You probably won't see many women performing dips in your average commercial gym, as they're a very difficult exercise to master. But the effort involved in perfecting them is worth the payoff from the results. Women shouldn't avoid chest training, as it helps to prevent injury, balance out upper-body strength and create a well-rounded physique. Start incorporating dips into your chest workout today.
Dips are performed using a set of parallel bars. Place one hand on either bar and lift yourself up so your arms are straight and feet are off the floor. Descend by bending your elbows until your biceps are parallel to the floor, then forcefully push back up to the starting position. To place more emphasis on your chest muscles, as opposed to your triceps, lean your torso forward slightly. Most dip bars are angled and have the choice of a wide or a narrow grip -- use the wide grip to target your chest more.
Dips focus on your chest, as well as working your shoulders and triceps, yet many women struggle to perform them, at least at a first attempt, according to strength coach Charles Poliquin. Many women turn to bench dips instead, which are performed with your heels on one bench or the floor, and hands placed behind you on another bench. Unfortunately though, while these work the triceps in the same way as parallel bar dips do, they place little strain on your chest muscles.
Instead of foregoing dips completely, aim to progress to body-weight dips by starting with slightly easier alternatives. Many gyms have dip assistance machines, which add a counter-balanced weight to assist you. If you don't have access to one of these, then placing your knees on a resistance band looped over the bars works in the same way. You can also include other ancillary exercises such as pushups or dumbbell bench presses to strengthen the chest muscles and improve your dipping performance.
Train your chest once a week using dips as your main exercise, or perform dips as part of a thrice-weekly full-body workout. Start with five sets of five machine or band-assisted dips and gradually decrease the assistance and increase your repetitions until you can perform body-weight dips. Once you can complete three sets of eight body-weight dips, make them harder by slowing down the repetition tempo, adding weight using a dipping belt or hold a dumbbell between your ankles. Always consult a doctor before starting a new training plan, and ask a trainer for help if you're not sure of the correct dipping technique.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.