Quickly Master Bodyweight Dips

The bodyweight dip is a compound upper body movement. Often touted as the “upper body squat.” Yeah it’s that good. Builds up your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Also is a great strength booster for any style of pressing Bench, Incline, Shoulder, etc. It is truly an impressive feat to bang out lots of reps with lots of weights hanging around your waist. If nothing else dips will give you impressive upper body development, strength, and respect from others. 

The trouble is that many people who start training can’t even do one dip. Like not even close. My goal with this article is to shorten the learning curve and get you reppin’ bodyweight dips as quickly as possible. I will propose some simple to apply tips that anyone can do and you will be looking for the dip belt and a pile of iron in no time.

1) Drop the fat

Fat is dead weight. It doesn’t nothing for you, except pound on your joints and slow you down. The bodyweight dip rewards people with “relative strength.” Meaning if you are lean and strong dips will be no problem. If you are big and strong and carry lots of extra adipose tissue aka fat, dips will be much more difficult. So make it easier on yourself and lose the fat. I like a simple leveraged approach when it comes to fat loss. Aim your workouts on building lean muscle tissue. Remember, every ounce of lean muscle tissue burns a certain number of calories around the clock automatically. Muscle burns calories while you sleep, eat, work and exercise. Fat loss is easy if you focus on maximizing lean muscle mass and just eat a little less. Don’t try make it hard and complicated, because it is that simple. Most diets out there work, but stick with one and see it through. The main point is if you look in the mirror and see fat adjust your eating and workouts to get rid of it. Bodyweight dips will become much easier to master.

2) Start Simple

Can you do several regular pushups with good form? If not, start there. Get to where you can knock out 20-30 in a row with no problem. Always do them with perfect form and full range of motion. This is laying the foundation. Many times people want to rush to the advanced stuff without first laying a solid foundation. Don’t be foolish like that. 

3) Trust the Process

I am not going to make this complicated. Here is a simple progression to successfully master dips very quickly. Sample workouts will be provided at the end.

  • Start with pushups, perfect form, 30 reps in a row
  • Progress to decline pushups on a bar in a rack (in video)
  • Progress to negative dips with bodyweight, 6-8 second eccentric (down portion)
  • Progress to negative dips with additional weight, 6-8 second eccentric (down portion)
  • Progress to bodyweight dips
  • Progress to weighted dips

Okay let’s go over this list. Pushups we already covered. 

Decline Pushups on a Bar

Although your body is elevated, this feels just like a decline bench press. I love this one because it teaches you how to work with your bodyweight. Many times people are kind of in shock when they first feel and attempt to lift their bodyweight. This drill gives you the feel, coordination, and the practice needed to do a dipping motion with your bodyweight. See video for demonstration. 


Negative Dips 

Start at the top and control yourself down. Go down in excellent control for 6-8 seconds. Jump up to top position and repeat. This will make you sore so you don’t need to do tons of reps. I’d say keep it around 12-20 good controlled, slow reps. This again gives you the feeling of moving your bodyweight through space. Once you get good at these add weight on a dip belt. Once you can do negatives with additional weight, bodyweight dips will very soon follow. 



Now you can do bodyweight dips. Do them right always. Never do half reps as you will never know if you are actually getting any stronger. Once you can do quite a few get a dip belt and start adding additional weight. 


4) Ditch the Bands

People sometimes use resistance bands for pull-ups and dips. Although this practice can help you feel the range of motion there is one major problem. Anyone who has done dips or pull-ups would surely agree that the hardest portion is when you are at the rock bottom of the movement. The trouble with the bands is this is exactly where they give you the most help because of the spring of the elasticity. Bottom line using bands is that you never really feel your bodyweight in the hardest portion of the movement. When the time comes to try without the band it is usually a fail. With negatives you get comfortable feeling your bodyweight plus more if you add weight in that rock bottom position. 


5) Lift With Your Brain

In recent years, it seems using the mind to muscle connection while lifting has become a lost art. Many times this is the case with dips. Jerky, spastic reps are commonplace. There are several reasons that this is a bad idea. For instance, if you look like you are taking part in a frog leaping contest while doing dips, you are certainly doing them wrong. Check your ego and take the time using these tips to actually get strong enough to knock out really clean and controlled reps. Don’t try to fake it by violently jerking your body around and doing half reps as this is a surefire way to an injury. Lifting with your brain is really quite simple. Focus with laser intensity on the muscles you are using. Strive to feel every stretch and the contraction of the target muscles. Do not just go through the motions. Feeling and focusing on this is what creates the mind to muscle connection. If you have never focused on this it may take several sessions to practice and get the feel of it. Trust me it is well worth your time. 


6) Do These Sample Workouts!

Sample Dip Specific Workout 1:

4x4 Negative Dip 

  • 6-8 second eccentric
  • add weight if needed

3x12 Decline Pushups 

  • with a bar in the rack 
  • focus on lower chest and triceps
  • feel and control your bodyweight moving through space

3 x max reps Bodyweight Pushups 


Sample Dip Specific Workout 2:

Complete 4 Sets In Circuit Fashion.

Negative Dips, 4 reps

  • 6-8 second eccentric
  • add weight if needed

Decline Pushups, 12 reps

Pushups, max reps

Rest 60 seconds before repeating.