressure to your body and is the proper way of performing your dips.
6. Do It All Over Again.
Did you find that easy? Well, you will not be saying the same thing after 5 to 10 reps. To get the maximum effect of doing dips the right way, do at least 10 to 15 reps and feel your arms and chest burn with the effort to maintain the correct position and do your dips properly.
Things to Watch Out For
You might think you are doing dips terrifically until you come into some roadblocks. Watch out for the following while doing your dips to ensure not only your safety but that you get the most of this exercise.
1. Shoulder Pain.
Shoulder pain results when you do not keep your shoulders straight and pressed down and back. Do not shrug your shoulders or roll them forwards as these will result in pain eventually. You might want to do your dips in front of a mirror the first few times or with someone watching your form if you can’t.
2. Chest Pain.
Just because it happens, does not mean it’s normal.
Chest pains are common enough and are brought about by chest tendons that are ill-prepared for dips. To remedy this situation, stop doing dips and do more pushups to build more chest strength before proceeding to do dips again.
3. Incorrect Form.
When you are new to dips, maintaining proper form while doing dips can be very difficult and could result in injuries and shoulder pain. It would be best to have someone watch your form for the first few tries or set up your chair or bench in front of a mirror from where you can observe your position while you dip.
Do not cheat by swinging wildly or deviate from the proper form to make things easier for you. Either you shape up or ship out and stop fooling yourself.
Dips are fantastic exercises for sculpting the chest and the triceps. The best thing about them is they can be done at home and for very little cost! Just make sure you build enough strength to do them properly and maintain the correct form while you are doing it and you’re golden!
Did you enjoy this article? Did you find the knowledge helpful in your journey to fitness? Do you also do dips at home? If so, do you have other suggestions, recommendations, and tips? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this article with your family and friends!