13 Dip Variations for Muscle Growth (+Benefits & Tips)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: December 20, 2023
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As a personal trainer, I frequently incorporate dips into my clients' push-day workouts to effectively target and develop their arm, chest, and shoulder muscles.

To cater to my clients' diverse needs and fitness levels, I carefully select from a range of dip variations.

After several hours of research, I have curated a collection of the most effective dip variations, encompassing bodyweight exercises and weighted dips.

By incorporating these variations into your routine, you can expect remarkable gains in upper body strength and muscle growth.

Quick Summary

  • The dip variations include bench dips, chair dips, machine-assisted dips, bulgarian ring dips, korean dips, straight bar dips, one-arm dips, russian dips, jumping dips, tricep dips with resistance bands, side to side dips, weighted dips, and gironda dips (chest dips).
  • These variations cater to different fitness levels and goals, focusing on strengthening the triceps, chest, and shoulders, leadind to improved posture, enhanced flexibility, promoted upper-body muscle growth, and increased strength.
  • Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted with 13 participants shows that exercises like ring dips can increase upper body push strength and aid in upper extremity rehabilitation.
  • In my opinion, incorporating a variety of dip exercises into a workout routine seems to be an excellent strategy for progressively building upper body strength and muscle, catering to both beginners and advanced fitness enthusiasts.

13 Top Dips Variations

A person doing bar dip workouts at the gym

1. Bench Dips

In my experience as a personal trainer, I've found bench dips to be a great exercise for strengthening key upper body muscles like the triceps, chest, and shoulders. It's a simple bodyweight exercise that just needs a bench.

I always emphasize the importance of proper form to my clients to maximize the benefits and prevent injuries.

For those looking to up the challenge, I sometimes incorporate weighted bench dips into their routines to increase the exercise's intensity.

To do this exercise:

  1. Sit on a bench and place your palms on the edge, fingers pointing forward.
  2. Extend your legs in front of you, keeping your glutes about six inches from the bench.
  3. Keep your weight on your heels throughout the entire exercise.
  4. Bend your elbows, gradually lowering your body down until your elbows form a ninety-degree angle.
  5. Pause while feeling the contraction in your triceps.
  6. Push straight up, extending your arms to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat until you complete two to three sets of eight to twelve reps.

2. Chair Dips

A person doing chair dips

Chair dips provide a similar workout to bench dips but can be done conveniently at home using chairs.

Here's how to perform this exercise:

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair, ensuring your shoulders are pulled back and your chest is lifted.
  2. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders, firmly gripping the chair's edge.
  3. Extend your legs out in front of you, keeping them straight.
  4. Bend your elbows, gradually lowering your hips towards the floor.
  5. Engage your triceps and push through your palms to extend your elbows, lifting your body back up to the starting position.
  6. Repeat until you complete two to three sets of eight to twelve reps.

3. Jumping Dips

Jumping dips are an excellent dip variation for beginners as they closely mimic the full dip movement and assist in building strength. 

Here's how to perform them:

  1. Begin by grabbing the handles of parallel bars and slightly bending your knees.
  2. Explosively jump up while pressing your hands through the bars, fully extending your elbows.
  3. Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body down in a controlled manner.
  4. Once your feet touch the ground, prepare for the next repetition.
  5. Repeat the same steps for two to three sets, aiming for eight to twelve reps per set.

4. Machine Assisted Dips

A person doing machine assisted dips at the gym

I often recommend machine-assisted dips to beginners who are just getting used to the dip movement.

I guide them to adjust the weight on the machine, gradually decreasing the assistance, which allows them to challenge themselves and build strength effectively.

Here's how to perform this exercise:

  1. Set the weight of the machine based on your current fitness level. Remember, higher numbers provide more assistance.
  2. Position your arms on the handles and your knees on the machine’s footpad.
  3. Lower your body down as far as you can while keeping your shoulders back and your core engaged.
  4. Push through your arms and return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the same steps for two to three sets, aiming for eight to twelve reps per set.

“Don't lock your elbows at the top of the movement. Keeping them slightly soft maintains tension on the triceps.”

- Paul Rogers, Personal Trainer

5. Tricep Dips with Resistance Bands

Dips with resistance bands serve the same purpose as the previous exercise but add instability, making it more challenging and engaging for the triceps.

To do this exercise:

  1. Hang the resistance band between the bars, ensuring it is secure and properly anchored.
  2. Place both hands on the dip bars, gripping them firmly.
  3. Hook your knees onto the resistance band.
  4. Lift your feet off the ground, allowing your body to hang between the dip bars. This is the starting position.
  5. Bend your elbows and lower your body down, keeping your chest lifted and your shoulders back. Aim to lower yourself to a comfortable depth.
  6. Push through your hands and triceps to extend your arms, raising your body back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat as long as you comfortably can.

“Use a resistance band to support yourself on the dip bars. This will reduce the weight you have to dip and make doing a full dip easier. Once you can do 10 or 20 resistance band assisted dips, try a full dip.”

- Thom Dwyer, Fitness Expert

6. Side to Side Dips

A person doing side to side dips

Side to side dip can be an effective way to overcome plateaus in your dip training.

This exercise challenges your stability and helps develop strength that can be transferred to more advanced movements like ring dips.

Here's how to perform this exercise:

  1. Place your arms on the dip bars with your elbows extended and raise your feet from the ground.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your body down, shifting most of your body weight onto your left triceps, shoulder, and chest.
  3. Push back up to the starting position, focusing on engaging the muscles on your left side to drive the movement.
  4. Repeat the same movement on the other side, dipping down and shifting your weight to the right side.
  5. Continue alternating sides, performing as many repetitions as you comfortably can.

7. Weighted Dips

As a trainer, I've introduced clients to weighted dips as an advanced variation of regular dips, adding extra weight to ramp up the exercise's intensity.

We've explored various methods to incorporate weight, including using a dip belt, holding a dumbbell between the ankles, wearing a weighted vest, or draping heavy chains over the shoulders.

Here is how to perform weighted dips:

  1. Secure a dip belt around your waist and attach your desired weight to the belt.
  2. Find a dip station and grab the handles of the dip bars or parallel bars firmly.
  3. Push yourself up, lifting your body off the ground. Keep your chest lifted and legs bent.
  4. Lower your body by bending your elbows, aiming to go past a ninety-degree angle while maintaining a neutral spine.
  5. Push back up using your arm and chest muscles to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement for as many repetitions as you comfortably can.

“Bring your shoulder blades back and keeping them in position throughout each set. If you cannot do that, remove the external load and focus on building up your upper back strength.”

- Philip Stefanov, Personal Trainer

8. Korean Dips

A person doing korean dips at the gym

Korean dips are an advanced dip variation that can significantly challenge upper body muscles.

It is important to note that this exercise should only be incorporated into your routine if you have sufficient shoulder mobility and strength.

Here's how to perform Korean dips:

  1. Sit on a bar and firmly grip the bar with your hands.
  2. Use your arms to push yourself off the bar, extending your elbows and raising your body off the seat.
  3. As you lower yourself, move downward and lean slightly backward.
  4. Press yourself back up by engaging your arms and pushing through your hands.
  5. Perform as many repetitions as you comfortably can.

9. Bulgarian Ring Dip

Ring dips are highly popular amongst crossfitters and bodybuilders because the instability forces your muscles to work harder to maintain control and counteract the rings' movement in various directions.

Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has shown that ring dips increase upper body push strength and may be prescribed to rehabilitate upper extremity injury [1].

Here's how to perform Bulgarian ring dips:

  1. Adjust the rings so that the bottom of each ring is positioned just below the bottom of your pectoral muscles.
  2. Place your arms at a ninety-degree angle, parallel to the ground. Keep your head up and your eyes focused forward.
  3. Press against the rings and extend your arms, lifting your body upward.
  4. Lower yourself back to the starting position with controlled movement.
  5. Perform as many repetitions as you comfortably can while maintaining proper form.

“Your shoulders should remain strong and stable, rather than move forward as you lower yourself. Likewise, your core should remain engaged, not lax, in order to protect your spine.”

- Amanda Capritto, Fitness Expert

10. Straight Bar Dip

A person doing straight bar dips

I've seen that parallel bar dips, or straight bar dips, are advanced exercises that require significant core stabilization.

They're effective for working the chest muscles, but it's crucial to use proper technique to avoid extra stress on the wrists.

I generally don't recommend these dips for beginners due to their complexity and the strength required.

How to perform straight bar dips:

  1. Stand between two parallel bars and grip them with your palms facing downward. Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your body off the ground, keeping your legs straight and engaging your core and glutes to maintain a stable position.
  3. Bend your arms and lean your upper body slightly forward, maintaining an upright posture. Make sure your elbows are above your wrists throughout the movement.
  4. Lower your body by bending your elbows, allowing your chest to move closer to the bars. Descend to a comfortable depth.
  5. Push through your hands and straighten your arms, returning to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the exercise for as many repetitions as you comfortably can.

11. Gironda Dips (Chest Dips)

The Gironda dip, named after one of the most renowned bodybuilders Vince Gironda, is an advanced dip variation specifically targeting the lower pecs.

To do this exercise:

  1. Grip the handles firmly, ensuring a secure grip throughout the exercise.
  2. Start upright with your chest lifted and your chin tucked.
  3. Position your hips slightly behind the handles and extend your legs forward, resembling a hanging leg raise position.
  4. Lower your body by bending your elbows, allowing your chest to descend between the handles.
  5. At the bottom of the movement, create a slight bounce or stretch reflex, and then forcefully push yourself back up.
  6. Continue raising and lowering your body, maintaining control, and focusing on engaging your lower pecs throughout the exercise.
  7. Perform as many repetitions as possible while maintaining proper form and control.

Related: Chest Dip Alternatives

12. One Arm Dips

A person doing one arm dip workouts outside

Single-arm dips are effective for building individual arm strength and improving the mind-body connection.

By isolating each limb, you can create equal tension and prevent muscle imbalances when training with both arms simultaneously.

To do this exercise:

  1. Attach a resistance band to the bar.
  2. Hold the bar with one hand while extending the other to grip the resistance band for added stability. Maintain engagement in your core throughout the entire movement.
  3. Lower your body by bending your elbow, leaning towards the side of the limb you use for support.
  4. Push your body back up, focusing on engaging the muscles of the working arm.
  5. Perform as many repetitions as you comfortably can while maintaining proper form.

13. Russian Dips

As a personal trainer, I've found Russian dips to be an advanced exercise demanding significant triceps strength and mobility.

I advise beginners or those not adequately prepared to steer clear of this exercise due to the increased risk of shoulder and elbow injuries.

However, for clients who possess the requisite tricep strength and mobility, Russian dips can be a highly effective way to intensely target the triceps.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Begin in the same starting position as regular dips, with your hands gripping the bars and your body suspended.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your body all the way down as you would in a regular dip.
  3. Lean your upper body backward while keeping your elbows tucked close to your sides. Simultaneously, allow your lower body to move forward, creating a slight backward lean in your upper body.
  4. Create momentum and go back up.
  5. Perform as many reps as you comfortably can.

What Are the Benefits of the Dip?

A person measuring his arm muscles

The benefits of the dip are improved posture, enhanced flexibility, promoted upper-body muscle growth, and increased strength.

Improved Posture and Stability

Including dips in your workout routine can benefit women as it targets the chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles.

According to NIH, strengthening these muscle groups can contribute to improved posture and overall body stability [2].

Convenience

Dips offer the convenience of being adaptable to various workout settings, including home workouts, as they require minimal equipment.

Additionally, dip variations can be easily modified to accommodate different fitness levels.

Whether you need to decrease or increase the difficulty, there are options available to suit your specific needs and capabilities.

This flexibility allows you to effectively incorporate dips into your fitness regimen and continue challenging yourself as you progress.

Variety

A person doing push ups

While the standard dip and its advanced variations can be demanding, numerous alternative variations are available that cater to individuals of different fitness levels.

This allows you to gradually build strength and proficiency at a pace that suits you best and promotes a gradual approach and steady progression.

Increased Muscle Growth and Strength

First, as NIH notes, dips target and engage key muscle groups such as the chest and triceps [3]. This focused activation promotes significant muscle growth in these areas.

Moreover, the stabilizing muscles, including the back, forearms, and core, are crucially engaged during dips.

They are vital in maintaining balance, minimizing unnecessary movements, and enabling you to execute the exercise with precision and stability.

Consistently challenging and involving these muscle groups through dips will substantially enhance your upper body strength and muscle growth.

Drawbacks

Dip exercises, while effective for building upper body strength, particularly in the triceps, shoulders, and chest, do have several drawbacks that should be considered:

  1. Joint Stress: Tricep dips can put significant stress on the shoulder joints, particularly in the anterior (front) part of the shoulder. This can lead to discomfort or injury, especially if the exercise is performed with improper form or if there's pre-existing shoulder instability.
  2. Risk of Elbow Strain: The movement places considerable load on the elbow joints, which can lead to strain or overuse injuries, especially if the dips are performed with excessive depth or without proper warm-up.
  3. Limited Scalability: For beginners or those with less upper body strength, tricep dips can be quite challenging to perform correctly. Unlike other exercises, it can be difficult to scale down the intensity of dips without equipment.
  4. Potential for Wrist Pain: The position of the hands and wrists during tricep dips can cause discomfort or pain, particularly for individuals with existing wrist issues or weaker wrist joints.

Tips and Common Mistakes

A gym coach talking to a gym newbie

To maximize the benefits of your dips, it's essential to steer clear of a few pitfalls, such as:

  • Incomplete reps - Failing to complete the full range of motion hinders the engagement of your triceps, reducing the effectiveness of the exercise. Ensure that you lower yourself until your elbow forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Improper form - Avoid flaring out your elbows and maintain an upright chest with your head facing forward. Keep in mind that if you lean forward, the focus shifts onto your chest and shoulders rather than your triceps.
  • Rushing through reps - Using momentum to complete each repetition diminishes the impact of the exercise. Move slowly and maintain control to achieve maximum results.
  • Gradually increase the intensity - Prioritize mastering bodyweight bench dips before incorporating weighted variations. It is safer to start with bodyweight dips and move to more advanced dip variations gradually.
  • Discomfort or pain - If you experience any discomfort during dips, stop the exercise immediately. There are alternative exercises available. If you have chronic elbow issues or past injuries, consider consulting a physical therapist and wearing compression elbow sleeves to provide additional support during workouts.

FAQs

What Muscles Does the Dip Train?

Muscles that the dip trains are the pushing muscles: chest, shoulders, and triceps. Dips also recruit your back muscles as stabilizing muscles.

How Often Should You Train Dips?

You should train dips one to two times per day to get the benefits of this exercise without placing unnecessary stress on the wrists and shoulders.

Use a Premium Pre-Workout to Enhance Your Performance During Dips

Dips are a great exercise for developing upper body strength and muscle.

The thirteen dip variations mentioned earlier provide excellent opportunities for building a robust chest, shoulders, and upper arm.

However, it is crucial to prioritize proper form and technique and adequately warm up before your workout.

And, if you want an extra boost during your workouts, be sure to add one of the carefully selected pre-workouts below:

Drawing from our expertise, these supplements may increase your energy and help you power through your dips with greater intensity and focus.

They also contain ingredients, like creatine, that can help you delay muscle fatigue and increase your ability to perform more repetitions during your dip sets.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36293792/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4499985/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9659300/
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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