Dips is quite a good bodyweight exercise. But yet, have you experienced some sort of pain in Chest/Shoulder/Elbow/Wrist? If so, there are some points to note.
#1 Range of Motion
Dips involves several points – Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist and muscles include Chest, Front Deltoid, Triceps. Your Flexibility and Mobility determine your range of motion.
- Flexibility is the degree to stretch your joint and muscle. (Passive)
- Mobility is the degree to move (with force) your joint and muscle. (Active)
For the range of motion of Dips, you MUST NOT surpass your Mobility. Otherwise, you may probably get yourself hurt.
In other words, the degree of the lowest position of your Shoulder and Elbow. If these degree are over-stretched, the muscle involved may get hurt.
And since the chest is inserted to your humerus (upper arm) via your shoulder, your chest may get hurt as well due to over-stretching of your shoulder.
To avoid the above situations, there are some ways:
1. Before/After workout, you should warm up and stretch yourself enough.
- Warm Up: Dynamic Stretch, and warm up sets like Push Ups.
- Cool Down: Stretch your Chest/Shoulder/Elbow.
2. Decrease the range of motion of dips.
Meaning the lowest position should not be too low. Look at the different range of motions. Compare:
3. Increase your Mobility
Increase your Flexibility and Mobility via Stretching for long term.
#2 Internal Rotation of Shoulder
There are two basic shoulder movements to learn:
- External Rotation
- Internal Rotation
In general for Pressing Exercises, if you are exerting force in a highly Internal Rotation state, you may easily get hurt.
There is a simple test to examine your shoulder health.
Lift your arm up and internal rotated. Press down your shoulder using another hand. If your hand feels instant pain, then it probably means your shoulder is not healthy. So according to your status, you should reduce the related training includes all Pressing Exercises and Dips is one of them.
One of the reasons attributes to the pain is that when you are doing Pressing Exercises like Dips, Bench Press, Push Up etc, the elbow is pointing too out, as a result of Internal Rotation state, which causes more pain in a long run.
To avoid this, make sure keep your elbow in and reduce the degree of Internal Rotation, which can greatly reduce the risk of injury.
#3 Wrist Position
After all, Dips takes the whole body weight. The wrist position may, if not cautioned, end up pains. We should use a Neutral Grip, the wrist is aligning with the forearm. Using the lower portion of your palm to support yourself.
Any twist or bending out would lead to tremendous amount of pressure and pain. So you must avoid all these.
Now, let’s examine the Dips execution for more details.
- Head/Neck: Stay Upright/ Chin Tuck.
- Shoulder: Depression & Retraction instead of round shoulder (protraction & elevation).
- Wrist: Neutral Grip, no bending or twist.
- Torso: Stay straight and chest out.
- For Triceps: Upright torso.
- For Chest: Torso Lean forward.
- Leg: There are several ways: Front/Neutral/ Back according to your exercise variations.
- Range of Motion: depends on your mobility. Typically around 90°. Do not force yourself.
- Tempo: According to the training purpose.
Apart from the basic Chest and Triceps version of Dips, there are many other variations, like
- Straight Bar Dips which require more core stability. Beware of the elbow position. No Internal Rotation/Elbow out.
- Other variations like: Elbow Dips, Tuck Push Ups etc.
Dips and Push Ups are quite similar in nature. There are tons of variations. As long as you stay caution, Dips is a basic but useful bodyweight exercise for your Chest/Shoulder/Triceps.
Please mind that, all the pressing exercises will involve the shoulder (Front Deltoid) which is one of the most vulnerable joints. So you should never overtrain it and make sure there is enough rest between training days for your shoulder to heal and recover. Do not cause any chronic pain in a long run.