The Best alternatives to dips 2022

Dips are a compound exercise that uses your body weight for resistance.

Does your home gym include a power rack?

Most likely there’s a dip attachment available to buy. You can also buy freestanding dips bars.

For example, a power tower combines dip bars and a pullup bar.

What if you don’t have access to any of these pieces of equipment? Or, what if you find dips are too hard of an exercise to do?

This article will look at the best alternatives to dips. Don’t work out again until you’ve checked it out!

What Muscles Do Dips Work?

Dips work the chest and triceps. They also work the anterior, or side, deltoid. Secondary muscles include the upper back and lats. 

Do You Want To Target Chest Or Triceps?

When you perform a dip, you are lowering your entire body down as low as possible. It takes a lot of strength to push yourself back up. It’s important to note that you can shift the muscle focus of dips. All it takes is a simple position change. If you angle your torso forward, you will target the chest. Keep your torso straight and you target the triceps. 

Either way, dips are considered an important compound pushing exercise. What’s a compound exercise? An exercise that works multiple muscle groups. You will always get more bang for your buck by doing compound movements. Dips are usually done as part of a chest workout. They are also a common triceps exercise.

Alternatives To Dips

Not everyone can perform dips. Like pull-ups, some people don’t have enough strength. You can build strength over time by doing these alternative exercises. Let’s look at chest alternatives first,then triceps alternatives. 

Primary Target Muscle: Chest

The chest is one of the major muscles of the body. On push day, you’re going to begin your workout with chest exercises. Plus, you should begin with compound movements. With that in mind, let’s look at what exercises you should focus on if you can’t do dips.

Bench Press

The regular flat bench press is a great way to go if you can’t do dips. This is, after all, the bread and butter chest movement. Like dips, it’s a compound exercise that hits the chest, deltoids, and triceps. The lats are also involved. Since you drive with your legs, they are a supporting exercise. 

How To Do This Exercise:

For this exercise, it’s a smart idea to use a power rack, stands, or a Smith machine for safety. Do you have a weight stack home gym? That works well also.

  • Lay on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Looking up, your eyes should be in line with the bar. Your shoulders should be a little in front of the bar.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be about 12” apart.
  • Drive your shoulders into the bench. Stick your chest out.
  • Unrack the bar and bring it forward so it’s in line with your middle chest.
  • Control the bar by slowly lowering it down to your middle chest.
  • At the bottom, drive the bar back up to the start position.

What about rep speed or tempo? You should take 4-6 seconds to lower the bar. At the bottom, pause for a 1-2 count. Then take 2-3 seconds to drive the bar up explosively. Do not over-arch your back. Do not rush your reps. Momentum should never be part of your exercise performance.

Dumbbell Bench Press

The advantage of this exercise is you can angle the bells in different ways.  A good grip to use is a neutral, palms-facing grip. This is the same grip you would use on dips. Keep the bells close to the body. You will be working in a movement pattern that’s similar to dips. 

How To Do This Exercise:

  • Grab the dumbbells and rest them on your thighs.
  • Kick up the dumbbells and lie back into the start position.
  • Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing each other.
  • Or, you can hold the dumbbells as if they were a barbell.  
  • Line up the dumbbells with your middle chest.
  • Push the dumbbells up as if doing a bench press. Lower and repeat.

Perform your reps the same way as described for the bench press.

Push Up

A push up is a bodyweight bench press. Like dips and regular bench presses, it’s a compound exercise. All of these exercises work the chest, deltoids, and triceps. 

How To Perform This Exercise:

  • Lay face down on the floor and place your flat on the floor. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart, and your arms straight out. The shoulders, elbows, and hands should line up.
  • Keep your legs straight out behind you and your toes on the floor. If you are new to exercising, you can bend your knees so they touch the floor. This makes the exercise easier.
  • Bending at your elbows, lower your body. Go as low as you can. 
  • Push up and return to the start position.
  • For the chest, you should keep your hands at least shoulder-width apart. You can go as wide as is comfortable. You will feel the exercise in the outer chest if you go wider. 

You should perform these as described for the bench press. This exercise is usually performed with no equipment. You can buy push up bars if desired. You can also make the exercise harder by putting your feet up at an incline. 

Standing Band Chest Press

Depending on how much space you have, you may only be able to use resistance bands. Also, your goals may dictate bands instead of an Olympic bar. Resistance bands are ideal for general fitness. Also, higher resistance bands are a good addition to a weightlifting program. The advantage of using these is you can use them everywhere. They are compact and portable. If you have a bench, you can do these like a regular bench press.

How To Do This Exercise:

  1. Wrap a resistance band with two D-handles or bar to a secure post or pole. If your home gym has a power rack, use one of the front frame posts. The band should be chest level. 
  2. Hold the band in your hands at chest height and face away from the post. 
  3. Stick your chest out and pull your shoulders back. Stand up straight. Line up your arms. Push out your arms to full extension. 
  4. Return back to the start position.  

Rep performance should be the same as the bench press. Do you have a resistance band set? You can add weight as desired by using thicker bands. To note, some band kits include a bar and other handle attachments. 

Alternatives To Dips – Primary Target: Triceps

Close Grip Bench Press

What’s one of the great things about bench presses? You can change the exercise by changing the width of your grip. Move your hands close together and you’re targeting the triceps (and inner chest). Like dips, this is a major mass-building exercise.

How To Do This Exercise:

  • Lay on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the floor. You should be looking up and be in line with the bar. Your shoulders should be a little in front of the bar.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be 2-3” apart.
  • Drive your shoulders into the bench. Stick your chest out.
  • Unrack the bar and bring it forward so it’s in line with your middle chest.
  • Control the bar by slowly lowering it down to your middle chest.
  • At the bottom, drive the bar back up to the start position.

Rep performance is the same as the regular bench press. Keep your elbows tight to your body. Your triceps should do all the work. Still, this is also a good inner chest exercise. 

Close Grip Push Ups

Push ups, as noted, are a good compound bodyweight exercise. If you bring your hands closer together, you work your triceps more. In this case, there are two ways you can do this exercise. The first is to bring your hands about 2-3” inches apart. They should be facing straight out. The next way you can do this is to use a diamond hand stance. In this case, you form a diamond with your thumbs and index fingers. 

How To Do This Exercise:

  • Lay face down on the floor and place your hands flat on the floor. As noted, your hands should be 2-3” width apart, and your arms straight out. The shoulders, elbows, and hands should be in line. 
  • Keep your legs straight out behind you and your toes on the floor. If you are new to exercising, you can bend your knees so they touch the floor. This makes the exercise easier.
  • Bending at your elbows, lower your body. Go as low as you can. 
  • Push up and return to the start position.
  • You can adjust your hand width as needed. Or, you can use the diamond hand placement. Do not place your hands any wider than your shoulders. 

Rep performance will be as indicated above. You can perform these with no equipment. Or, as noted, you can purchase push up bars. Also, you can do these with your feet at an incline.

Bench Dips

Here’s a great dip alternative that only requires a standard exercise bench. Don’t have a bench? You can use any object that’s 12-14” high with a flat surface. Some people may not have the strength to perform regular dips. By doing bench dips, you’re still targeting the triceps. Yet, you’re taking much of the weight of the body out of it. 

How To Do This Exercise:

  1. Sit down on a flat bench with hands next to your thighs. If you don’t have a bench, you can use any secure elevated flat surface. 
  2. Extend your legs out straight. Lift your bottom off and out from the bench. You are holding yourself there with your arms.
  3. Bring your hands closer together. Bend at the elbow and lower yourself down as far as possible.
  4. Push up to the starting position.

The hand width for this is the same as any other close grip exercise. Your rep performance is the same as our other alternative exercises. 

EZ-Bar Skullcrushers

This is considered a mass-building exercise. When using alternatives to dips, you have to stick with mass builders. That’s how you get the same effect from these alternative exercises. Trying to replace a compound exercise like dips with an isolation exercise won’t work. 

How To Do This Exercise:

  1. Grab an EZ bar with a narrow overhand grip. Your hands should be about 2” apart. 
  2. Lie back on your flat bench. Your head should be at the edge of the bench.
  3. Press the bar up directly over your face.
  4. Push your shoulders into the bench and stick your chest out. The EZ bar should be in line with the edge or end of the bench.  
  5. Lower the EZ bar behind your head and the bench. 
  6. Lower the bar as far as possible. If you’ve never done this exercise, use a light weight. You will feel a good stretch in the triceps. 
  7. Press the EZ bar back to the start position. 

Rep performance is the same as you’ve been using. You should keep your elbows close to your sides. If you experience any elbow discomfort, you can angle them out a little. 

Rep Performance

Let’s look at the rep performance suggestion for these exercises. The suggested rep tempo is ideal for muscle growth. That’s because you’re emphasizing the negative (or, eccentric) phase of the rep. It’s also because you’re performing the rep slowly and under control. At the bottom, you’re pausing for a 2-count. This is not a rest break. Squeeze the muscle you’re working. In the positive (concentric) phase, you’re exploding (under control) the bar, band, or your hands, up. 

Feel The Muscles You’re Working

Have you heard about feeling the muscle when you exercise? This is also called the mind-muscle connection. What this means is that you should connect mentally to the muscles you’re exercising. Put another way, you need to focus on the muscle you’re exercising. For example, are you doing close grip bench presses? Don’t feel it in the triceps? You’re doing something wrong. 

This can be a common problem. You have to focus on the target muscle. You also have to focus on form. Try and start the exercise by flexing the muscle. Begin the push with the target muscle. Another tip is to perform the exercise with no equipment. This helps you get the feel of the exercise. In the case of close-grip bench presses, just use the bar. Get the feel of the movement and what the triceps is supposed to be doing. As you do this, you will begin to feel it in the right muscles. 

Strong Muscular Men Standing At The Gym

Incorporating Dip Alternatives Into Your Routine 

For Chest:

First, let’s look at the muscles of the chest:

Mainly, the chest consists of the pectoralis major and minor. When you train the chest, you think in terms of overall chest development. The bench press is the best exercise. It’s a dip alternative that works the bulk of the chest. Target the outer chest with a wider grip. Target the inner chest (and triceps) with close grip bench presses. (1)

There are many different routines you can use. You can train using a 4-day split, 3-day split, or full body. Maybe you train your chest by itself. Dips are a compound exercise that works your pushing muscles. The alternatives presented here do the same. Therefore, the routine that fits best with alternatives to dips is a 3-day, push/pull/legs split. This split puts the pushing muscles on their own day.

As noted, begin your chest day with a pressing movement, such as the bench press. To emphasize safety, use equipment that can catch the bar if you fail. Don’t have any of these? Then you can do dumbbell bench presses instead. If your home gym is really limited, you can do standing band presses.

From here, you should include an incline pressing movement, and finally, a fly movement.

For Triceps:

The same principles apply to your triceps workout. Some guys train arms together. Using the same 3-day split concept, you will train triceps last on your “push” day. 

First, let’s take a look at the triceps:

1. The long, or inner, head is the largest. It goes down the back of your arm. 

2. The medial head lies deep in the middle of the triceps. 

3. The lateral, or outer, head is on the outside of your arm. This is the muscle that gives the much-sought-after horseshoe shape. (2)

Tricep Exercises

Dips work all three heads. Therefore, we want to choose alternatives to dips that work as many heads as possible. (2)

  • Work the long head with the close grip bench press – you can use more weight. Option # 2 would be skull crushers.
  • Work the medial head also with close grip bench presses or skull crushers.
  • Work the lateral head with triceps pushdowns. What equipment can you use for this exercise? Does your home gym have a lat pulldown machine? Or a lat attachment? What if you do not have any type of overhead pulley? You can take a resistance band and loop it over the top of a door. You can use D-handles, but a short straight bar is best. 

Summary

No doubt dips are a great exercise. Yet, you’ll need dip bars to do the exercise. This means a free-standing dip stand. If you own a power rack, a dip attachment is available at extra cost. What if you don’t have any of this equipment? That’s where alternatives to dips come in. You don’t have to have specific exercise equipment. In fact, you don’t have to use any equipment at all. Our guide gives you the best alternatives to dips. Choose the right exercise for your goals and start training!

References:

  1. Chest Muscles Anatomy • Bodybuilding Wizard (bodybuilding-wizard.com)
  2. TRICEPS: Train All Three Heads | Ripped Science (ripped-science.com)

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