Are dips doing more harm than good?
Everyone with a home gym, or strength training equipment strives to improve their overall fitness and health, with many focusing on specific areas of the body to tone or strengthen. In this guide, we’re going to cover a popular question: are dips bad for your shoulders
However, many people tend to be over-ambitious in their exercise goals and the quest for fitness can lead to injury. One of the most common injuries that physiotherapists see is shoulder injuries caused by dips.
Our shoulders are made up of three main bones connected at several joints. These joints connect tendons and muscles allowing for an excellent range of motion in the arm and shoulder blade.
With so much mobility in so many directions, tendons and muscles tend to be smaller and more fragile. The most common shoulder injury is tendon inflammation (bursitis or tendinitis), followed by issues caused due to instability.
When exercising, people tend to overexert their delicate shoulder tendons which causes pain and inflammation around the joints and in the muscles and tendons.
Dip exercises tend to be the worst offender for this type of injury, mainly due to the nature of the exercise catching out beginners who underestimate the range of movement and strength required.
In this article, we will investigate if dips are bad for your shoulders, and look at some of the exercises that you should avoid during your workout sessions.
Are Dips Bad For Your Shoulders?
Dips are the fastest way to build tricep strength, although when done incorrectly, are one of the greatest causes of shoulder injuries at the gym. Dips can be done safely but always make sure you practice enough strength and stability training before attempting a dip.
While dips are one of the most common injuries people obtain at the gym, that’s not to say that all dips are bad for you. You just need to make the right amount of preparation before attempting dip exercises.
Doing any form of dip loads the extension of the shoulder joint, especially at the bottom of the dip, where maximum mobility, strength, and stability are required. This bottom portion of the dip is where most injuries occur, especially in less experienced or prepared participants.
Inadequate strength training and poor preparation lead to people often bottoming out in a dip (especially tricep dips) as they can’t raise their body weight and are forced to bail out of the exercise.
This forces their entire body weight onto the shoulders, causing overextension, torn rotator cuff tendons, or damage to the bursa within the shoulder.
While dips can be achieved safely and are the number one exercise used for people who want to improve their chest and shoulder strength, some should definitely be avoided. Bench dips tend to provoke unnatural internal rotation of the shoulders which can lead to shoulder injuries.
In addition, the placement of the palms in a fixed position behind the body also causes strain on the shoulders and elbows.
Who should avoid dips altogether?
Unfortunately, dips are not for everyone and some people are a little too overzealous and underestimate the preparation required before attempting dips.
Here’s a few examples of when dips are best left out of a workout.
Beginners often lack the necessary strength to safely perform a repetition of dips. Before attempting dips, achieve at least 60 seconds of planking (scapular stability) and complete a series of around 50 pushups in a row. Doing a few variations of a pushup (narrow, standard, wide) will also help to improve readiness for doing dips.
It is recommended that throwing athletes avoid dips altogether. All throwing athletes acquire anterior instability over time, mainly due to the repeated nature of throwing exercises. Dips tend to send humeral extension far past neutral, and this is a very vulnerable position for the shoulder, especially in throwing athletes.
Anyone with existing shoulder injuries
If you have shoulder injuries or have issues with your shoulders then doing dips is out of the question. Other exercises such as close-grip bench press, tricep pulldowns, or supine overhead triceps achieve a similar motion to dips without straining the shoulders.
What are deep dips and why are they bad for your shoulders?
Much as the name suggests, deep dips are performed when you extend as low as possible during the bottom portion of the dip. This range of motion requires a high level of shoulder stability and mobility and should not be attempted by beginners or even people with moderate dip experience.
As you are extending your range of motion to the maximum, effectively bottoming out in the dip, many will incur an injury when they don’t have the strength to bring themselves back up again. It is also important not to roll your shoulders too early (scapular downward rotation), as this may cause shoulder impingement.
Avoid attempting deep dips until you are very comfortable in a normal dip range, then slowly add more depth to your dip. Your shoulders will gradually gain stability and a deeper range of mobility allowing you to do deep dips.
Never attempt to add extra weights to deep dips for the first time. If you’re looking to perform Russian or Bulgarian dips, then slowly work up to the full range of motion required.
What Are Some Common Injuries From Dips?
Triceps Tendonitis is one of the most common elbow injuries received from doing repetitions of dips. It is caused by the repetitive motion of the dip which places a lot of pressure on the tendon and over time irritates the tendon which connects the triceps muscle to the elbow.
How to avoid shoulder injuries when doing dips
Avoid bench dips at all costs as this type of exercise puts unnatural pressure on the shoulders and elbows.
For beginners, it’s also best to avoid the tricep dip machine until you have built enough strength and stability training.
Pushups and holding a plank position are good ways to improve scapular stability and shoulder strength that are beneficial when doing any type of dip exercise.
You can get some more tips on how to do dips properly in this guide.
What’s a safer alternative to dips?
The humble pushup is a fantastic way to build core strength, upper body stability, as well as chest, arm, and shoulder strength. For beginners, start doing pushups on your knees and focus on technique.
More advanced pushup exercises include narrow and wide pushups that focus on specific shoulder and chest muscles.
Tricep pull downs or supine overhead tricep exercises are a great way to achieve strength in the shoulders and chest without putting unnecessary strain on the shoulder joints, tendons, and muscles.
Dumbbell flys are also a great alternative to dips. They allow your shoulder muscles to be open on either side while providing significant tension in the chest muscles.
Conclusion: Don’t skip dips
- Dips are one of the leading causes of shoulder injuries while at the gym.
- They can be a safe exercise; just build up enough stability, strength, and mobility in the shoulders and core before attempting any form of dip exercise.
- Beginners, throwing athletes, and people with pre-existing should injuries should not add dips to their exercise routine.
- Avoid dips with excessive or unnatural movement such as bench dips. Deep dips should only be attempted when sufficient shoulder mobility and strength are achieved.
- Pushups and plank position exercises are excellent ways to improve scapular stability and shoulder strength before moving onto dip exercises.
- Tricep pull downs or supine overhead tricep exercises are a great way to achieve strength in the shoulders and chest without putting unnecessary strain on the shoulders.