Calisthenics and bodyweight exercise is growing in popularity, and it’s growing fast!
I’m sure you’ve all been down to the local outdoor gym and done a few pull-ups on the bars.
But what about the parallel bars, or the dip bar?
How many dip bar exercises are there and how effective are they?
First of all, let’s open this up a little bit and talk straight bars and parallel bars.
These pieces of equipment are much better for your shoulders when performing a dip exercise.
I’m not a big fan of regular dips being done on a bench with your arms up behind your back.
This is not a natural position to be putting your shoulder joint into.
By doing dips on a straight bar or the parallel bar you’re more likely to keep everything where it needs to be to stay safe throughout the movement.
Most dip bar exercises are going to pretty much focus on the upper arms.
With you’re triceps more often than not acting as the primary mover and your chest and shoulders doing some work as well.
But that’s not to say you can’t do any pulling movements like horizontal rows.
But just like pull-ups a bodyweight dip, whether that be on a straight bar or parallel bars is not an easy movement.
You may find you need to use a resistance band or an assisted dip machine when first starting out.
You can also get a great full-body workout on dip bars.
It’s easy enough to set yourself up to do knee raises or leg raises and work your core.
You can even up the bars as assistance to work on pistol squats and train your legs also.
So you really aren’t just limited to the muscle groups in your arms.
Dips are an excellent bodyweight exercise you can do almost anywhere.
But if training anywhere is what you really want to know about, and I mean anywhere then you need to get yourself a copy of my E-Book Train wherever the f*ck you want. It’s FREE right here.
What Exercises Can You Do With Dip Bars?
I have what I consider one of the best dip bars for a home gym.
I recently bought a base bar by base blocks and it’s been a game-changer for me.
It’s high enough for me to do L sit pull-ups and it’s stable enough for me to get a great dip bar workout.
Having portable dip stations at home is awesome for adding another dimension to a home workout.
Typically most of my workouts at home centered around resistance bands and kettlebells.
But now that I can get more variety in my workout I’m loving it, and it doesn’t take up much space.
Most of the exercises I do with my dip bar are upper body focused.
Chest dips and tricep dips are the first movements to go over.
And just like a close handgrip on bench press targets your triceps more.
The same applies to dips.
If you keep your hands in close together you will focus more on the triceps.
A wider grip will target your chest muscles more.
But here are other very effective exercises you can do with dip bars.
Sure it’s harder to change how wide your grip is when doing parallel bar dips, But the parallel bars give you the option to bring your legs up for movements like knee or leg raises.
I will also set my feet up on the bar so I can perform incline push-ups, these are great for building up the strength required for handstand push-ups.
It’s also very easy to do an inverted row with a dip bar.
You can either keep your feet on the ground or lift them up to an elevated surface for you to start your row.
Can You Build Muscle With Dip Bar?
Of course, you can build muscle with a dip bar.
But what people often look past is that diet is more important than the equipment you use.
If you’re not eating enough calories you won’t gain weight.
That being said, if you are getting enough food in and you have the right amount of protein in your diet.
A dip bar is a great way to build muscle.
Remember that progressive overload is another important aspect of any training routine.
You need to be moving forward and building into a routine.
Every week you should be trying to add a little more whether that be reps or sets or even load.
And it’s not too hard to add extra load to bodyweight training, I’ve been doing it for years.
The first thing you can do is get yourself a decent dip belt that you can hang weights off.
Another way is to use a resistance band, bands not only help to make the movement easier by helping you lift back out of the movement.
But if you put the band over your shoulders and under your hands, it will give you more resistance to push up into.
Are Dips Better Than Push Ups?
They really are quite different exercises but both should feature in any upper body workout.
While I’m not a big fan of bench dips, when done correctly they can be an effective exercise.
I definitely prefer doing them on bars or with a set of rings.
Ring dips are a difficult movement though and shouldn’t be attempted if you struggle with other dip variations.
They require a lot more core strength and shoulder stability but when done with good form sets of dips on the gymnastic rings are one of the best exercises for building strength, size, and improving range of motion in your chest, shoulders and triceps.
That being said I am also a huge fan of the humble push-up.
The big difference with the movements is push-ups are more chest-focused and dips are more tricep-focused.
And that’s exactly why I encourage you to have both in your routine.
Check out the video I posted below where I talk about the great core benefits of doing push-ups.
I’m constantly telling people who want a stronger core to do more push-ups and even encourage them to try doing 100 a day.
And to prove that can be done I did 1000!
Can You Do Rows On Dip Bars?
I do rows on my dip bar all the time.
They could be tricky to do on a small set of dip bars that come off the side of a squat rack or lifting rig.
But with a long set of parallel bars or just a straight bar.
You can easily set your feet up on a raised surface or do them with your feet on the ground.
It’s going to be easier with your knees bent so start there before moving onto straight legs or elevated feet.
They are also easy to do on a set of rings as well or at home with a suspension trainer like a TRX.
What Muscles Do Dips Work?
Dips are a compound exercise so they work more than one muscle group.
Compound exercises are movements that use more than one joint.
When you use more than one joint you use all the muscles around that joint as well.
The primary mover in dips are your triceps but you are also using your chest and shoulder muscles as well.
I also prefer to have all my clients do dips with straight legs and their toes pointing forward to bring their core muscles into the exercise as well.
When you set up in the start position bring your legs together and straight out in front of you with your toes pointed forward.
As you lower yourself down tuck your hips back and bring your toes up while keeping your legs straight.
This is a lot more difficult but is great for your core as well.
If you find it too hard just start with a negative dip, lower yourself down slow and controlled, and once at the bottom put your feet on the ground and stand yourself back up into the starting position again.
Doing sets this way is going to help you build up the strength to eventually push yourself back up again.
How Can I Increase My Dip Strength?
I have 3 tips for this, the first is to do what I mentioned above.
Even if you can already do a dip fine, by focusing on slowing down the negative phase of the movement you are giving your muscles more time under tension, fatiguing them further than if you were to just know out sets of normal dips.
The second thing you can try is to use a weight belt.
This is also a great way to improve your pull-up strength.
Adding more weight to yourself makes the movement heavier and harder to do.
Finally, you can drape a resistance band over your shoulder and hold either end in your hands like handles, and push back up into the resistance of the band.
Also, check out this article I wrote recently on how to get stronger without getting bigger.
Are Dip Bars Effective?
Dips are not only an effective movement, they are one of my favorite exercises to do.
Whether that be on a straight bar, parallel bars, or with a set of rings.
I will do dips 3 times throughout the week normally.
I often pair them up with pull-ups.
Doing a superset with a push exercise and pull exercise is a great way to get more bang for your buck with a workout.
Just pairing up those two movements works almost your entire upper body.
Dips are really are simple exercises and should be involved somewhere in your strength training.