Tip: Do This Instead of Standard Dips

Don't let this classic exercise wreck your shoulders. Keep building your chest with this simple tweak.


You don't need to completely swap out the V-bar dip to make it feel better on your shoulders. It's a go-to exercise for building triceps and chest. But unless your shoulders and elbows have a clean bill of health, things can get a bit dicey... so you'll need to modify them a bit.

Dips put your arms behind your body into glenohumeral (shoulder) extension. That's okay if it's controlled and your shoulders are built for it. But most aren't. This puts excessive force through the anterior ligaments of your shoulders and can pinch on the rotator cuff and long head of the biceps tendon.

Instead of trashing the dip completely, try this simple technique tweak:

Lean forward and lead more with your chest. You might have to take your legs behind you more too, but this isn't essential as long as you can get your torso more angled forward and less vertical. This results in a fraction less glenohumeral extension and better chest activation, which will support your shoulders more.

Also, play around with the width of grip you're using to better align your elbows and shoulders. A trial and error approach is best.

How to Do It

  • Jump up to the V-bar and start at the top.
  • Stick your neck out and angle your shoulders forward. You want your torso in a slight forward angle as opposed to vertical. Keeping your feet and legs back helps.
  • Lead with your chest and only go down as far as you're comfortable. Stay away from the painful range or motion.
  • If there's still pain, try narrow-grip floor presses or decline presses as your next option.
Gareth Sapstead is a leading strength and physique coach from the UK. He specializes in problem solving and breakthrough training techniques.

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