Dipping is an excellent way to train your triceps. In addition, your (bottom) chest also participates, but that is usually not the primary target muscle of this exercise (after all, we have chest presses for that). There is no one perfect way of dipping — it’s about feeling your triceps working and not feeling any discomfort in your shoulders and elbows. In addition, note the following common form errors.
1. TOO LITTLE RANGE OF MOTION
A full range of motion (ROM) is necessary to give the muscle an optimal stimulus through stretch under tension. With dips, however, all too often you see partials , or half repeats. In this way you can do more repetitions or train harder by means of weighted dips, but you do not create an effective training stimulus:
The solution is simple: dip deeper. Most people can easily lower their upper arm slightly below parallel:
Take this depth as a starting point. As long as you feel a good stretch in your triceps and no discomfort in your shoulders and elbows, you’ll be fine. Dipping too deep will cause discomfort and will reduce your power on the way up.
Make sure you always use the same ROM (not deep dips one time and partials the next) — this is the only way to reliably track your reps and thus your progression.
2. NO CONTROLLED ECCENTRIC PHASE
For the stretch under tension we talked about, it is also important that you expose the trained muscle to the eccentric (or negative) movement long enough. With dipping, that is the phase in which you lower yourself. Dipping is different from dropping:
Now the way down doesn’t have to take forever: a controlled movement of one to two seconds is enough:
3. LEANING TOO MUCH FORWARD
The more you lean forward on dips, the less you can bend your elbows and the more you engage your chest:
The latter is not a problem if you consciously do chest dips. But if the triceps is the primary target muscle in dips, then you should try to stay a little more upright:
4. DIFFICULTY ABOUT THE GRIP
Perhaps your gym offers a triceps dip with angled bars, which allows you to use different grip widths. Nice, but don’t be too fussy about that: there is no magic grip width for triceps dips. It also doesn’t matter which side you do your dips to.
It is often said that with triceps dips you use a somewhat narrower grip and with chest dips a somewhat wider grip. Take that as a guideline and find the grip that feels comfortable for you and feels the primary target muscle (triceps or chest) best.
Make sure that you always use the same grip and edge, so that you are sure that you always achieve the same ROM (see also error 1).
5. GOING TOO HEAVY
Dipping is typically such an exercise that you should not do too hard. With dips you find yourself in a relatively unstable position where high weights can be at the expense of the technical execution. Ideally, you should therefore do dips in the spectrum of 10 to 20 repetitions.
Now you are basically dependent on your own body weight for dips. If you are not yet strong enough to do many repetitions in a row, consider assisted dips. If dips are easy for you, only add weight when you make progress in the 10-20 rep range.