Dips are a great bodyweight exercise that targets the triceps and chest muscles. However, they’re not for everybody. If you don’t have the coordination to do this workout correctly,
find dips too challenging, or simply want to add variation to your routine, this article is for you.
Keep reading to discover other effective exercises below that target your triceps and chest muscles. But before that, let’s first learn the basics of a dip, its benefits, and what makes a great dip alternative.
What is a Dip?
A dip is a bodyweight exercise that develops the upper-body muscles, especially the triceps and the shoulder muscles. The workout starts when you hold onto parallel bars with your arms straight. You then lean forward, bend at the waist, and pull your toes upwards towards your shins.
You will need a dip machine, a dip stand, or parallel bars to do dips. This gym equipment may be standalone units, attached to a rack, or combined with a pull-up bar. Moreover, dips offer variations by changing the angle, arm position, and form to focus on different muscle groups.
Chest Dip vs. Triceps Dip
The two main variations of the dip are chest and triceps dips. These two target the pectoral muscles or the triceps more than other dip variations. Both exercises use an individual’s body weight and a dip bar.
The trunk must lean forward in a chest dip, and the elbows flare to the sides as the body lowers into the dip. The hips and knees should also bend. As this movement targets the pectoral muscles more, it thus increases and strengthens the chest.
The torso is held upright in the triceps dip, and the elbow bends as the person lowers into the dip. The lower extremities stay in an extended position.
Benefits of Dips Exercises
- Add muscle mass to the body
- Strengthens the upper body
- Simultaneously works for the opposing muscle groups
What Makes a Great Dip Alternative?
A dip alternative must train the same muscles as a dip. Those are the shoulders, chest, and triceps muscles. Two out of three of these muscles are already good for a dip alternative. However, three out of three is better. It doesn’t have to focus on shoulders too much. Workout variations involve close grip and those already working well.
The focus of the exercise changes if there are subtle changes in how you angle your torso. For example, an upright posture targets the triceps more, while a forward lean targets the shoulders and chest more.
Some fitness enthusiasts prefer the alternatives over the dip to avoid compromising their shoulder joints. That’s because you’ve gone well beyond the shoulder joint’s safe and normal range of motion when you’re in the bottom dip.
11 Best Dip Alternative Exercises
1. Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is a great dip alternative exercise. This upper body compound exercise works the triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles.
To master this alternative exercise, lie on the weight bench with your feet flat on the floor. Next, grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. This hand position shifts the load a bit less to your chest and more to your triceps. It will also impact the amount of weight you can lift.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together and brace your core to stabilize your body. Lower the bar gradually and press up powerfully. Remember not to arch your back. I like this movement as it has the potential for maximum strength gains and heavier lift loads because the shoulders and chest assist this movement.
Suggested Read: Best Weight Bench Under $200
2. JM Press
This exercise crosses a barbell skull crusher and a close-grip bench press. Both are a hallmark of mass and strength-gaining workouts for the triceps.
To perform the JM press, lie down on the bench press station. Ensure you’re scooted forward enough so the bar will be behind your head (not over your face) when it’s racked.
Next, grasp the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. For the majority of people, it means 15-16 inches apart. Unrack the bar and fully extend your arms for an overhead. Be sure that the bar is stacked over your forearms and wrist. Avoid letting your wrists roll backward in extension.
Maintain a straight bar path and lower the bar just above your forehead. Keep your elbows in the same position as you press back up. Use lighter but challenging weights for inducement and perform three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps.
For strength, complete three to four sets of six to 10 repetitions using a moderately heavy weight. Lastly, complete two to three sets of weight to 12 repetitions for muscle growth.
3. Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
The close-grip barbell bench press is performed by lying on a flat bench and lifting the barbell. This compound exercise uses a closer grip – one that emphasizes the triceps – than the traditional bench press.
For your starting position, use a barbell with a weight you can control for 8-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets. Lie face up on the bench with your upper back in contact with the flat bench. Your chin must remain tucked throughout the movement. Engage your core and glutes while maintaining a neutral spine.
Grab the barbell maintaining a shoulder-width grip, and rotate your shoulders outwards. This movement engages your lats. This workout is mainly a triceps exercise that also trains your upper chest and shoulders.
4. Close Grip Push-ups
This alternative exercise is a variation of the traditional push-up. It involves putting your hands closer than shoulder-width apart for greater pectoralis major and triceps brachii activation. One of the advantages of this alternative dip exercise is that it may be performed anywhere without worrying about equipment restrictions.
To begin, get into all-fours. Assume a high plank position – your hands a few inches apart with your knees flexed. You should protract your shoulder blades as you get into position. Keep your elbows extended while the lower extremities straighten as you lift your body off the ground.
5. Cable Rope Pushdown
Cable rope pushdown, also called tricep rope pushdown, is a variation you may use before progressing to a dip. This workout involves using a cable machine with a rope handle as an attachment. It isolates your triceps muscles.
To prepare for the exercise, adjust the weight setting of the cable machine. Next, position yourself in front of the gym equipment. Grasp the rope handle (situated at about chest level) in both hands.
Push the rope handle downwards until your elbows are fully extended without locking and overextending the elbows. Hold the position briefly before gradually returning to the initial position. Your elbows should remain close to the body with your torso upright throughout the movement.
6. Floor Press
The floor press is a bench press variation that improves the strength in the deltoids, shoulders, chest, and triceps. While it doesn’t involve much of the lower body muscles, it remains a multi-jointed workout that recruits different muscles.
In this workout, the lifter lies with its back flat against the floor. He can also use a power rack to hold the barbell.
7. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
Decline bench press emphasizes your lower pecs while working shoulder and triceps muscles. Set the bench at 15 to 30 degrees from horizontal for this flat bench press variation.
Suggested Read: Are Dumbbells Enough to Build Muscle?
8. Unilateral Landmine Press
This exercise combines gripping, unilateral, and pressing the fat end of the barbell to increase scapular control and stability. Because the elbow is close to the body and has a neutral grip, you’ll train the triceps, shoulders, and chest in this workout.
9. Diamond Push-up
Like the close-grip bench presses, diamond push-ups increase your pressing power. This dip exercise doesn’t need a lot of gym equipment, making it an excellent option for budget-conscious fitness enthusiasts.
Begin the movement in the down position with your hands flat on the floor and your body aligned. Turn your palms towards each other, where the thumbs and index fingers form a diamond. Make sure you’re in a comfortable position. From there, push up from the ground till you fully extend your elbows.
This workout engages the pectoral muscles, making it an ideal chest exercise.
Suggested Read: How to Make Pushups Harder
10. Dumbbell Flys
Dumbbell flys are one of the best alternatives to dips because your chest muscles are under tension during the movement. Your shoulder joint is likewise opening on either side. It helps train your upper arms and the same muscle groups as the iso-lateral chest press and close-grip bench press.
11. Tricep Dips
Tricep dips are a great bodyweight workout that improves upper body strength. It’s a simple workout that you can do almost anywhere. The difference between this exercise with chest dips is the execution and positioning.
People Also Ask: FAQs About Dip Exercises
What exercise can replace a dip?
There are highly effective dip alternatives, including bench press, JM press, barbell bench press, close grip push-ups, cable rope pushdown, and so much more. A good dip alternative can improve pressing strength while increasing the size of the triceps and chest muscles.
How do you dip without a gym?
If you don’t have a dip bar, you can opt for home bench dips, portable parallel bars, rail extensions, chairs, suspension trainers, or floor dips.
There you go. If you want to target your triceps and chest, but dips are not for you, then these exercises will make great alternatives to dips and an addition to your workout routine. Some require equipment, others just your body weight, but all target the relevant muscle groups.
Safety and Precautions: Weight training, such as dips, requires attention to form, function, and body position. Discontinue the exercise if you experience shoulder or wrist discomfort that doesn’t feel right.
Need more bodyweight workouts? Visit ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.