Weighted DipsThe bench press is one of the best exercises we have for training the chest muscles and triceps. We use the bench press because we can easily add weight to the bar or grab a heavier dumbbell for increased resistance. Probably the biggest drawback to the bench press, however, is that only your arms are moving.

Technically (and I hate getting too technical), pushups are a better movement in terms of total body mass trained. But you already know that trying to increase the resistance on pushups can be a real pain. And let’s be honest, even if pushups are better than nothing when you’re out of town, doing a few sets of 30 pushups won’t have the same mass-building effect as heavy benches will.

The dip

The weighted dip is an excellent movement because it allows for the training of the chest and triceps together in a way that uses a greater mass of muscle from more muscle groups. You’ll notice that you should be able to dip more weight than you are able to bench press for a given number of reps. That should indicate that more muscles are working together to move your body through the full range of motion.

Dips place greatest stress on your “lower chest” and triceps. When I say “lower chest” I’m not referring to the mythical lower pectoral muscle that doesn’t exist, but rather meaning that the upper chest is less involved in this movement for some pretty obvious reasons if you think about how the exercise is performed.

Also, don’t confuse the dips as being a variation of the decline press. The decline press has a decreased range of motion when compared to dips, and dips are generally a superior exercise when compared to the decline press.

When it compares to the bench press, however, dips can really make a great addition chest/triceps routine, and they make a decent replacement for the bench press if you’re not able to bench press for whatever reason.

Proper execution

The first thing you’ll probably notice when you come up to a dipping station is that the grip bars are not parallel to each other, but increase in distance the farther away they are from the base. This is so that you can choose a grip width that suits you best.

  • Grip width: In general, a wider grip will place somewhat more emphasis on your chest muscles. A narrower grip will hit your triceps somewhat more.
  • Leaning: You can adjust your form slightly depending on how much you bend your knees. Bending your knees more places the weight of your feet further behind your body and requires you to lean forward to compensate. Leaning forward involves the chest muscles in the movement more. On the flip side, keeping your legs straight below you and keeping your body more upright will use less chest muscle and involve the triceps more.
  • Recommended form: The form that I recommend the most is to take a grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder width (don’t go too crazy here) with the knees bent. This forward lean involves the larger chest muscles and allows you to get more reps with a heavier weight. Working more muscles overall means building more muscles overall.

Range of motion: All the way. Go down as far down as you can comfortably and safely go. Increasing the range of motion on your dips will increase the amount of muscles fibers that are recruited to complete the movement. Your chest muscles are more heavily involved in the bottom portion of the movement, and so are your shoulders to a certain extent.

So, in this way, doing full dips is important for the same reason that doing full squats is important. They simply work more muscles mass. And as you know by now, working more muscle mass means building more muscle mass (yes, I’m repeating myself on purpose here).

Adding weight

Ok, so we already established earlier that pushups are technically a great movement but that they don’t always get the job done for us because it’s tough to add weight. Well, that’s the nice thing about dips… adding weight is easy with the right equipment.

A special weight belt with a chain that attaches in front is all that is needed. You can buy your own and some gyms will have one available. Simply use the chain to secure a weight plate or a dumbbell in front you and proceed to do your dips as usual. Apply the same principles of resistance progression just as you would to any other exercise by adding weight to your dips once you’re able to do full sets at body weight.

Also, be careful when setting up the weight in front of you. The weight belt sits on your hips and the chain runs downward in front of you, and it comes close to a very sensitive area for guys. I’d hate to hear about any of you getting something important caught in the chains, if you know what I mean…

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14 Responses to “Weighted Dips for the Pecs and Triceps”

  1. Haha. Never tried weighted dips before. I always been afraid of that last statement you made there.

  2. Parth- Guys like you and I have to be especially careful about that kind of thing.

  3. I have actually had some problems with exactly that (seriously)… now I just use a bag, or a vest.

    I think this touches all the right issues at the right length, without making it too technical and boring.

    Great work Jason :)

  4. Hey guys I have never used weight belt and I exactly donno how it looks like but I was just wondering can it be worn reversed so that the chain instead of hanging in front hangs in the back side…
    By the way great article Jason just one question
    You said that goin’ all the way down is the way but from what I have heard that if one wants to work primarily the triceps then one needs to go down till the upper arm becomes parallel..any comments

  5. Saurabh- Thanks. I never tried dips with the belt reversed, but I think it would really throw your center of gravity off and make the lift tough, especially the leaning aspect. Having the weight hanging in front of you encourages a forward lean to keep balanced, so a chain on back would logically do the opposite.

    Yep, not going all the way down will focus on the triceps more because they are more heavily involved in the lockout. But I think it takes away from the purpose of doing a compound movement. That’s the advantage of doing dips is that it works many muscle groups together. I’m not saying that you would never want to isolate your triceps though. But it’s kinda like making a compound movement into an isolation exercise to a degree. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it won’t be as much of a muscle-mass building exercise.

    BTW- Parallel is still a pretty good range of motion ;)

  6. Probably because of the stretch on my shoulders dips hurt my shoulders way more than decline BB presses. Also I have to let go after the set really carefull (ease of the tension very slow) to avoid more shoulder pain.

  7. Wazzup- How wide is your grip? I know the wider grips can aggravate the shoulder more, and leaning forward too far can do it as well depending on your flexibility.

  8. I used to do weighted dips allot at my old gym, probably my favourite workout. Youd be suprised at the amount of weight you can push when you get it in your routine. Im definately gonna get a weight belt soon now.

  9. its amazing , after 16 years of training and dieting , it ends up to be really simple , but i guess like all things you must go through hell before the truth is revealed.

  10. Just tried weighted dips for the last month and i will never stop , goal is 137 , my bodyweight for reps , currently 45 for 8

  11. I bought a dip belt but it was just too wide (i’m 6′ with a 29″ waist).
    I went to the home depot and bought 4′ of medium size chain link and a hook for $7. I attach the hook to the front of my leather weightlifting belt, attach one end of the chain to the hook, run the other end of the chain through a 25lb plate and then attach the other end to the hook. Works great!

  12. Jason,

    I have doing dips for a long time now and i believe it’s gotten to the point where they are no longer beneficial to me because i’m not adding weight. I weigh 170 and can usually pound out 1 set for 40 or more. What is a safe weight to start at with a dip belt.

    P.S: i have another related question with pull ups. I can usually do 1 set for over 20 givin the grip (30 with chin-up). Again what would a safe weight be to add to a dip belt. Thanks i appreciate the help

  13. @Chris – to be clear, are you saying you can do 40 reps of dips with your bodyweight, full proper form? Wow – that’s great muscular endurance. And 30 chin-ups? Same compliment!

    What is a “safe” weight to add to a dip belt? Well, that comes down to the construction of the belt. I use a basic belt and can do a few reps with 70 pounds but I’d bet the belt I have is safe up to about 150, maybe 200.

    So, if I understand that you are able to do that many reps with no extra weight, I’d suggest you start with just a 25 lb plate for a couple weeks. Then increase about 10 pounds a week until you get to where you want to be (not sure what your goal is). Just don’t climb too fast – high-reps does not translate directly into your shoulders being able to handle heavy loads.

  14. Weighted dip is my favorite exercise, probably because it is the only movement where I have descent strength. I can squat only around 200 lbs., but I can dip my weight(150 lbs) plus 80 lbs for about six reps. I just use a leather belt and strap a dumbell directly to my waist. I don’t use a chain, because it’s not available at my gym. It seems to work fine. I would guess, that if I used one with a chain, I would have to drop the weight and learn how to do them without the weight swinging on me.

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