Alternative To Dips – Is There A Better Exercise?

Finding an exercise that is a direct alternative to dips is no simple task.

Dips have the ability to pack on thick slabs of muscle on the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Dips can also build incredible upper body strength and are thus known as the “upper body squat”.

There is one exercise that can match the dip and come out on top! And no, it is not the bench press!

Read on to find out.

Why You Should and Shouldn’t Be Doing Dips

Why You Should and Shouldn’t Be Doing Dips

The dip is a serious exercise for serious lifters. It is one of the most athletic upper body exercises known to man!

The dip requires you to lift your entire body weight up with your bare hands. This is no easy feat of strength for beginners.

But, bodyweight dips just the beginning.

Calisthenics athletes have been lifting incredible loads with weighted dips for millennia.

Dips also have excellent carryover to other pushing movements. If you build your weighted dip, your bench press will shoot up as well!

In fact, some calisthenics athletes have benched 350+ pounds with ease, because of their weighted dip!

If you are looking to build insane upper body size and strength, then you must do weighted dips.

Read More: Pull-Ups And Dips Only – ULTIMATE Results For The Upper Body

Unfortunately, there can be several reasons why you might not be able to perform dips:

  • Pain and discomfort in the sternum and shoulders
  • Lacking upper body pushing strength
  • Lacking the necessary equipment

1. Pain and discomfort when performing dips:

Dips are a high-risk high reward movement.

It is possible to keep good form during dips and still experience shoulder or sternum pain.

This is due to your individual anthropometry – the way you are built. Dips can also cause serious injury to your rotator cuff or sternum if done the wrong way.

If you ever experience pain or discomfort with dips, stop immediately.

Replace the dip with a similar exercise so you can continue to build upper body strength.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

2. Lacking Upper-Body Strength:

If you haven’t built enough upper body strength, then you might not be able to perform dips.

Your bodyweight can also play a huge part in this. Heavier individuals will have a harder time dipping.

This means that you might have to shed a few pounds before you start with dips.

But being overweight does not mean that you put a stop to your upper body “push” training.

Finding an appropriate upper body pushing exercise will help you build your strength.

Read More: Push Up Progression Systems – From Beginner To Intermediate And Advanced

3. Lacking Appropriate Equipment:

If you are serious about building upper body strength, then you will need a sturdy dipping bar.

Not having the appropriate equipment to perform dips can be a problem.

While dips can be done on gymnastics rings, you won’t be able to build as much strength on them as you would on dipping bars.

This is because dipping bars don’t have the stability issues that come with the rings.

Doing dips on bars will reduce your risk of injury. It will also allow you to lift a lot more weight; thereby making you a lot bigger and stronger in the process.

But, if you don’t have access to dipping bars, gymnastics rings are the next best option.

In fact the exercise that I suggest you do instead of dips benefits from using gymnastics rings.

The Reveal - The [BEST] Calisthenics Alternative To Dips

Any exercise that claims to be an alternate to dips must:

  1. Move the entire body through space
  2. Have the ability to be heavily loaded
  3. Work the same muscles as the dip
  4. Have direct carryover to other pressing movements

There is one such exercise that does all this and more.

In fact I have used this very exercise to build a strong and aesthetic upper body.

This exercise is the Weighted Incline Push Up.

Read More: Incline Push-Ups – The Only Way To Do It

Read More: Weighted Push-Ups – How To Add [MAXIMUM] Weight For Unlimited Gains

The Weighted Incline Push Up is by far the best alternative to dips.

It emulates all the benefits of the dip and much more:

  1. Weighted Push-Ups Move The Body Through Space:

All calisthenics movements have one thing in common – they move the body through space. Push-ups and dips do the same.

Read More: What Is Calisthenics – The TRUE Meaning And Definition

The only difference is push-ups are done by keeping both feet on the ground. While dips use only your hands.

On the flip side, in the bench press, weights are moved through space while the body lies still.

This is what makes push-ups and dips more athletic than the bench press; they are not done lying down.

  1. The Weighted Incline Push Up Can Be Heavily Loaded

Pushing movements that can be maximally loaded build tremendous upper body strength. The incline weighted push up is one of these movements.

Note: It can be hard to judge how much weight is being handled by the rest of the body during weighted push-ups.

But as long as you are progressing with the exercise, you will make impressive strength gains.

  1. Weighted Push-Ups Build The Same Muscles Weighted Dips:

Weighted push-ups actively build the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They also build the abs, spinal erectors, glutes, and quads in isometric contraction.

This means that weighted push-ups have more muscle-building potential than dips.

This is what makes the weighted push up a force to be reckoned with for building upper body size and strength!

  1. Weighted Push-Ups Have Direct Carryover To Other Pressing Movements

If you increase your weighted push-up, your weighted dip and bench press will go up too!

This is because weighted push-ups are performed at an angle between the weighted dip and the bench press.

This unique aspect of weighted push ups provides tremendous carryover to other pushing movements as well.

Other Calisthenics Alternatives to the dip:

  1. Straight Bar Dips:

The straight bar dip is an exercise that closely mimics the regular dip. But, I do not recommend performing this movement.

Straight bar dips are cumbersome to perform. This is because the bar gets in the way of the chest on the way down.

In fact loaded straight bar dips are harder to perform than weighted dips.

Imagine having to:

  • Internally rotate your shoulders
  • Push your hips back and
  • Point your legs forward to counterbalance your body weight on the bar.

This is cumbersome to do at best!

The bar coming in the way of the chest at the bottom also decreases precious range of motion.

This isn’t a good thing when it comes to building size and strength.

That is why I do not recommend performing the straight bar dip instead of parallel bar dips.

Especially since the incline weighted push up is far superior in terms of:

  1. Loading capacity
  2. Safety on the shoulders and
  3. Range of motion

There isn’t any use for the straight bar dip unless you want to practice the top part of the muscle-up.

Although, practising regular dips or weighted push-ups will help you do the same thing!

  1. Wall Supported Handstand Push-Ups

Okay, this one is a curve-ball.

The Wall supported handstand push up is not an easy exercise to perform for reps.

It also doesn’t target the chest very well; although it smashes your shoulders and triceps.

But this shouldn’t stop you from performing this exercise.

If your aim is to build pure pushing strength, the handstand push-ups will suffice.

Transitioning from Handstand Push-Ups to:

  • Deficit Wall Handstand Push-Ups
  • To Archer Handstand Push-Ups
  • To Deficit Archer Handstand Push Ups will have you progressing for ages, thereby making you stronger with time.

You will also build massive shoulders, triceps, and upper chest in the process.

A Word On Chair Dips:

There is no need to perform chair dips as an alternative to dips.

Chair dips are hard on the shoulders. There are several better pushing-exercises, that are far harder and far safer to perform.

Don’t perform chair dips.


Finding a pure calisthenics alternative to dips is not easy.

There are some killer options out there, but they:

  1. Don’t match the movement pattern of the dip
  2. Don’t work the same muscle groups as the dip
  3. Can’t be loaded as heavily as the dip
  4. Don’t have direct carryover to other pushing movements

The weighted push up is the only calisthenics alternative to dips that can do all of the above and much more.

Give it a shot and let me know how it has helped you!

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