It’s a question that many of us have on our mind, “Are Dips Better Than Bench Press?”
Dips and bench press are probably the two “go-to” chest exercises.
In fact, they provide pretty much everything you’ll ever need for overall chest development.
However, whereas the bench press is probably the most popular exercise in the gym, it isn’t everyone’s favourite.
Furthermore, perhaps the bench press isn’t targeting your chest as well as you’d hope.
So, would dips offer a better alternative?
Should you dump the bench press in favour of dips?
Allow me to explain what you need to know about the dips vs. bench press conundrum.
Are Dips Better Than Bench Press?
Dips offer far more benefits as an overall chest exercise than bench press. Dips are a more athletic movement, as your feet are off the ground and your torso isn’t supported by a bench. This immediately means that you will activate more muscle groups. Dips can also increase width and thickness of the chest and place far less stress on the front delts. Once you’re strong enough to add weight to your dips, you can easily press more weight than you bench press. Plus, dips can also help to improve your bench press numbers.
1. Dips Are More Athletic Than Bench Press
One of my favourite things about dips is how athletic a movement they are, especially when compared to bench press.
I mean, when it comes to bench press you are lying down, so that isn’t exactly what I’d call “athletic”.
However, dips involve having your feet off the ground and there is nothing to support your torso.
It’s just you and a test of pure upper body pressing muscle and strength.
This will also mean that there are more muscle groups involved during dips, even if some of them are just playing a supporting role.
With that being said, dips are just so much more functional than the bench press, and they’ll transfer much more into athletic activity during everyday life.
Perhaps, this is more of a personal opinion, but I’ve always viewed the bench press as purely a strength exercise.
Yes, of course, dips can also be a strength exercise and I’ll cover this in more detail in a moment.
However, I’ve always felt that dips can be used in a variety of training protocols more efficiently.
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Let’s say if I wanted to perform a conditioning circuit, then dips slot in ideally, whereas the bench press will typically slow things down.
If I wanted to train for hypertrophy or endurance, I would typically hit more muscles in the chest with dips, especially when it comes to chest width.
Plus, there are also a variety of ways to add weight to dips as well.
You can use a weighted belt, a weighted vest, chains around your shoulders, place a dumbbell between your feet, etc.
All-in-all, dips are just so much more functional and athletic than the bench press will ever be.
2. Dips Offer a Greater Range of Motion
Something that I love about dips is the range of motion.
In fact, there is a far greater range of motion when compared to the bench press.
I mean, there’s only so far you can lower the barbell until your chest restricts any further movement.
With that being said, there are people who will say that dips can be somewhat dangerous in terms of dipping too low.
It’s said that this places your shoulder joint in a very unstable position.
Plus, this becomes even worse if you’re dipping with additional weight.
However, in truth, this all comes down to your overall shoulder strength, flexibility, and mobility.
I’ll discuss these in more detail in just a moment.
But, if you are feeling shoulder issues when you perform dips then this points to a few other areas.
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Firstly, this is more likely to occur because of incorrect form.
The most common being that you’re allowing your shoulder blades to rotate internally.
Furthermore, you can stick to dipping at no more than 90 degrees until you achieve the shoulder flexibility and mobility to dip further.
But, at least you have the option.
For me, more range of motion means more potential for muscular and strength development.
3. More Shoulder Flexibility From Dips
So, I’ve just been speaking about shoulder flexibility.
This is something that is extremely lacking when it comes to the bench press.
In fact, I would go as far to say that if you bench press exclusively then you’re going to inhibit shoulder flexibility and mobility.
And I know for a fact that many people simply bench press and do nothing more when training their chest.
In effect, by doing so, you’re increasing the inflexibility of your shoulders, and therefore you’re at a greater risk for injury.
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Unfortunately, simply due to how thebench press is designed you’ll be doing your shoulders a disservice in the long run.
Additionally, the bench press places a huge amount of stress on the front delts.
And it is often the front delts that tire well before the pecs while you’re benching.
However, when it comes to dips, you can actually increase strength and flexibility in your shoulders by performing the exercise more often.
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4. You Can Build Strength From Dips
I’ve often heard people say that they prefer the bench press because it allows them to lift more weight.
Basically, the bench press is heralded as the better strength exercise.
You have the opportunity to load up the bench press with 95% and above your one-rep max and really work on 3-rep, 2-rep, and single reps.
I’ve even read a user on Reddit claim that there is only so much weight you can carry between your legs while dipping.
However, I must say that I totally disagree with this.
Firstly, when looking at the amount of weight used you have to factor in your own body weight when performing dips.
So, an 80kg person with an additional 20kg weight plate is effectively pressing 100kg.
Plus, a fit and strong person should be able to perform dips in the hypertrophy rep range with that weight.
However, the same person may struggle to bench press 100kg.
Admittedly, they are very different exercises to each other, but I don’t believe that benching is better as a strength-based exercise.
You can easily progressively overload dips as you get stronger and stronger.
And as I’ve mentioned, there are a variety of ways to add weight.
I personally don’t believe there is a better exercise for overall chest strength development than performing dips with a very heavy weight.
I’m talking about a weight that limits you to 3-5 reps at a maximum.
Once you can perform the desired reps, you have the opportunity to add more weight, and therefore get stronger.
5. Dips Can Improve Your Bench Press
Okay, I’ve said that dips and bench press are very different exercises to each other.
However, performing dips can actually help you to increase your bench press.
And you certainly can’t say the same for the other way around.
Admittedly, the crossover from dips to bench press is more noticeable to a novice lifter.
But, that said, as the dips work the chest as a whole, you can expect better bench numbers as you get stronger at doing dips.
The fact that dips will work on chest thickness and width is ideal.
Plus, you’re also improving shoulder strength and mobility.
I’d also say that dips are better for tricep and core development too.
So, you’re basically improving all the areas you need to better your bench press.
In fact, I urge you to try dips instead of bench press for a few weeks and then return to see how well you press afterwards.
However, I still think a combination of both exercises on a regular basis is the way forward.
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Dips are better than bench press in terms of overall chest development.
Plus, dips are a far more athletic and functional movement.
You’ll also find dips are better for improving shoulder strength and mobility, which can lead to improvements in both exercises.
Dips offer more variety in terms of exercise selection, you can add as much weight as you can handle, plus you can dip through a greater range of motion.
I still think a combination of both exercises is best.
But, if I had to choose just one, then it’s no contest – dips are always going to be the winner.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.