How to do a Bodyweight Dip

Dips are one of the fundamental calisthenics movements. They exercise your upper body, but the exact muscles depend on the grip you use. The goal is to go from a straight arm position to the bottom position where your arms are bent just over 90° and upper arm is parallel to the floor. Going past that point is often referred to as deep dips, and can increase risk of injury if done improperly.

Form-wise, ideally the legs should be straight and the body in a hollow hold position, although if your bars are too low you may have to bend your knees. Try not to bend at the hips too much. Generally you want to keep your arms close to your body instead of splaying out to the sides, although wide grip variations exist.

I learnt how to do dips using resistance bands on bars, with the bands getting lighter and lighter over a few months. If you don’t have access to bars or rings (for example right now during the quarantine), you can train them using a bench or similar object at home. If you don’t have that either, you can target similar muscles with push ups instead.

The number of reps you want to do is typically higher than pull ups; I’ve often heard it should be roughly twice as much. If you’re far from this ratio, you might be imbalanced.

Dip Variations

They can be performed on parallel bars (also often called dip bars), rings, a straight bar or a bench (assisted). Rings are harder because you need to keep them stable throughout the motion. Straight bar dips are also usually much more difficult than parallel bar dips, but are needed if you want to do muscle ups.

To make them easier, you can do assisted dips in various ways. If you can’t do a full bodyweight dip yet, I’d recommend trying the following in order from easiest to hardest:

  • train isometric holds at both top and bottom positions (let’s say 5-20s)
  • feet on a support in front of you
  • train negatives (jump up and then slowly lower down)
  • using a resistance band looped around the bars or rings (feet or knees in the band, and use the thinnest band that you can do several good dips on)
  • if on rings, someone can help hold the rings steady as you dip

Even if you can already do some full dips, the easier variations can act as a nice warm up or cool down.

If you can already do 10+ dips and want to make them harder, you can:

  • add weight (for example wearing a weighted vest)
  • do them on (higher) rings, or straight bar
  • do variations such as Russian dips, where your forearms have to touch the bar

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