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Alternatives To Weighted Dips

Image result for weighted dips

If there’s a question I’ve been asked more times than I can count it’s ‘what’s the best exercise for chest?’ The poor souls have seen all the YouTube videos of cable crossover dropsets and chest flyes, and maybe even bench press……

All the while one of the all time classic upper body strength builders gets overlooked; the dip. Many moons ago when I first started writing fitness content, I wrote a post: Overlooked Movements: Dips in that post I made a strong case for dips being the best chest builder around. Over 2 years on and I still believe in the dips’ chest building abilities – if not more now than before!

Once you start getting proficient with the parallel bar dip, and by proficient, I mean you can do a solid set of 20 reps, it’s time to start looking for progression. Adding weight is the simplest and most linear option but beyond a certain amount of additional weight, practicality becomes an issue. Adding 50+ kg requires either a gym or lugging weight plates to parks, which largely defeats the beauty of outdoor training in the first place.

So just for you minimalists I’ve got 5 challenging dip variations that require nothing more than a set of gymnastics rings at the most.

1) Ring Dips 

Depending on the form used here, you’ll probably find your max rep count halved at least. For the best form, set the rings high enough to allow the legs to hang straight underneath you when you’re at the bottom of the dip. Doing so will keep the body hollow; crossing the legs makes these LOADS easier. Another key ingredient is the ring turnout. Start from a rings turned out position at the top (shown below) and as you descend, let the rings turn in and then press back out to the turnout.

Standard ring dips

What will these do for you? 

The added instability component of the gymnastics rings forces both the chest and core to work harder. Also, the rings allow a more natural shoulder movement as you’re not fixed into position like you would be on a bar.

2) Bulgarian Dips 

A step up from the ‘basic’ ring dip, Bulgarian dips are essentially wide grip ring dips. Begin from a strong turned out ring support and allow the rings to turn fully in as the arms form a 90 degree angle at the bottom of the dip. Reverse the motion to complete a rep. How wide the elbows go will depend on your strength and at first you’ll probably only be a bit wider than a normal ring dip. Over time though, you’ll be able to go wider.

Bulgarian dips

What will these do for you? 

Besides a great chest pump, these are a nice supplementary exercise for the iconic iron cross as the lats and pecs are key muscles in both movements.

3) ‘RTO’ dips 

Progressing yet again from the previous 2, we arrive at rings turned out dips. Like the name suggests, the rings are supposed to stay turned out through the entire exercise. Doing so will require an amount of forward lean. Keep your body tight and hollow and be sure not to swing.

RTO dips

What will these do for you? 

Due to the aggressive turn out of the rings combined with more forward lean, the burden on the biceps and front delts increases significantly with RTO dips. If you have any aspirations of performing advanced ring combinations such as muscle ups to back lever, or bent arm planche holds on rings, RTO dips will be a key stepping stone on your journey. If none of that tickles your fancy, they just look pretty fucking cool!

4) Plyo/Clapping dips

While plyometric push ups and pull ups seem to be quite fashionable, plyometric and explosive dips seem to fall by the wayside a little. I don’t see why though. A set of clapping dips is just as hard as a decently heavy weighted set, only more practical! You can get creative with these as well and incorporate 180 degree turns if you have access to parallel bars.

What will these do for you? 

Besides building explosive pushing power, plyo dips will be great for anyone looking to get into freestyle calisthenics as they will give you confidence letting go of the bar – and this confidence will carryover to bigger, more daunting moves like 360 muscle ups etc.

5) Russian Dips 

Russian dips are essentially parallel bar dips with a huge range of motion. They take some co-ordination and how strong you are determines how slow you can do them. You will need a set of reasonably long parallel bars to do these. Lower to the bottom of the deepest dip you can and allow your weight to shift back, as you rotate your elbows back so they end up resting on the bar. At first this will be jolty and ugly but over time you will be more confident and be able to slow them down. It’s simply a case of practice.

What will these do for you? 

Besides offering disadvantageous leverage, Russian dips are a phenomenal link between a sloppy muscle up and a handsome muscle up. The elbow rotation aspect not only conditions the elbows but also the rotator cuff muscles involved with the transition. To put it bluntly: anyone who can do zero momentum Russian dips will have a good muscle up transition. Period.


These can be progressed to seriously advanced levels with the notorious ‘Impossible Dip’. Impossibles are slightly different to Russian dips in that instead of lowering to the bottom of a dip first, you lower to the elbows in one, slow descent. Suffice to say these demand a TON of tricep strength and power. As much as I’d love to demo these personally, I had to resort to the trusty internet for an example. One day soon though!

Image result for impossible dips

( – and action shot of the impossible dip) 

These variations should bring your max reps right down again and open up a whole new world of dips, with each one taking you down an avenue to a bigger move.

Any questions, feedback or comments please leave below or email:


JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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