So, you want to know, “How Wide Should You Do Dips?”
I’m sure you’re aware of what a fantastic upper-body exercise dips are.
In fact, there are few better movements that work the chest, shoulders, and triceps as well.
That being said, there is often confusion about exactly how wide you should go when doing dips.
In truth, there’s a fine line between focusing more on your chest and injuring your shoulders.
So, allow me to explain about dip width and answer a variety of other dip-related questions.
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How Wide Should You Do Dips?
Your hands should generally be shoulder-width apart when performing dips. There is a suggestion that having your hands wider will work your chest more, whereas having a narrow grip targets the triceps more. However, going too wide will place a great deal of stress on the shoulder joint, so the risk-to-reward ratio is typically not worth it.
1. Are Wide Grip Dips Bad For Shoulders?
Personally, I would class dips as the best upper body pushing exercise.
Yes, I said it, I definitely prefer performing dips over bench press.
In fact, I even prefer doing overhead press to bench press.
RELATED===>Bench Press to Overhead Press Ratio
For me, dips are a fantastic exercise that work the chest, shoulders, and triceps to great effect.
You’ll often hear that performing dips with a wider grip will target the chest more, and a narrow grip hits the triceps harder.
Now, while I do agree with this to some extent, I don’t believe that there is any real need to change your grip width.
Basically, if you’re performing dips correctly then you’ll activate both the chest and triceps extremely well.
Furthermore, having too wide a grip will place your shoulder joint in a far more hazardous position.
One of the main form cues for dips is to have your shoulder blades retracted.
This gives you a stable base, and it allows you to keep the shoulders slightly externally rotated.
Unfortunately, when the shoulders become internally rotated, you’ll end up placing a great deal of stress on the shoulders.
RELATED===>Why Do I Feel Tricep Dips in My Shoulders?
Plus, having too narrow or too wide a grip will typically see your shoulders become internally rotated.
So, it makes sense to always stick to a shoulder-width grip when performing dips.
2. What About Gironda Dips?
I obviously don’t want to go against one of the greatest bodybuilding coaches ever, but Vince Gironda had other ideas.
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In fact, Vince even has a variation named after him, namely “The Gironda Dip”.
The Gironda dip entails using wider V-shaped bars, as opposed to the standard parallel bar.
So, the bars will basically get wider and wider the further back you hold them.
In truth, Gironda dips definitely do hit the chest harder.
Plus, I know that many people tend to feel dips in their triceps and front delts, with hardly any chest activation.
So, it does seem as though Gironda dips are the way to counteract this.
However, while the rewards for chest development are pretty decent, the risks for your shoulder health are greatly increased.
I’m sure there are many people who have used Gironda dips and basic wide-grip dips with great success.
In fact, they’ve managed to produce a fantastic looking upper body and never had any issues with shoulder health.
And this may definitely be the case, but it’s not something that I would personally want to risk.
Furthermore, this also means that you’re flaring your elbows, which once more places a great deal of stress on the joints.
So, when my shoulders are in such a precarious position, I would much rather have my elbows tucked.
Therefore, while I agree that Vince Gironda is an absolute legend, this is one exercise of his that I’ve always avoided.
3. How Do You Target Your Chest For Dips?
Whether you’re looking to target your chest or triceps with dips, it’s all to do with body position.
With that being said, I have generally always performed dips in exactly the same way, while still looking to target both my chest and triceps.
However, in order to hit the chest more you should be angled forward slightly, plus your feet should be in front of you.
In effect, you’ve almost taken on a banana-like shape.
Now, you’ll often hear that to target your triceps more, your torso should be completely straight and upright, and your feet should be below or behind you.
I will agree with the feet position here, but I’m still not a fan of changing the angle of the body.
Unfortunately, when you straighten up your torso your shoulders are likely to become slightly internally rotated.
And as you’re now aware, this places undue stress on the shoulder joint.
So, I prefer to perform a “hinge”, so that my torso is naturally angled forward at approximately 45 degrees.
This also ensures that I push my hips back (the same as with the hip-hinge movement), plus I’ll contract my abs, glutes, and hamstrings for additional “support”.
By doing this, all my joints are well-protected, and I can safely dip, while targeting my chest, shoulders, and triceps.
4. What About Weighted Dips?
Weighted dips are a fantastic mass and strength builder.
In fact, I would urge you to start performing weighted dips as soon as possible.
Once you’re able to crank out at least 8-10 reps of perfect form bodyweight dips, it’s time to add some weight.
However, you need to be even more wary of your shoulders once you add weight to your dips.
So, I definitely wouldn’t suggest performing wide-grip dips with added weight.
You should keep your arms just outside the body at approximately shoulder-width apart.
Plus, you can leverage your body and feet position based on whether you want to work a specific muscle group more.
With that being said, as I’ve mentioned, I tend to stick to the same dip form and aim to work my pushing-muscles as a whole.
I would also recommend that you don’t try to dip with too much weight and should definitely avoid going anywhere near your one-rep max.
Weighted dips are better performed in the 5-rep and above range, which will ensure that you can safely get bigger and stronger.
Should You Do Weighted Dips?
So, I hope you understand that ideally your hands should be shoulder-width apart when performing dips.
There is a tendency to go wider to focus more on your chest and narrower to hit the triceps with greater effect.
However, in truth, both options will force the shoulders to rotate internally, which puts your shoulder joint in a very precarious position.
Now, while it’s true that a wider grip will work the pecs better, the risk to reward ratio probably isn’t worth it.
In fact, you should ensure that your shoulders always remain retracted throughout the entire movement.
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.