Dips are an excellent compound movement that will strengthen and build the chest, shoulders, and triceps. While it’s a fairly simple exercise, it is often done incorrectly which can cause shoulder and chest pain. Proper Dip form is key to avoid shoulder and chest pain.
Grab the bars and jump up on the bar. Squeeze the bars as hard as you can. Pull your shoulders back and down like you should in the bench press. Lift your chest up to stop your upper back rounding, which can cause chest pain. Your torso should be leaning forward. Brace and make your whole body ridged your tensing your abs, glutes and cross your legs, or squeeze your feet together. There should be tension throughout your whole body, don’t let your legs just flop around as you do the reps. Keep your head in line with your spine in a neutral position. Don’t move your head up or down. Just before the rep, take a big breath and hold it as you lower yourself.
Lower your body by bending your arms. Don’t let your shoulders roll forward as you go down, or shrug up as you come up as this will hurt the shoulders. Keep them back and down and keep your chest up. Keep your elbows tucked close to your torso. Go down until your shoulders are below your elbows at the bottom. You don’t need to go any deeper than this as it can put extra pressure on your shoulders.
Lift your body back up to the starting position by straightening your arms. Keeping your shoulders back and down, chest up and maintain full body tension.
Dips hurt my shoulders
Dips do hurt some people’s shoulders. Sometimes it’s because of shoulder problems they already have, but most of the time it’s because of poor form. It’s rare I see anyone perform the dip correctly. You’ll have noticed that I keep mentioning chest up, full body tension and especially keeping your shoulders down and back. These are very important to prevent your shoulders from hurting.
What if you can't do a single rep?
If you aren’t strong enough to do a full body weight dip, you can the assisted dip machine to build up your strength. Another option is to use resistance bands to assist you until you're able to perform a full rep.
Ways to progress
- You can increase the reps you can do with your body weight. One way I liked to do this was to use the ladder method. For example, if you can do 10 reps for a single set, you could set it up like this. Start with 1 rep and increase until you get to x 8 reps, and then go back down again.
So it would look like this 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. This gives you 64 reps. You could go back up and down the ladder again so you'll do 128 reps. As you progress you'll be able to increase how high up the ladder you go, and so will increase the total reps you can do.
- You can also add weight to dips just like you would with any other exercise by using a dipping belt. With this, you can place weight plates on the chains which hang between your legs. The weighted dip is performed exactly the same as the body weight dip.