DIP VARIATIONS: How to Target Different Muscles

May 31, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

How to properly target different pressing muscles with several dip variations. The better you master the correct form, the better results you will get!

Dip is a very versatile exercise to target the chest, triceps and shoulders. By doing little modifications to the basic dip, you can emphasize different muscles.

Although the exercise seems fairly simple, it's very rare to see it done correctly. People use plenty of momentum and often skip parts of the range of motion (whether intentionally or unintentionally).

When the dip exercise is done correctly, it's an amazing exercise to develop your triceps or chest muscles - depending on which part you want to emphasize.

Small changes in the arm width, arm angle or body angle can make a massive difference. Mind-muscle connection will fundamentally matter the most and it should be practiced every time you do dips.

There exists many dip variations but here we will primarily focus on the basics. Mastering the basics will produce better results than doing countless of different variations with a poor form.

The ultimate dip (slow tempo, control and good core & scapula stability) is an advanced exercise but everyone can start working towards it and little by little improve their form.

No one is ever too good to perform the basic dip like no pro bodybuilder is ever too big to perform the bicep curl. Dip is a foundational exercise that should never be forgotten. 

Instead of adding weight or focusing on adding repetitions, polishing the form and focusing on mind-muscle connection will help you progress much further and help you develop a physique that is strong and mobile.

If you experience pain in your elbows or shoulders, you may have weak links in your structure or you simply aren't yet ready to perform the dip. Focusing on different kinds of push ups and mobility training can help to address this issue.

In case of the elbow pain, it's typically because the medial head of triceps is too weak. In order to train the medial head, you really need to have a clean form where you squeeze the elbow. Isolating the triceps will help to strengthen the triceps.

Shoulder pain instead is often caused by lack of stability in the scapula or lack of mobility in the shoulder muscles (especially the anterior deltoid).

Also see: 4 Pull Up Variations You Need for Fully Developed Arms

Regular Dip

normal dip exercise

Regular width dip is excellent for targeting the triceps and inner & outer chest muscles.

You can do dips both on parallel bars and on a single bar. Parallel bars will make it easier to target the triceps because you can tuck your elbows thanks to the neutral grip.

Using a single bar makes it easier to flare the elbows which will help you better emphasize the chest. Inner chest is worked the most when you squeeze the chest muscles in the upper portion of the repetition.

In order to really target the chest, you can lean forward by raising your hips (use your hips and core). To emphasize the triceps, you should keep a relatively upright posture and focus on squeezing the elbows (this is important!).

Keep your scapula (shoulder girdle) stable and focus on slow and controlled movement. 

Wide Dip

wide single bar dips

Wide grip is the best grip you can use to really blast the chest.

Whether you stay upright or lean forward, your chest muscles will be worked the most. 

In comparison to the regular width dips, the wide grip dips will target more the lower and outer chest muscles. This is because the wide grip limits your range of motion at the top of the repetition and you cannot squeeze the chest.

Similar to the regular dips, keep your scapula stable and focus on solely contracting the chest muscles for best results. The quality of your repetitions will ultimately determine your success.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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