The 5 Best Alternatives to Dips

Alternatives to Dips

The Dip is an exercise that is done to build two key muscle groups:

  • The Pectorals
  • The Triceps

Dips are an exercise that many people struggle with. It requires lifting your entire body weight, which can be challenging. When it comes to working the pecs, the dip doesn’t allow you to bring your hands together to achieve full contraction. As a result, it does not allow for a full range of motion. Having access to a dip bar or dip station is another challenge for many. In this article, I present 5 great alternatives to dips that overcome these challenges. 

3 Chest Alternatives to Dips

1. Decline Dumbbell Press

How to do a decline dumbbell press:

  1. Position yourself on a 30-degree angle decline bench with a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Lie on the bench with your arms at full extension above your chest, dumbbells touching each other, palms facing forward.
  2. Bring the dumbbells down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and in line with your shoulders.
  3. Push back up to return to the start position.

Decline dumbbell press training tips

Getting the dumbbells into position on this exercise can be quite tricky. An effective method is to place a flat bench horizontally in front of the decline bench and sit the dumbbells on it on their ends. When you sit on the bench and hook your feet under the pads, grab the dumbbells. Bring them up above your chest as you lie back on the bench.

Contract the pecs forcefully in the fully extended position. In the bottom position, your forearms should form a right angle with your upper arm (do not let it cave in).

2. Seated Cable Chest Press

How to do a seated cable chest press:

  1. Set the pulleys of a double cable pulley machine in line with your shoulders when you are seated on a bench. Adjust the width of the pulleys if possible so that they are at the distance of your elbows when you hold your arms at shoulder level with a 90-degree bend in the elbows.
  2. Place an adjustable bench about three feet in front of the machine, facing away from it. Set the bench seat angle to about 70 degrees.
  3. Grab the handles with an overhand grip and sit on the seat.
  4. From a start position with your arms at shoulder level and your elbows at a 90-degree angle press your hands forward and in together so that they touch at the level of your lower pectorals.
  5. Lower and repeat.

Seated cable chest press training tips

Keep your elbows up and square throughout the entire exercise. Your forearms should be in line with the cables as you press forward to full contraction. Perform the reps fluidly with no break between reps. Make it your aim to touch the cable handles together in front of your mid-chest on every rep.

3. Decline Push-Ups

How to do decline push ups:

  1. Lie on the floor in front of a bench and put your feet on it. With legs straight and together, place your palms on the floor just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Push up to assume the start position of a push-up.
  3. Keeping your body tight, lower to bring your chest to the floor. Stop about two inches short of the floor.
  4. Push through the chest and triceps to return to the start position. 

Decline push up training tips

The decline push-up is an excellent finishing exercise for the chest muscles. Use it after doing both the decline dumbbell press and the Incline Cable Chest Press for a total of 10-12 sets. On the decline push up do two sets to failure, where you literally keep going until your face crashes to the floor!

2 Tricep Alternativs to Dips

1. Tricep Pushdowns

How to do tricep pushdowns:

Tricep Pushdowns

  1. Set the pulleys on a cable machine to its highest setting. Stand facing the machine, two feet away from it. Hold the handles with a close overhand grip and bring the cable to your chest level.
  2. Push your arms to full extension.
  3. Reverse and repeat.

Tricep pushdown training tips

In order to keep the focus on the triceps, keep your elbows in at your sides throughout the movement. Stop just short of lockup to prolong your time under tension on this exercise. 

Nore: Despite what many trainers believe, it is not possible to isolate the three heads of the triceps. Unlike the three deltoid heads, the tricep heads have the same origin and insertion points. As a result, every triceps exercise works all three heads. 

2. Dumbbell Skull Crushers

How to do dumbbell skull crushers:

  1. Position yourself on a 30-degree angle decline bench with a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Lie on the bench with your arms at full extension above your chest, dumbbells touching each other, palms facing each other.
  2. Bring both dumbbells down to the sides of your head by bending at the elbows. Keep your upper arms stationary.
  3. Push through the triceps to return to the start position.

Dumbbell skull crusher training tips:

The 30-degree decline bench places your triceps in the ideal alignment for full muscle fiber recruitment on this exercise. Do not use a weight that is too heavy on this exercise, as it will force you to bring your elbows away from your sides. This will take the emphasis off the triceps.

Final Thoughts

In this article, you have been presented with 5 great alternatives to the dip exercise. This provides you with some excellent training options to hit the pecs and triceps if you either don’t have access to a dip machine or prefer to do other exercises to work your upper body.

The three chest exercises presented above represent a fantastic chest workout when done in succession as described. So do the two triceps moves. Perform a total of 8 sets for triceps, with reps ranging between 30 with a relatively lightweight and 6 with very heavy poundage. 

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This article was last updated on September 20, 2021 .

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Categorized as Exercise

By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.