The parallel bar dips are a very versatile and complete multi-joint exercise, widely used in Calisthenics and bodybuilding.
Their correct execution requires strength, good mobility in shoulder extension, and coordination skills.
The exercise trains the downward thrust movement and is a combination of elbow extension and humerus flexion/adduction.
The muscles involved most are: triceps, pectoral major, and deltoid as agonists, while great dorsal, trapezius, rhomboids, and abdominals as stabilizers.
How Are Parallel Bar Dips Performed?
A safe and performing execution of the parallel dips is performed starting with the arms in the joint block and placed slightly wider than the shoulders, the shoulder blades adducted and depressed with the abdomen active.
The descent takes place in a controlled way, flexing the torso slightly and in a natural way, descending to bring the shoulders to the elbow, or lower if the joint mobility and the load allow you to do it safely, without compensation.
Then push down, always maintaining control of the scapular and core, performing an elbow extension and a flexion/adduction of the humerus until you go back up completely.
The position of the elbows during the movement can be tightened if you want to focus attention on the triceps, slightly wide if you are looking for maximum performance and greater recruitment of the grand pectoral.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
Very common mistakes that can compromise the effectiveness of the exercise or the safety with which it is performed are the following.
- Loss of Scapular Structure
This occurs especially in those who approach exercise for the first time and during the descent phase, when one tends to lose the scapular structure and find oneself with the shoulders elevated and in interposition, almost close to the ears and the recessed head.
In addition to being incorrect, this position can cause subacromial impact problems and increase the risk of relapse in people with a past history of shoulder dislocations.
- Lack of Control of the Core and Legs
It occurs above all under fatigue when in the ascent phase the movement is compensated with the help of abdominals and legs with the result of removing muscle tension precisely when it is most useful for the purpose of the training stimulus.
- Excessive Bending of the Torso During the Descent
A mistake that is highlighted above all when using loads that are not yet mastered.
It leads to an accentuated flexion of the torso until the shoulders are parallel, but with the hip remaining at the height of the supports.
The result is a different movement from the one we want to train, with a different motor pattern and different muscles involved.
Muscles Involved In Parallel Bar Dips
The pectoralis major is the main muscle mainly involved with its sternum-costal bundles, contributing in an important way to the flexion/adduction movement of the humerus.
The triceps is recruited into the elbow extension movement with all its ends.
It mainly intervenes with its anterior portion in carrying out the flexion movement of the humerus.
It participates as a flexor of the humerus when we are in the moment of maximum shoulder extension and as an adductor of the humerus when we perform the variant with a wide grip.
In the rest of the movement, it acts as a stabilizer.
Muscles Of The Core
They act as stabilizers of the entire movement, their constant control is important to avoid compensations and keep the focus on the target muscles.
Benefits Of Parallel Dips
The benefits of parallel bar dips are:
- Improved intermuscular coordination,
- Reinforcement of the active containment structures of the shoulder,
- Brings maximum results in strength training even if according to the level of the athlete, the variants used and any weights can give appreciable results also in terms of hypertrophy or resistance to fatigue.
Parallel dips have earned the nickname “upper body squats” as they bring in a large number of muscle groups as both agonists and movement stabilizers.
Variants Of Dip At Parallels
The dips with narrow elbows are a variant in which during the movement you try to keep the elbows as tight as possible in order to seek a movement of pure shoulder flexion, thus favoring the action of the clavicular bundles of the pectoralis major.
This variant requires excellent mobility in shoulder extension to be performed throughout the movement.
In dips with wide elbows (and vertical torso) the elbows tend to widen during the descent, seeking a mixed movement of adduction and shoulder flexion, thus favoring the action of the sternocostal bundles of the pectoralis major.
This variant can be a risk factor in the case of compensations such as the interposition of the humerus to reach the last degrees of ROM.
Dips on the Rings
The dips on the rings have as a difficulty the instability of the support which involves, especially the first few times a notable decrease in the number of possible repetitions.
This is because on fixed support in any direction the sum of the various thrusts still brings us upwards, while in the rings we must learn to push exactly downwards, without creating unwanted movements and in other directions.
Although more difficult to perform, the dips on the rings bring greater stimulation to coordination and are safer for the wrist joint which is free to rotate naturally during the range of motion.
The assisted dips are performed by tying resistance bands to the parallels so that you can rest your knees on them.
In this way, the bands provide aid in the ascent phase allowing you to work on the movement, even when you do not have the strength to perform a repetition without help.
They are excellent preparation for learning the gesture and the use of resistance bands with different resistances is recommended to vary the intensity of the load of the exercise.
The assistance of the bands would be applicable to all the versions described above but considering that the aim is to learn the gesture and train strength to be able to perform valid repetitions without help it is advisable to use this technique only on the basic exercise.
Bar dips are performed on the horizontal bar and need greater activation and control of the legs and core to maintain balance. They are good preparation for the muscle-up.
Bench dips are performed starting with the hands resting on support placed behind the back and the feet resting on the ground or on a raised support.
It is preferred to perform them with tight elbows to place greater emphasis on the triceps.
In this variant, the load is easily scalable by varying the height of the support for the hands and heels.
They are a facilitated version of the classic Dip and if done correctly they are a good preparatory one together with pushups.
However, care must be taken not to force the descent too much since a hyperextension of the humerus can lead to compensations such as shoulder interposition and an increased risk of subacromial impact.
Dip To Parallels For Hypertrophy And Bodybuilding
The parallel dips are an extremely versatile multi-joint exercise and must be inserted with awareness within programming to bring out the maximum training stimulus while remaining within the acceptable limits for joint stress.
They are great when chosen as a core exercise and trained with buildup or intensification progressions.
They defend well even when chosen as complementary to a bench press session, especially as an alternative to a declined or narrow bench press.
As an isolation exercise, it is less effective than other specific exercises because even in the narrow or bench press variant we have a strong activation of the pectoral major.
The Dips also lend themselves well within cardio or metabolic circuits being able to recruit a large number of muscle groups with an important load, therefore bringing a good energy expenditure and a good pulse to the heart rate.
In bodybuilding, especially when you are looking for a mechanical and metabolic stimulus, it may be advisable to stop the ascent just before reaching the joint block.
With the dual objective of reducing the stress on the elbow ligaments and always maintaining the muscles involved in tension, immediately starting the descent again.
How To Train The Parallel Bar Dips?
How many reps and how many sets to do?
According to the desired goal you can use accumulation schemes, intensification schemes, or schemes with failure on the last series such as the classic 3 × 8 or 3 × 10.
A valid alternative for high-volume training is the “Death Lap” or the maximal incremental method upon exhaustion; however, both require you to already have a maximum of about 20 Dip to be performed effectively.
With Resistance Bands
The dips with resistance bands are a great way to become familiar with the movement the bands provide a solid help in the point of greatest muscular effort up to almost no help in closing the movement.
More than in the development of strength to get to perform an unassisted Dip they should therefore be used to learn the motor gesture well, assigning to exercises such as the flat bench or pushups the task of developing strength and muscle and then facing the Dips.
They are certainly the most suitable variant for the development of strength and hypertrophy once a good number of classic dips have been reached as a maximum (approximately 15-20).
Using programs with yielding on the pattern you can range from 8 × 2 to 3 × 10 depending on what stimulus you want to provide to the muscle.
It should be borne in mind that especially when the overloads increase significantly, it is advisable to carry out a specific warm-up before approaching the scheme and to use more variations during the mesocycles in order not to excessively stress the joints involved.
Conclusion on Parallel Bar Dips
For beginners and for those who do not have a repetition yet, the synergy between Dip assisted in learning the gesture and pushups or flat bench to improve strength and increase mass is an excellent strategy to effectively reach the goal.
In the intermediate the fulcrum should be to increase the number of repetitions in order to then be able to approach in a safe and performing way, therefore the high volume schemes such as the loop of the dead or the maximal incremental to exhaustion are definitely effective.
They are also useful in the muscle-building phases as a compliment.
For the advanced, however, it is recommended to use this exercise as a fundamental and insert it in the accumulation and intensification programs by making extensive use of this exercise.
Always make sure that the loads are gradual and manageable and do not involve a deterioration of the execution technique or the use of compensations during the most important moments of hard training.
With careful management of loads, even in advanced, they can be useful as complementary in the muscle-building phases.