T Nation

Proper Dips


What's proper form on dips? Is it a very personalized thing, or are there certain key points everyone should keep in mind? Shoulder-blades retracted, ROM, anything.



Depth is the biggest screw-up. Biceps touch forearms is a good starting point.


In general, if you want to hit your chest more, lean your head as far forward as you can, to the point of having your chin touch the top of your chest. If you want to focus everything on your triceps, try to keep your upper body as upright as possible.

Depth is one screw-up, and so is rep speed. Most people lower too quickly to the point of dropping.

Some people think that you shouldn't go too low or you'll include your shoulders too much. I tend to go low until I feel a stretch in the front of my shoulders, then I know it's time to go back up.


Yes, speed IS another screw-up. As far as concentric speed, however, I like to accelerate to the lockout position and lower slowly or with some control.


yeah, full range of motion including lock-out at the top is important. If you get some one to watch you and you do them explosively they may notice that you don't lock out. It's easy for your mind to miss if you are new to them.

For chest dips i like to look down at the ground that's behind my feet. It keeps your body at an angle for chest recruitment. Also try and do both close and wide grip if possible. I bought some saw horses just to do wide grip. The wide grip ones rip your tits apart, its trauma for the bewbies/pecs.



See, I wish this was a lot like benching so I wouldn't have to ask so many questions, I always feel like a noob with a "dangerous" new exercise. =P

What's good width? It's not like I have much choice, but I'd say at my gym the narrow grip is about 2" more than shoulder width, and the wide grip is about 6"+ more than shoulder width.


Just be careful about going lower than low, because you could tweak your shoulders something awful. I had a tendancy to do this on that final eccentric, you know, the one on the way to the floor, as a dismount. So now I make an effort to cut that short, and haven't gotten into the pain range lately.


yea i did this last week. felt like something went awry in my rt trap. it hurt for days.


I was under the impression that locking out leads to elbow and shoulder problems as well as aleviating the tension (albeit momentarily) from your triceps thereby reducing the efficacity of the exercise. Has anybody else heard this?


The reason i emphasize the lock out is because I always see fools doing this partial ROM from half way down to 3/4 the way up. and then they wonder why they never get better at dips (eg adding weight). Just like a squat you want the max safe ROM for maximum muscle belly development. No reason not to lock out unless you have a shitty shoulder, in which case BW dips are great for rehab.

You lock out on bench, squat, deadlift and go to dead hang in chinups right? same for dips. If you don't build strength thru the entire ROM then when you ad weight you will have extra "sticking points" that will poop up your progress.



My left shoulder has been bugging me for quite a while, and I'm not sure what's wrong with it. Doing chest dips is painful, but doing tricep dips isn't. I only wish the dip station at my gym had different widths, as it seems too wide for me.

When I do tricep dips, I have my legs straight, not bent back. I'm not tall, so I can do this. It really puts an emphasis on the triceps.

When I lower myself, I try to do it as slowly as possible so as to avoid bouncing and to make sure I've gone low enough.

When going up, I try to do it as quickly as possible, but I don't lock out. Locking out has led to elbow pain in the past, so I don't do it, I simply go to just short of lockout, but I never lose tension in my triceps. I would not recommend locking out because of the possible joint issues (same goes for squats), but do make sure you're not doing some lame 1/2 ROM dips.


I agree. I don't lock out on dips or squats for the same reason. I also don't lock out on bench.

  1. First find your passive R.O.M. of the anterior shoulder by doing a simple straight -arm extension move. This will let you know how much flexibility you have in your anterior joint capsule.

  2. Second, make sure you also have good flexibility in the biceps' points of origin and pectorals.

  3. Third, hopefully your dip station's handles are approximately shoulder width apart according to the distance of you glenoid-humeral joints. If not it is always wiser to use a slightly wider grip width.

  4. Fourth, your body alignment is dictated by the flexibility of the anterior shoulder, comfort level in a particular body position, and your ability to minimize lower body swinging and hip flexion.

  5. It has been accepted but not yet researched and validified that keeping the arms close to work triceps more and widening the arms work the chest more. Through application keeping the arms , or more orrectly the elbows, pointing straight and backwards does place a lot more emphasis on the anterior shoulder and tricep musculature. But, that position will place the glenoid-humeral head out of contact with the glenoid fossa and stress the joint capsule, rotator cuff musculature, pectoral major musculature at the point of insertion,and the biceps in a stressful position. On the flip side, placing the arms out wide simulates doing a decline bench press. so that is where the chest, pec minor and major, contribute with less stress on the shoulder joint.

  6. Depth again is dictated by the ability to maintain a particular body angle during the movement and lowering yourself to the point just short of where your position of passive R.O.M. was established. Range of motion is not only dictated by muscle, but also by tendon, ligament, bone structure, force couples of muscle groups surrounding that joint for that movement. If you had years and years of practice and competitions as a gymnast, then none of this really pertains to you.

So, in short find what feels correct for you just do it safely. and, study your anatomy!


There is one hell of an answer for ya. I find my elbows and shoulders don't suffer much at all from dips and I do some mad extra weight. My chiropractor keeps it all together.