Russian Dips – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

In this article we will discuss an advanced bodyweight dip variation, the Russian dip, which can be used to boost triceps, chest, and shoulder strength, increase muscle-up skill, and promote injury resilience in the shoulders during more advanced gymnastic movements.

Muscles Worked

The Russian dip targets the larger muscle of the upper body, many similar muscle groups to the standard strict, regular dip. Note, that the increased range of motion of the Russian dip will also add some additional stress/loading to the connective tissues within the shoulder joint. While this is beneficial to training and advancement in such movements like muscle-ups (see below), coaches and athletes must be aware that proper joint function, mobility, and recovery from such a complex exercise is necessary.

Russian Dip Exercise Tutorial

In the below video the Russian dip is demonstrated. Note, that this exercise can be done on parallel bars and/or boxes, which makes it a very easy to set up dip variation (see below benefits).


4 Benefits of the Russian Dip

In the below section we will discuss four (4) benefits of the Russian dip, specifically for gymnastic, calisthenics/bodyweight, and competitive fitness athletes. It is important to note that this a more complex dip movement, and individuals should posses proper joint and connective tissue function, basic bodyweight strength, and the ability to perform strict dips at the deepest position, with a pause.

Triceps Hypertrophy

Like any dip, the triceps and chest are targeted (see muscles targeted above). When performing the Russian dip however, the increased range of motion leads to a greater stretch placed upon the triceps (due to the increased flexion of the elbow joint). Additionally, the triceps must overcome deeper ranges of motion and control for longer periods of time which can stimulate new muscle growth.

Muscle-Up Progression

The muscle-up is a gymnastic and competitive fitness movement the requires total body strength, mobility, and athleticism. Many individuals fail to establish proper control and strength during the turnover phase the muscle-up, which can result in shoulder injury and lack of movement efficiency. The Russian dip can be a great accessory/foundational movement to increase a lifters ability to withstand higher amounts of force during the kipping movement as the transition into the deep portion of the muscle-up.  

Increase Shoulder Function Near End Range

When looking to increase stability and joint function for more athletic based movements, we must be first concerned with an athletes ability to control their end ranges, which are defined by their mobility/flexibility and their neurological control of that end range. Failure to be able to promote muscle force at end ranges can increase the stress placed upon the connective tissues and joints, as they must compensate for the muscles inability to control a movement. This can be very detrimental in sports where the dip/shoulder joint is stressed (such as gymnastics, weightlifting, and competitive fitness), often leading to compensation patterning and overuse injuries (and even more traumatic injuries due to high amounts of force on the shoulder capsule). Increasing control, stability, and strength at the deepest of end ranges can over time better prepare an athlete for more complex movements that require the fullest ranges of motion (muscle-ups).

Ease of Use

While parallel or dip bars may be commonly found in some training facilities, others may lack a study place for athletes to perform dips. In my time exploring various gyms based for more strength, power, and fitness performance (so not globo gyms) I have actually had some difficulty locking down a good place to do some standard dips (other than some adjustable squat racks). Using boxes instead or GHD handle or whatever other bars you can find allows you to individualize the width needed to perform the dip to best suit your shoulder anthropometrics and abilities. Seeing that most functional fitness gyms have plyometric boxes, the Russian drip setup can be easily set up for all levels and body sizes.

More Gymnastic Exercises

Take a look at some of these gymnastic-based movement guides to increase your fitness!

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