Tricep Dip Variations – Bodyweight Pushing Strength

You’ll be hard pressed to find a bodyweight movement which builds the chest, shoulders and triceps as effectively as dips, this gem of an exercise unleashes brutal strength, builds slabs of muscle and unlocks shoulder flexibility creating joints made of steel. But only if you are doing them right, and using the most effective variations.

Ask near enough any trainer what the most effective exercise is for building the triceps, and almost always the answer will be the same, some form of dips. Some even going so far as to refer to dips as being to the upper body, what the squat is to the lower body.

In gymnastics, athletes are well known for their exceptional upper body strength and physiques, for them dips are an essential part of practice for strength and flexibility through a large range of motion.


Tricep Dips Produce Strong & Flexible Shoulders

If you aren’t used to using a range of motion as large as is used during many of these exercises, proceed slowly through the progressions and increase your range of motion slowly over time.

Many people cringe at the idea of performing dips regularly, they have gotten an unwarranted reputation as having a knack for injuring people’s shoulders, but the truth is dips are likely to injure you no more so than say the bench press.

Being strong through a larger range of motion can only serve to keep your joints healthy as long as you progress gradually, especially if your shoulders have become extremely tight from years of ‘bench press therapy.’

Dips are not bad for your shoulders, performing dips incorrectly with poor technique is bad for your shoulders, just as the bench press is not bad for you, but doing so incorrectly could result in injury.

That being said, I don’t recommend that you start training with any advanced variations of dips if you have a serious shoulder injury, that would be a bit like attempting box jumps with a broken leg (You’re visualising that now, aren’t you?).

Regularly performing the variations in this article has helped build my upper body pushing strength no end, and certainly contributed in a large way to improving my raw paused bench press, which is now just over 2x bodyweight.

For improving flexibility for the dip, I suggest practicing an isometric bottom dip hold. Simply descend into a dip on a pair of parallel bars, and hold this bottom position for 15 to 30 seconds while keeping your chest out proud, head up and shoulders down (no shrugging). This can be done either at the beginning or the end of the workout, whichever you prefer.

Dip variations

  • Improve strength and flexibility.
  • Can be made more challenging with added weight or more difficult variations that decrease body leverage.
  • Compound exercise effectively recruiting a variety of muscles, many variations placing increased demand on the core for stability.
  • Improve mobility in the shoulders.
  • Can help build strength for other pushing exercises such as the bench press.
  • Extremely effective triceps builder, helping to improve lockout strength.

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