Alternatives to Dips
Dips are a challenging upper body bodyweight exercise that targets the chest and triceps. However, they’re not for everybody. If you find the exercise too challenging or just don’t have the coordination to do the exercise properly, then this article’s for you. If you don’t have access to a dip bar, you’ll also want to keep reading.
Here are 10 exercises that will target your chest and triceps just as effectively as dips.
Because the dip is usually done specifically as a chest or a triceps exercise, depending on the positioning of the upper body, we’ll separate our dip alternatives accordingly. Here are 5 great dip alternatives for the triceps.
The lying dumbbell extension is commonly known as the Skullcrusher. Doing the exercise with dumbbells rather than a barbell allows you to bring the weights down lower and isolate each of your triceps muscles.
The standard triceps pushdown is an excellent movement to target all three heads of the triceps. If you have access to a machine that allows you to perform the exercise while you are facing away from the cable machine, you will put more emphasis on the triceps and less on the posterior deltoids.
Read also: The Cable Triceps Pushdown Exercise Guide & Videos
The close grip push up is an effective body weight chest developer that can be done at home with no equipment. This exercise is a lot harder than standard push ups because it effectively takes the primary emphasis off the chest and onto the much smaller triceps. As the exercise becomes easier, start moving your hands closer together. This will place even more stress on the triceps.
Read also: 13 Next Level Push-Up Variations
Here is a resistance band exercise that you can do at home for your triceps. All you need is a simple resistance loop band and you will be able to work each arm individually.
This overhead triceps extension variation allows you to simulate a gym overhead cable movement with nothing but a secure upright and a resistance band.
Before we move on to the best alternatives to the chest dip, let’s address the issue of whether you can do exercise to target each of the triceps heads. Many people think you can. As a result, they do all sorts of tricep exercises variations in order to target either the inner, outer or medial head. But can you really?
The short answer is no. Even though there are three heads to the triceps, they all have the same origin and insertion points, those being the humerus and the elbow. That means when the elbow is extended, all three triceps heads are activated. There is no way to isolate the three triceps heads.
This is different to the deltoid muscles which are directly above the triceps. The deltoids also have three heads. The key difference is that the anterior, posterior and medial deltoid heads all have different origins and insertion points to their muscle fibers. As a result, you need to do different exercises to target each of those muscles. That is not the case with the triceps.
The dumbbell press is a superior chest exercise because it allows you to follow the directions of the muscle fibers from out wide to in close. Perform the exercise on a 30 degree decline bench and you will fully activate all of the muscle fibers of the chest.
Read also: Best Decline Bench Press Alternatives and Substitutes
The standing decline dumbbell press provides a very similar range of motion to the decline dumbbell press. As well as allowing the arms to move out wide to in close, it also keeps a constant tension on the pectorals throughout the entire movement.
The push up remains one of the best bodyweight upper body exercises and the most effective to specifically target the chest. Rather than pumping out sloppy reps where you’re only going halfway down, concentrate on good form where you go all the way up and all the way on each and every rep.
To make your push up workout more challenging, perform a ladder style workout. This is where you start with a designated number of reps, according to your ability. Let’s say you start with 10 reps. You then rest for 30 seconds before doing 11 reps. After another 30 second rest, you knock out 12 reps. Go up to 13 reps and then go back down the ladder until you are back at 10 reps. You’ll end up doing 80 reps in just a few minutes.
Here is a resistance band exercise that you can do at home. This exercise simulates the standard dumbbell flye, allowing you to get a full stretch on the pectorals (something you do not get with the chest dip).
Here is another resistance band exercise that very effectively targets the chest. This is one of those rare exercises that allows you to target each side of the chest individually. This provides the benefit of iso tension and unilateral training.
Before we get to the best dip alternatives, let’s take a closer look at what muscles the dip works, why it’s good and why it’s not so good. Then, we’ll be in a much better position to identify the best exercises to replace it.
There are two versions of the dip. When you position your body straight up and down and move through that plane, you will be mainly working the triceps. The movement you will be doing is very similar to what you do on a seated tricep machine, except that, instead of moving your arms, you are moving your body.
If you do the dip with your upper body leaning forward, you place more emphasis on the chest muscles and less on the triceps. Both versions of the dip will place secondary emphasis on the front deltoids.
The dip exercise will also work your abdominals, so long as you keep your core tight and your stomach pulled in.
There are some potential drawbacks to the dip exercise that may make the alternatives we’re about to detail more appealing to some people.
The dip compromises the shoulder joint. That’s because when you are in the bottom dip position, you have gone well beyond the shoulder joint’s normal and safe range of motion. This places a lot of stress on the shoulder capsule which may cause the ligaments to become lax. This, in turn, makes you more prone to shoulder injury.
Let’s now consider how effective the dip is as a chest exercise. For an exercise to be effective, its movement range should occur parallel to the direction of the muscle fibers. The pectoral muscles run from the sternum out. That means that an effective chest exercise has to come from the outside of the body and in toward the center. But the dip doesn’t do that. It moves the arm up and down in a fixed straight line.
The up and down movement of the dip does extend and contract the pectoral fibers. But the inability to adduct the arms means that the last 30 percent of the range of motion is missing. The dip is still a good chest movement but an exercise that allows you to bring your hands together in the extended position could be better for maximum activation of the chest fibers.
The most effective alternatives to the tricep version of the dip are:
Here are the best exercise to do instead of the chest dip:
If you’re not keen on doing dips for any reason or simply don’t have access to a dip bar, you can get a great chest and triceps workout using our dip alternatives. If you’re in the gym, make use of dumbbells and the cable machine and then finish off with a set or two of push ups. At home, use a set of bands to simulate cable gym movements and then do a burn out set of pushups to failure. Your chest and triceps will be pumped and ready to grow!
Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters. Steve hold the following certifications from the International Sorts Sciences Association: * Certified Personal Trainer * Fitness Nutrition Certification * Specialist in Group Fitness & Guided Study * Strength & Conditioning Certification * Sports Nutrition Certification * Transformation Specialist & Guided Study
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© Copyright 2010 – 2021 Fitnes Volt IBC. All Rights Reserved.
This article was written by one of our qualified writers, and fact-checked by our experts. The numbers in parentheses (e.g. 1, 2, 3, etc.) throughout the article, are reference links to peer-reviewed studies.
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