How to do Dips With Optimal Technique

How to do Tricep Dips on the Parallel Bars with the Most Efficient Technique Possible to Maximize Your Performance and Help Prevent Injuries.

tricep dips
Can you spot the four technique problems?

Most people think they know how to perform tricep dips simply because they’ve seen them done before or have at least taken a quick peek at some photos like the ones on the left. And truth be told, some people get the gist of it without too much trouble. The problem is that when it comes to exercise, understanding the gist is only the beginning.

Take the tricep dip exercise for example. Most people think this is a tricep and pectoral exercise, and there is some truth to that. But the reality is that dips are a full body exercise, and training them this way makes a BIG difference in your results when you integrate your whole body into the movement.

You see, it’s one thing to get up on a set of parallel bars and bend your elbows enough times until you feel it in your triceps and pecs. This is what most people do when performing parallel-bar dips, and it’s not that hard to accomplish. It’s quite another to actually control your body through a full range of motion during this superb exercise – with optimal breathing, movement, and posture. What’s the difference, you say? I’m glad you asked! I’ll show you.

This article and video is about how to do the tricep dip exercise on a set of parallel bars with optimal technique – not just “it might pass in PE class technique.” You see, I want you to not only avoid the common, dangerous training mistakes that so many people make with this exercise, I also want you to learn how to perform it not just properly, but optimally, so that you maximize your results and the benefits you receive from the exercise and minimize the risk of injury from performing it improperly.

There are a ton of dip technique videos and tutorials circulating the web, but most of them only cover a couple of main points – the obvious ones like “bend your elbows (duh!).” But adhering to a couple of vague and generic technique tips isn’t enough to ensure proper dip execution. And unfortunately, most tricep dip performances I’ve seen leave a lot to be desired since most people miss a few vital components when performing it.

Now, it may be true that the parallel-bar dip is a very challenging exercise, but that doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible to normal people and only reserved for the elite. Anyone can learn how to do dips and work their way up to high-repetition sets with enough time and practice.

So, sure – parallel-bar dips are hard – not all that unlike the pull-up and chin-up – but anyone with two good arms can do it. And honestly, most people struggle with them because it’s one of those exercises you just can’t fake. You’re either strong enough or you aren’t. Fortunately, this tutorial will teach you how to access all of your strength during the dip exercise, which will help you perform at your best.

And in this particular tricep dips tutorial, you’ll find that I cover practically everything you need to know to execute this superb exercise with precision – to really milk it for all it’s worth. At least, this is everything I could think of during this particularly cold New England day. And as usual, I tend to blab for awhile, but that’s because I want you to get all the nitty-gritty details on why the details matter. Regardless, by the end of this dip exercise tutorial, you should have a very clear idea on how to perform this exercise both safely and effectively.

You may have noticed that I can’t help but chuckle when I hear that dips are a triceps or chest exercise. To be fair, it’s true that the muscles of the upper arm, in particular the tricep muscles, and the pectorals are the prime movers involved in the force production during the dip exercise – and this is where most people “feel it.” But the truth is that dips are a full body exercise, and when you approach them this way, you’ll notice a big difference between isolated muscular strength and integrated total body strength.

In other words, you’ll be a lot stronger when you perform them this way.

Have a look!

How to do Parallel-Bar Tricep Dips With Optimal Technique

How to do Parallel-Bar Dips – Technique Tips and Strategies

So, here are some of the key points.

Hands and wrists – Strive to maintain a neutral/vertical wrist that is aligned with elbows and shoulders (stacked like a skyscraper), adjusting grip as necessary for comfort. Optimal bar placement is shoulder-width apart. So, if possible, grip the bars directly beneath the shoulders for optimal alignment.

Elbows – Keep them tucked in tight to your sides throughout the full range of motion. Come to full elbow lockout in the top position, elbow pits rotated forward, if possible. Lower yourself as deeply as you’re comfortable, or until upper arms are roughly parallel with the ground, or slightly deeper if your flexibility and comfort allows.

Shoulders – Keep them packed on your torso (i.e., stabilized) throughout the full range of motion. Do not allow them to shrug upwards at any time.

Spinal alignment – Maintain a lengthened, neutral spine throughout the full range of motion. Lift with the crown of your head, and reach your tailbone in the opposite direction, tucking it slightly in combination with proper core activation.

Core activation – Contract your entire core musculature during the concentric portion of the exercise (pressing your body upwards during the ascent). Suck in your belly slightly, drawing your navel in towards your spine. Contract the abs as if performing a motionless crunch – just enough to activate them. Draw your obliques inwards and down. The core contraction should be strongest during the concentric portion of the exercise, but it should be relatively constant throughout the full range of motion to aid in spinal stability (briefly relaxing it is ok in between repetitions).

Legs – Either keep your knees bent, feet together – thighs and glutes contracted. Or, if space allows, keep your knees locked, toes pointed, also squeezing your glutes and thighs.

Breathing – Exhale forcefully during the difficult portion of the exercise (i.e., concentric portion, during the ascent). Inhale as you lower yourself down (i.e., eccentric portion, during the descent).


If you’ve never done dips like this before, then it may seem like an overload of information. If that’s the case, don’t feel like you have to get everything perfect right from the start. Simply pick a few points to work on, and keep working at it. And rest assured, that with practice, you will improve, and eventually, all of these technique strategies will become second-nature. You won’t have to think about it anymore. You’ll simply be training with optimal technique, drawing on your whole body’s strength and getting much – MUCH – stronger as a result.

The truth is, if you want to succeed in your strength and fitness pursuits over the long term, then sooner or later, these little details will start to matter a lot. My advice: get this stuff right NOW while it’s still this easy. You see, training smart is not optional – it’s mandatory. At least, if you want to stay strong for life, and keep doing this stuff well into old-age.

So, train hard and smart! You’ll thank yourself later.

Like doing dips? Give pull-ups a try. They’re a perfect complimentary exercise for parallel bar dips. You can learn how to perform pull-ups with optimal technique in my detailed tutorial here: The Right Way to do Pullups and Chinups: How to do pullups and chinups with the most efficient technique possible to maximize your performance and prevent injuries.

More Information:

How to do Pushups with Optimal Technique for Better Results and Less Injuries

The Right Way to do Pull-ups and Chin-ups

How to do the Lunge Exercise with Optimal Technique

The Right Way to do the Plank Exercise

How to Master the Single Leg Squat

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Health-First Fitness Coach

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4 Responses

  1. John, excellent . On a side note. I dig your indoor ‘box’ ahmm ceiling seems a little low though for a lot of the club bell training?

  2. Gene Purdum

    Good video. It will take me a while to incorporate all the details, but I appreciate that you’ve covered them. So what are the four mistakes being made by the guy in the photo?

    • Thanks, Gene. It’s hard to draw any absolutes from a couple side view photos, but I see a loose core, untucked tailbone, poor shoulder pack, and cervical misalignment.

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