Thanks for the help Fletch!
Yea, I have SI Joint Hypermobility. It really sucks but it has gotten a ton better than where it was. Actually, my SIJD pain has gone down by 90% or more (depending on the day), but my knees seem to be getting worse. Its interesting, I never had any kind of knee pain until I went through unbearable SI joint pain. I'm hoping that as I continue to strengthen my low back and hips, knee pain will go down.
Actually, back when I was at my worst, it hurt to do anything. I couldn't even do strengthening exercises without being in the worst pain. I ended up getting Radio Frequency Ablation done to it and that bought be some time (about a year). I have been wanting to start lifting weights for a long time, but I never knew where to begin. Often I'd go to the gym, fiddle with machines, and leave 5 minutes later. One day my coworker was like "You're going to the gym with me" and he showed me the ropes. I'm convinced, if he hadn't gotten me in the gym I would be out of the military (I'm in the Air Force) now, as I was going through a med board at the time. So strengthening my low back and hips has helped tremendously. I used to not do deadlifts because I knew it'd trigger my pain, but now I can deadlift near 300lbs for reps. Yesterday I did several sets of 4 with 405 rack pulls, it felt so good.
Anyways, dips. I make extra sure to lock the shoulders down and back and I don't have full range of motion. I go down until I feel a good stretch in the chest and elbows at or slightly below 90 degrees. Bad form benching hurt my left shoulder (which is mostly better now thanks to learning proper form, improving posture, and strengthening exercises) and I'm kinda afraid to do anything that could hurt it again.
I do have access to a power rack in the civilian gym I go to. If working out on base, they only have one and I'd feel like a dick if I didn't let someone squat in it. I really need to start using it more. For me, there's just something about how it feels to have heavy weight directly in front of me... even if in a power rack, I know I'm not pushing as much as I could. I mean, if doing a curl or deadlifting/rack pull, I can easily drop a failed rep. Its like the fear of death is holding me back on my bench, and thats probably why other chest exercises are going up.
Program. Originally, I did whatever my gym bro did. Half the time I didn't even know what the exercises were called. For the past few months, I have been following a 6 day PPL program and it has been working out very well for me. I've put on noticeable muscle mass. The program was structured as such that I would pick 1-3 main exercises which I want to get stronger at. For push day it might be chest dips. Pull day could be rack pulls. Leg day, squats. etc. I'd do several sets with very heavy weight and low reps. Each workout, I would try to do more weight than the last workout, even if only slightly. afterwhich, I would do assistance exercises with lighter weight in 8-12 rep range.
As of last week I have changed my program. I now do 3 days heavy, 3 days light PPL. Thus far I like this better but it is too early to tell what the long term benefits are. Also, I have bought a workout log (from bb.com) and started tracking my workouts, something I have never done (I know, right?).