Weighted Dips: Muscles Used, Tips, and Benefits
How much weight can you add to your dip? It’s probably not something you’ve thought about testing your max on, but it’s something I’ve done in the past…with 315 lbs!
I don’t recommend using dips as a way to test your 1RM, but they are a good way to test the strength endurance of your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Dips are one of my favorite accessories for developing size, strength, and stability in the upper body.
In this article, I’ll share the exact muscles used for weighted dips, how to execute the movement safely, and the benefits they provide.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Weighted dips work various muscle groups in the upper body such as the arms, shoulders, and the chest. Aside from the upper body, the core is also incorporated into the movement to help keep the body stable. When it comes to the primary muscles involved in this exercise, let’s take a closer look at what is targeted when you do weighted dips.
The chest consists of two primary muscles: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.
The pectoralis major is the larger and more prominent of the two chest muscles. It's responsible for various movements of the arm, including adduction (bringing the arm toward the body), flexion (raising the arm), and internal rotation.
The pectoralis major has two main heads: the clavicular head (upper chest) and the sternal head (lower chest). Weighted dips, when executed with a forward lean and the elbows flared out, emphasize the sternal head, promoting its development and adding depth and thickness to the lower part of the chest.
Situated underneath the pectoralis major, the pectoralis minor assists in the downward movement of the scapula or shoulder blade. While it's not the primary target of dips, the pectoralis minor is indirectly engaged, especially when stabilizing the shoulder joint during the movement.
The angle of your body during the dip plays a crucial role in targeting the chest. Leaning forward shifts more of the load onto the pectoral muscles, as opposed to maintaining a more upright position, which emphasizes the triceps.
In addition to the triceps, weighted dips also incorporate the biceps and other flexors in the arm
Arguably the most targeted arm muscle during dips, the triceps are responsible for elbow extension. Comprising three heads – the long, medial, and lateral heads – the triceps are heavily recruited when pushing yourself back up from the lowest point of the dip. The added weight from weighted dips amplifies the load, compelling the triceps to work even harder, leading to enhanced strength and muscular hypertrophy.
Though dips are primarily a tricep exercise, the biceps play a stabilizing role. As the antagonistic muscle to the triceps, the biceps help control the rate of descent during the lowering phase of the dip, preventing a rapid or uncontrolled drop.
Situated beneath the biceps brachii, the brachialis also acts as an elbow flexor. During weighted dips, it assists in controlling the downward movement and contributes to the upward push.
Located in the forearm, this muscle also contributes to elbow flexion. While it's not a primary mover in the dip motion, the brachioradialis offers additional stabilization and control, particularly during the descent phase.
The shoulder plays a pivotal role during weighted dips, providing stability, movement control, and force production. The primary shoulder muscles involved in weighted dips are:
The front part of the deltoid muscle, the anterior deltoid, is significantly activated during the weighted dip. As you lower yourself in the dip movement, the anterior deltoid works concentrically to help control the descent. When pushing up, this muscle contracts to help lift the body and the additional weight, playing an integral role in shoulder flexion.
The back section of the deltoid muscle, or the posterior deltoid, provides stabilization during the dip movement. While it's not the primary mover, the posterior deltoid counterbalances the forces applied by the anterior deltoid, ensuring smooth and coordinated shoulder action.
Rotator Cuff Muscles
These are a group of four smaller muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) that surround the shoulder joint. Their primary role is to stabilize the head of the humerus within the shoulder socket. These muscles work diligently throughout the dip motion, ensuring the shoulder joint remains secure and properly aligned.
How to Do Weighted Dips
Begin by securing a weight belt around your waist. Attach the desired weight plates or kettlebells to the chain of the belt, ensuring it's properly fastened. Note that you can also use Powerlastic bands, or chains if you do not have a dip belt.
Approach a dip bar or parallel bars, placing one hand on each bar.
To get into the starting position, jump or step up to achieve a locked-out arm position. Your arms should be straight, shoulders down and slightly back, with the body elevated off the ground. Keep your legs straight or slightly bent, with your feet crossed behind you for balance.
Before descending, engage your core muscles. This engagement will aid in stabilization and protect your spine and pelvis throughout the movement.
Lean slightly forward and bend your elbows to lower your body. Your elbows should track outwards but remain close to your body. Continue to descend until your shoulders are at the same level, slightly below your elbows, or as far as your mobility allows.
From the bottom position, explosively push through the palms of your hands, extending your elbows and raising your body back to the starting position.
Depending on your strength and the weight added, perform the desired number of repetitions maintaining the form described. For body weight dips, I would recommend shooting for 10-12 reps, while doing anywhere from 6-10 for weighted reps.
Safety Note: Always ensure that the added weight is secure and will not shift or fall during the exercise. Also, if experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, reconsider the depth of your dip or reduce the weight.
Benefits of Weighted Dips
Doing weighted dips can lead to various adaptations and provide benefits to recreational lifters and also performance benefits to athletes. Here are some of the key benefits from doing weighted dips:
Increase Upper Body Muscle Mass
Compound movements are great for building muscle mass, and dips are no exception. Even though they are a compound movement, we like to use dips as accessory lifts for hypertrophy toward the end of a workout.
For most lifters and athletes, bench press, overhead press, and jerks will be the core lifts of an upper body day, so dips can be pushed later into a workout when you want to ramp the volume. Doing bodyweight dips for sets of 10-20, even a burner set of 30, is excellent for getting a swole pump at the end of your workout.
Weighted dips are going to be a great finisher that recruit a lot of high threshold motor units as well as neural drive to stay stable. When doing weighted dips, 6-10 reps is a good range where you can still build muscle mass and increase weight simultaneously.
Staying stable in the dip position is a test of the shoulders and upper body strength but is also a test of core stability. When you throw on a dip belt or a chain, your body must work harder to stay stable.
Especially if you’re using a dip belt, the weight may sway slightly. Weighted dips will help build core strength by forcing you to control the eccentric portion of the movement.
Translates to Other Exercises
Weighted dips work on the same primary muscle groups as the bench press, the pectorals, and the triceps. Increasing strength and stability in these muscles provide a solid foundation that can lead to improved bench press performance. The ability to handle heavier weights in the dip will correlate with a stronger bench pressing capacity.
The triceps play a key role in the final lockout phase of the overhead press. Strengthening them with weighted dips can remove triceps weakness as a limiting factor in pressing weights overhead. Moreover, the anterior deltoids activated during dips also play a role in the overhead press, providing added strength and stability.
In weightlifting, the jerk involves a rapid push to get the bar overhead, heavily relying on the triceps for the final lockout. The power and tricep strength developed from weighted dips can significantly aid this motion, making the lift smoother and more efficient.
For athletes, the explosive power, and upper body strength derived from these exercises is invaluable. Whether you're a rugby player pushing an opponent, a running back throwing a stiff arm, or a thrower tossing a shot, the strength translates over to performance.
Dips should be in your workout routine, regardless of whether they are modified, assisted, just body weight, or weighted. The muscle groups that work together in dips will benefit you as someone looking to grow their arms or improve their upper body for their sport.
Ensure you take the proper steps and progressions to work up to weighted dips. Once you add weight, your triceps will blow up, and you’ll be looking SWOLE in no time. If you want to find progressions and other exercises that develop your upper body, try the Peak Strength app and get 7 free workouts based on your exact goals.
Tag me on instagram @ghostfacedmillah the next time you incorporate a dip exercise into your workout. PEACE!
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Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
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