Bench Press or Dips for Athletes?

Hi Coach!

I started to wonder what is more efficient as push exercise for athletes in case of strength and muscle mass but also health, mobility and aging?

Initially I was thinking that dips are superior for that but I see that in most of Your workouts for athletes I see bench press.

When training athletes, I pretty much never look at exercises to “build muscle mass”.

When training athletes I only really worry about performance and injury prevention.

With athletes I train movement patterns, physical capacities and energy systems.

Is there a pressing movement that is more specific to a movement in the sport you are playing? If yes, then it will be a slightly better choice than other options.

And the fact is that you rarely have to push downward in sports. So the dip is not movement-specific to many sports, and thus is rarely going to be the best option for a pressing movement.

You much more often have to press away from you than downward. In that sense, a bench press or slight incline press is more useful to be strong in than dips.

That doesn’t mean that you have to do a barbell bench press.

A pro football player that I train uses the Kadillac bar from Kabuki strength (which has a parallel grip), you can also use DB presses as they tend to be more shoulder-friendly.

Now, if your main goal is hypertrophy, the dip is arguably better than a barbell bench press.

But as I said, hypertrophy is pretty much never one of my main goal with athletes. Rather, it’s a side effect of getting stronger and more powerful.

An athlete came to me and he was 208 at 6’. And at first, he was shocked that we did ZERO hypertrophy work, none of the sets were above 5 reps per set and we basically had no isolation exercises.

In one off-season he went up to 231. Again, that was NOT our goal, we didn’t train to add muscle. But it still happened.

To answer your question, I rarely use dips in the training of athletes as I feel that it is an inferior movement for most of the them.

Recently, I used it with a track/sprint cyclist. Along with a decline bench, it is more specific to his sport position and requirement. But once he got to a 150kg decline bench, we actually stopped training these hard and he had sufficient upper body strength, I preferred to invest resources elsewhere.

That’s the other thing with athletes: do the least amount of lifting work possible. They need to keep their nervous system fresh at all times and also must do other forms of training.

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My opinion :

1)You dont have to chose one. Best exercise for any muscle or movement is TWO exercises. Even tho i like training minimalism, it also should not be a complete full retard minimalism. You dont have to choose - you can do both, and they supplement each other. You wont see REAL ATHLETES, fighters, for example - debating what is better - working on a heavy bag or pads. Why? Because they both are tools for a different purpose.
2)When talking about athletes you need to be more specific - what kind of athlete. Do you need to push someone horizontally? Do you need to be able to push down?
There are athletes and then there are “gym athletes”. You know - the guys in regular gym who work the cheap bullshit boxing bag like they are some pro fighters, lol. Or the guys who jump on boxes like its their primary job, haha.
No real athletes do their specific training in a comercial gym. Do your athletics in athletics training, and if you go to the gym, you do your basic fitness.
So if you are a real athlete, you know what you need. And you focus on the movements or strenght positions that are needed for your sport.
Honestly, unless you are pushing stuff for a living, and you really are an athlete, i wouldnt waste time thinking about this stuff, because probably neither bench nor dips will increase your athletic ability THAT much.
For most sports, that are not strenght sports, if you can do some 50 pushups in a row, and some 220lbs bench, i think you are done in that sector.
In any sport - specificity is key. To be better at something you need to DO the thing you want to be better at.
If you are at some average strenght level, and you are a runner, cyclist or a fighter, i believe its better to just run, cycle or fight more, instead of waste time on pushing bench PRs.

Also, depending on what is your sport, it is still an open discussion as to - how much does strenght training helps at all.
For example, we can take my field of expertise - MMA.
In my opinion, being bigger helps much more than being stronger. When i was 220lbs lean and on tren, i was much stronger than i am now at 260lbs. If we dont take endurance into consideration, i am much better at MMA now, even tho i am weaker. Why? Because in grappling weight helps more than actual strenght, because you cant really train grappling in the gym. If that was the case, all powerlifters would also be good grapplers.
Same goes with classic belief that strikers need a lot of endurance, therefore skipping rope for 60mins or running 5k a day is nothing unheared of. Then again, if that was the case, endurance runners would also be good at fighting, but they are not - they actually DO gas out pretty fast, because running is NOT punching.

I was deadlifting 5 plates for reps. A guy i train, cant deadlift 220lbs, but he can take me(260lbs) down. He hasnt been in the gym in his life, but i cant say that i can easly beat him because i am stronger. I can deadlift and squat 5 times more than he, but when i am in a chokehold, i dont feel that my ability to benchpress helps me much.
This is me just ranting about the subject.


I wrote an article on a similar topic:

Guys thanks for those answers. I see a lot of knowledge here, much appreciated for that.
I’m not a professional athlete but I always try to do my best in all activities at work, in training everything needs to be almost perfect. I know that this is not possible but this is who I am.
I have space in the workout just for one strength push exercise currently and I wanted to choose the best one. Thanks to Christian answer I will go with bench press but with medium grip it’s the safest for me.