Dips are basically the squats of the upper body and one of the basic exercises that your upper body training should build on.
First and foremost, dips are a great upper body exercise that works the triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles. Being able to press your own body weight (and additional weight if necessary) while hanging freely requires some relative strength – the strength in relation to your own body weight – and is a very good indicator of shoulder health and muscular balance.
In addition, properly performed full-range dips—meaning the biceps cover the forearm in the lowest position—provide a great deal of stretch for the chest muscles, counteracting "round shoulders" and desk posture.
If you are unable to dip through your full range of motion due to shoulder pain, you should urgently improve your mobility or seek treatment from a competent therapist.
If lack of strength is the problem, rubber bands offer you the help you need. Unlike pull-ups, we use rubber bands on the dips to allow clients with a lack of relative strength to do their first bodyweight rep.
Why bands to help with dips but not pull ups? To do this, you need to know and understand the difference between the strength curve and the resistance curve.
Strength Curve: How an exerciser's strength development changes during the concentric movement during an exercise.
Resistance Curve: How the resistance changes during an exercise over the course of the concentric movement.
With pull-ups, you have a descending strength curve. That means you get weaker as the concentric movement progresses and it gets harder the closer you pull your shoulders towards the bar.
With dips, the strength curve is increasing. That means you'll get stronger as the exercise progresses and it gets easier the further you push yourself up.
When you use bands to assist with dips or pull-ups, by attaching them to the pull-up bar or dip bars so that the trainee can put their feet in the band, you change the resistance curve to make the exercises easier there where the rubber band stretches. For pull-ups, this is in the starting position, which is the easiest position. For dips, at the reversal point of the movement (the lowest point), the hardest position.
With a pull-up, there's no point in supporting the lifter on the easiest part of the movement and then easing that support higher up (where the elastic loses tension). This reduces the training effect and thus the training progress. With the dip, on the other hand, it makes sense to give the lifter support with the band in the heaviest position and decrease it as the movement progresses (as the rubber band relaxes), allowing the lifter to apply more strength where they are she has too. You can get tapes right here .
Here's a 4-phase progression you can use to increase your dip performance so you don't have to use bands anymore.
Each phase is 6 workouts. Each phase is carried out for 3 weeks, always 2 workouts per week.
Dips with bands, 5×6-8 reps, 4010 tempo, 180s rest
Band dips, paused, 5×3-5 reps, 4210 tempo, 180s rest
Dips with bands, with Fatgripz, 5×4-6 reps, 4010 pace, 180s rest
Dips, 6×1-3 reps, 4010 pace, 180s rest
Once you're able to do 1-3 rep dips for 6 sets, you'll make quick progress with higher reps. Since dips are a bodyweight resistance exercise, low body fat is beneficial for being able to do more dips.
Good luck learning your first dip!
Picture: YPSI Coach Goran Sirovina doing dips during one of his first seminars at YPSI.