In a previous article we discussed the ring dip and the benefits it offers athletes and fitness goers looking for muscle mass, strength, and joint stability (just to name a few). While the ring dip is not a new exercise, many of us are more well-versed with the bar dip variation, which is equally beneficial.
Therefore, in this article we are going to discuss both dip movements and determine which is best based on your goals and/or needs.
Ring Dip Movement Demo
In the below video the ring dip is demonstrated in addition to some helpful do’s and don’t of training with ring dips!
Bar Dip Movement Demo
In the below video the bar dip is demonstrated by Matt Chan. Note, he discusses kipping bar dips, but please, build some muscle and do them strict (or use a band for assistance)!
In addition to the parallel bar dip, there is also something called a straight bar dip, which is also discussed below. Both are for what we will be referring to throughout as, “bar dips.”
Which Dip is Best For…?
Below are four common goals and/or purposes of implementing the dip movement into a training program, each then broken down to determine which dip movement best offers coaches and athletes the most benefit.
Muscular Hypertrophy (Bar Dips)
Both of these dip variations can provide significant results in muscular size due to muscle damage from high volume training, time under tension, and an eccentric contraction component. With that said, many lifters may have issues performing strict rings dips in the early stages of their training (and heck, even regardless of your level), making the bar dip a more feasible mass producing movement. Due to the rings being unstable (which by no means makes them bad), many people will struggle with balance and stabilization before actually muscular fatigue of the chest and triceps, which then defeats the purpose of hypertrophy training. I recommend performing ring dips for other purposes (see below) and when it comes time to slap on some quality meat to those arms take a stroll to dip bar with a chain, weight plates, and a desire to move up a shirt size.
Strength (Bar Dip)
Strength is farther down the continuum of fitness, with hypertrophy being a previous stepping stone that one must cross before learning how to apply large amounts of force in unison across all muscle fibers. Dips can promote overall pressing strength through increased upper body muscle mass, and more specifically tricep lockout strength (bench press and overhead movements) and pressing. Heavier loads can be used when performing dips (I generally advise against doing any less than four repetitions per set for heavy dips) to increase size and strength, with very heavy loads (heavy sets between 1-3 reps) often offering athletes little reward and high risk of injury
Shoulder Health (Ring Dip)
For beginners, jumping onto the rings can be extremely harmful to the shoulder joint and surrounding tissues, as the inability to stabilize properly while under load is often skipped over in most first attempts. In this instance, I recommend the dip bar to build basic strength and stabilization on a fixed object to minimize risk and ensure readiness to progress onto the rings. For those who have the ability to stabilize and perform ring dips, doing them in slow, controlled, and non-kipping fashion can be a great way to increase control throughout fuller ranges of motion, increase strength of connective tissue and muscles at the shoulder junction, and even enhance motor unit recruitment to inspire new muscle growth.
Competitive Fitness (Both)
If you do CrossFit and/or love training with the gymnastics rings, the ring dip is essential to your goals and therefore must be mastered. With the help of standard dip bars to develop foundational strength, stabilization, and muscle mass, many lifters can then work to increase their movement and stability in the ring dip. I really advise people to approach ring dips with a slow and controlled focus, much like the would if they were learning any other high skill and precision movement (snatch, clean and jerk, etc). Anything other than slow and controlled movement will most certainly result in injury to the chest, shoulders, or even neck. In addition, concurrent training with dip bars can also be helpful to continually progress with muscular strength and hypertrophy.
General Fitness (Both)
At this point you should see that ring and bar dips are similar yet have very distinct benefits for general fitness, strength, and movement. For those out there who are not competitive in their fitness or training, ring and bar dips should still both be mastered to build out an arsenal of muscle building and full range of motion movements to build a stronger, healthier, and more injury resilient individual.
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Check out these articles on arm training for athletes, weightlifters, and yes, even functional fitness!
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