There has been recent talk of the “dip” exercise and its associated variations at the Columbus Wellness Center recently.  I am going to shed some light onto this topic and hopefully leave you with some new ideas about this old exercise.

Let’s briefly discuss the anatomy and movement patterns of this exercise.  As you dip, your elbow is flexed and the shoulder is slightly extended.  Therefore, to complete the exercise, you must contract your triceps and chest, while maintaining stabilization in the anterior deltoid.  The dip is a great body weight exercise that has many variations; however, you may not be able to execute it on day one.

If you cannot perform the dip correctly and your gym has an assisted dip machine (as Columbus does) I encourage you to use it.  The assisted dip machine works as a counterweight.  As your strength improves, you perform the exercise with less assistance until you are lifting your entire bodyweight.

If the assisted dip machine isn’t available there are a number of other options.  You can strengthen your triceps via the tricep pushdown machine or the cable pushdown.  Unfortunately, these machines don’t mimic the requirements of the dip because you don’t need to stabilize yourself as much.  Another viable option is the close grip push-up , which highlights the triceps.

Some people choose to perform the bench dip.  I want to issue a word of caution that this exercise may lead to shoulder problems as the anterior deltoid is under a lot of pressure because your arms are moving behind your back but you need to maintain an upright chest.

Working on these progressions will help you reach the dip bar with the strength, stability and confidence necessary.  As you perform the dip, understand that a subtle change in posture will lead to a more concentrated muscular contraction.  If you want to isolate the chest, a forward lean will encourage the inferior fibers of the pec.  If you keep your chest completely upright, your triceps will be performing a majority of the work.

As I mentioned before, the dip is a great bodyweight exercise that has application to upper body strength and stability.  Be sure to add it to your routine.