One of the most pressing challenges of working out at home is developing techniques and tricks to perform all of the same movements that you can do in a gym. Of course, in your home you’re probably not going to have a rubberized laminate deadlift platform or seven different types of elliptical, but there are plenty of movements that can be replicated without the fancy equipment. One of the most difficult exercises to do at home without some dirty tricks is the chest dip; however, that’s not saying it can’t be done.
The 411 On Chest Dips
Chest dips are a fantastic chest exercise that many fitness professionals include in their workouts. Whether they are doing working sets, supersetting with another exercise or doing a few sets of dips to burn out their pecs on chest day, dips are a great addition to any chest workout.
“Well, if they’re hard to do at home, I’ll just skip them. Right?” Not so fast. While you aren’t going to pile on 400lbs to do chest dips, they should be a prime movement in your chest workout.
The thing about dips in relation to an exercise like the bench press is that it targets your chest more and has a larger range of motion. Did you ever see those guys at the gym piling plates onto their bench press but only moving the bar 4 or 5 inches then locking back out? That’s a no-no. Having a short range of motion restricts the recruitment of muscle fibers and places more stress on muscles to stabilize, rather than move the weight (which hinders gains of size and strength).
At the end of a bench press, your hands are even with your chest. At the end of a chest dip, your hands are behind your chest – that little bit of extra ROM makes a world of difference in building and shaping your chest. But how to do dips at home? That all depends on what you have laying around.
If You Have A Dip Station
I know, I know, we’re trying to leave costly professional equipment out of the picture and make do with the versatility of our home gym equipment. The thing is, dip stations aren’t all that expensive – and they’re pretty versatile. A dip station with attached pull-up bar will run you anywhere from $75-$150, or if you’re on a really tight budget or don’t want the extra features, a more basic dip bar like the one pictured below will even be cheaper.
If you have the room (these are mostly vertical, so a ton of floor space isn’t required), then I HIGHLY recommend you purchase one of these for your home gym. Not only will you have easy access to chest dips, but also pull ups, chin ups, leg raises and hanging knee raises – that’s a chest, ab and back workout all in one piece of equipment. Although a dip station didn’t make our list of top home exercise equipment, it should be noted that the versatility these provide makes them an incredible value for your dollar.
I would not recommend going for the super high-end models with a dip/pull-up station; after you hit the $150 mark they’re all pretty similar, with slight differences in accessories and steel gauge.
If You Do Not Have A Dip Station
Maybe you don’t have the floor space, or you’re having trouble finding a dip station in your price range. Maybe your significant other said no. Either way, you don’t have a dip station and you can’t see yourself coming into one in the near future. What now? There are a few things you can do.
Do you live in or near an apartment complex with a playground? If not, is there a school nearby? Hold on, hear me out. Check the playground for a pair of parallel bars, or even monkey bars that are spaced out to about shoulder width; in other words, find a dip station that wasn’t designed to be a dip station.
Pick a day out of the week with some sunshine and go to this park. Do a few sets of dips supersetted with pullups and then do pushups, HIIT, abs or whatever you like – it may seem silly to work out on a playground, but they offer a surprising amount of versatility. So, go play. Your chest will thank you.
If the thought of working out at a park, or outdoors in general rubs you the wrong way, fret not. If you have a few sturdy chairs at home of the same height, you can still do dips. Obviously, the taller the chair, the better, you can make do with shorter chairs as the need arises.
There is one trick to this that will take some time (and abdominal strength) to get used to. Basically, to perform dips on a chair and maintain effective and proper form to get the most out of the exercise and remain injury-free, you’ll have to tuck your legs up.
If you don’t do regular exercise for your lower abs, this position can be pretty difficult to hold while also keeping strict form and full range of motion on your dips. On days that you’re not working out your chest, throw in a few sets of leg lifts, bicycles or dragon flags if you have a bench. These exercises will condition your lower abs and make it easier to hold your dip form so you can focus on squeezing your chest muscles during the movement.
3. Floor/Planche Progression
As a last resort, if you are dead set on having a bodyweight chest exercise and push-ups just aren’t cutting if for you, look into the planche progression. Have you ever seen a gymnast in the push-up position, but with their legs in the air? That’s a planche – and it’s a very exercise to do.
Don’t think of the planche as an exercise, but as a progression, as there are several different positions you’ll have to be able to hold before you can even think about planche pushups (a killer bodyweight chest developer on par with dips). There are several great resources on planche progressions, and can be found anywhere bodyweight exercises are the topic of conversation (such as this one by Gymnastics WOD).
Combination dip station/pullup towers aren’t that expensive, and don’t take up much room. Investing in one of these is the best course of action for home gym chest development; however, if that is simply not achievable – dips can be done in many other ways to suit your lifestyle and resources. Now that you have no excuses, get to dipping!