Dip progression

Overview: Dips provide an excellent upper body workout, and you should make them a staple of your training program. They primarily work the muscles in the back of your arms (triceps), but also the front of your shoulders (anterior deltoids), your chest (pectorals) and your back muscles (rhomboid). Dips performed with your elbows flaring to the side place more emphasis on your pectoral muscles ; dips with elbows in emphasize the triceps.

Form: Dips (particularly chest dips) can place quite a lot of stress on the shoulders. To reduce this stress, keep your elbows close to your sides. Ideally, dip bars should be spaced at a distance equivalent to your forearm with hand outstretched, from elbow to fingertips. Wider bars will also emphasize the chest. If you feel shoulder pain, do not lower yourself further than parallel. Your head should be in line with your upper body, looking forward, not up, and your core engaged. Bend your legs at the knees when performing parallel bars dips (you can also cross your feet).

Notes: A dip station makes an important addition to your home set up, but here are a couple of alternatives to dip bars, once you reach the later stages of the progression.

About the Progression: The following progression takes you further than a standard dip, and on your way towards a muscle up (which is a pull up and a dip combined). Once you want to attempt Russian dips, you will need parallel bars.

Choose one of the following variations as a starting point and perform 3 sets of between 4 and 8 repetitions with periods of between 1 and 2 min of rest between each set. When you can do 3 sets of 8, move on to the next exercise in the progression. 

1. Bent knee bench dips. Place your hands flat on a bench or chair behind you, and lower yourself until your butt nearly touches the floor. Lower yourself over the count of 3 seconds. Breathe out as you push yourself back up. 
 2. Straight legs bench dips. Same as above but performed with straight legs.
3. One elevated leg, straight legs bench dips. Raise one of your legs off the floor.
4. Elevated legs bench dips.
5. One extended leg, elevated legs bench dips.
 6. Legs supported dips. Perform these in between on dip bars. Allow your feet to rest on the floor behind you, and try to use minimal assistance from your legs when pushing yourself back up.
 Same exercise, but performed between two chairs.
This, again,  is the same exercise as above but performed on a dips station by using a bench behind me for assistance.
7. One leg supported dips. Same as above, but reducing the assistance from your legs by using only one leg.
 8. Jumping and 5s eccentric dips. Jump into the dip position, then lower yourself over 5 seconds. When you reach the bottom position, place your feet on the floor and jump back up. You are merely concerned with the eccentric phase of the movement.
 9. Half dips (top half). From the top position, lower yourself till your upper arms are parallel with the floor, then push yourself back up.
10. Dips. Lower yourself between two chairs or parallel bars through the whole range of movement, feet off the floor, then push back to the starting position.
 11. Legs forward dips. This movement slightly changes the mechanics of the exercise, but it is a key step in the progression towards a muscle up: once in the top dip position, raise you knees so that your legs would be in front of you, rather than behind you throughout the dipping motion.
 12. Modified Russian dips. Having lowered yourself in the 'legs forward dip' position, carry on getting lower until your forarms are parallel with the floor. This might place a bit of strain on your wrists, but it closely mimicks the middle portion of a muscle up. It also forces you to dip lower than you might have done until now.
Here's a video demonstration of modified Russian dips on parallel bars.
Chicken dips
 13. Russian dips (a.k.a. chicken dips). These will require a set or parallel bars. From the'legs forward dip' position, lower yourself all the way until your upper arms rest on the parallel bars. Then pull yourself back up, helping yourself by bringing your head and torso forward. Video demonstration.

34 comments:

  1. Is there a way to reduce the stress on the shoulder?

    I find that I am putting most of my body weight on my shoulder. It would be helpful if you go through some more detail in each movement on proper form.

    Thanks for the information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dips are naturally quite hard on the shoulders. That said, your elbows may be flaring to much to the sides, which places more stress on the shoulders. Try to keep them in close to your sides. Also, make sure the bars are fairly close to each other (this also lessens the stress).

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the advice, maybe you could include some tips on form in the main article.

      Delete
  2. I think doing dips off of a bench behind you have pretty much been discounted as being an injury waiting to happen. Bill Harman, Charlie Weingroff, Bret Contreras have all pretty much demonstrated that you're playing with fire by doing dips this way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are making a fair point. These are not particularly kind on the shoulder joint... However, they can be made safer by using two benches or chairs, one on each side.

      Delete
  3. If you alternate dips and push ups as you suggest, does that mean you only increase one repetition each time you do the exercise? For example, if I do push ups on Monday with reps of 6,5,5 for the 3 sets and on wednesday I do straight leg bench dips with reps of 7,7,6, do I then do 6,6,5 or 6,6,6 for push ups on Friday. Then the following week, would I do 7,7,7 or 8,7,7 for dips on monday?

    Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, there's no hard and fast rule, but I would still suggest to only increase by one rep every time you do the exercise. The reality is, you'll soon be maxing out on all the progressions, and once that happens, progress is much slower.

      Delete
  4. Is it better to do the 3 sets for each exercise in succession or to do a cycle? Or does it matter?

    ReplyDelete
  5. how much sets of dip variations should i do which require use of one one leg like exercise 3,5,7 . should i do 6 sets on each leg or 3 sets on each leg
    what should be the rest time between sets for all variations?
    will doing these exercises like pushups dips etc which increase heart rate , help me to increase stamina.
    please answers these questions ,i would be very thankful to you. your articles are really helpful

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dips are a bi-lateral exercise: the point is that they work your triceps and chest, not your legs... The leg is only there to assist you. It doesn't even matter which leg you use. So only 3 sets of 4-8 dips... Don't worry about whether it's per leg. Rest between one and 2 min if you are doing the whole basic routine.
      Getting stronger will help you increase your stamina quite a bit: as you get stronger in one particular exercise, doing one rep will feel easier, and thus you will gradually be able to do more and more reps. Strength training also taxes your cardiovascular system ( you can feel the increase in heart rate), but not nearly as much as pure cardio activities.

      Delete
    2. thanks for the help.
      my last question. i did a lot of dips just before i found your website.
      i did ten sets doing 3 reps of proper dips and rest half dips to make total of 15 to 20 reps. after that my triceps starts hurting
      as i am almost beginner , it was really hard. next day i.e today i get sore muscles in front daltoids and little in rhombiods . there was no muscle pain in the chest area neither in the triceps.
      but after doing sets i felt a streching pain just below the center of chest and in my last reps i felt it all the middle section of chest for about 2 secs

      am i doing it wrong as i get no sore muscles in the chest inspite the hard sets. my only experience to exercises is pushups . i did pushups for about 2 months.

      Delete
    3. Did you do bench dips? These can be quite hard on the shoulder joints... To make then easier on the shoulders, use to benches or chairs, one on each side, and place your body a little further back than you would with a single bench dip.

      Delete
  6. Even after watching the videos, I'm having a hard time understanding the nuance between the modified Russian dips and the standard Russian dips. The only real difference I'm noticing is the fact that you seem to release tension at the bottom of the Standard version, while the Modified version you seem to stay tight. Do you have any other pointers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yea, I'm sorry: the angle makes it rather unclear in the videos: with Russian dips, you lower yourself so that the inside of both your biceps rests on the bar before coming back up. With modified Russian dips, you just lower yourself so that your forearms would be almost horizontal, and almost in contact with the bar. In essence, you go lower with Russian dips than with the modified version.

      Delete
  7. Thanks for the clarification. It make sense!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi El Diablo, thanks for the fantastic routine. Regarding One extended leg dips, are you meant to do up to 8 on each leg like with squats or go half and half like with plank?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Half and half... You could even have the one leg extended on all the reps: the point of the exercise is not to work your quads, but your chest and triceps.

      Delete
    2. That makes a lot of sense, cheers. Oh and thanks for the quick reply.

      Delete
  9. Hey Diablo, do you think it's possible to do Russian Dips on Gym Rings?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure... They're significantly harder though due to the inherent instability of rings.

      Delete
  10. sir, i'm done w/ front bar dips. i'm wondering if i should try korean dips then proceed to russian dips or vice versa. it looks like russian dips might be harder so that's why i thought up the progression. what do you think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Korean dips are harder actually.

      Delete
  11. hi sir, i tried doing the russian dips but it's killing my right wrist: the part where i have to lean back on my arms is where the pain comes in. i'm proficient in the regular straight bar dips, is there anything i can progress to aside from russians? close grip straight bars? korean dips?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, either of those is fine. Start with single bar dips, then move on to korean dips. Try using the reddit forum to ask questions: http://www.reddit.com/r/startbodyweight/

      Delete
  12. I don't quite see the difference between 12/13 could you explain?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey Nick, when I'm doing the number 10 progression, over the course of a few workout days, I've started to feel sharp collarbone pains on just one side when coming out of my 2nd and 3rd sets. It doesn't last but 10-15 seconds, but do you have any suggestions on a different method of dips? Or could this possibly be due to bad form I might not be realizing?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Is there a benefit over this from the diamond pushups and diamond handstand?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. well yes, but both dips and those kind of push ups should be done...

      Delete
  15. Interesting facts... sadly I can't really change my bench dips, since I use my bed for it, unless I go to the kitchen, but then everyone looking at me and saying "WTF!!?" so I dunno :/

    ReplyDelete
  16. #6. Legs supported dips is where I'm starting. I sincerely thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hello, Can you provide a video for the legs forward dip progression? It feels to easy to me, I'm probably making a mistake.

    ReplyDelete