Dips vs bench press matters to anyone wanting to strengthen or add muscle mass to their upper body. The two exercises compliment each other, and a good upper body workout will include both.
You need to pick a side on the dips vs bench press debate if you plan on building your upper body. The two exercises aren’t as interchangeable as everyone once thought. Understanding what each one can and can’t do for you is the key. Let’s separate fact from fiction and see which is best for you.
What Is A Bench Press?
Bench presses were once the gold standard that every other chest workout was measured against. But are they it really so great? If you’ve been pressing to bulk up your chest, you’re probably reading this to find out why you’re not getting the results you’re after.
The truth is that presses aren’t the best chest exercise out there. In fact, they’re only a part of a well-planned upper body routine.
A bench press is an exercise where the trainer pushes weight up toward the ceiling while lying flat on his or her back on a bench. It works the following muscles.
- Pectoralis major
- Anterior deltoids
- Latissimus dorsi
- Stabilizing muscles
You can think of the pectoralis major as the biggest muscle in your chest that stretches from the center to the side. Keep that in mind. And you've also got your tris, your front shoulder muscles and your mid-back lats. They’re all key muscle groups that you want to target in your upper body routine when doing either split or full-body workouts, but that isn’t the whole picture.
A bench is often the first thing someone buys when they start to put their home gym together. That makes sense when you consider all the different ways you can use a bench. If you don’t have one, get one.
Changing the width of your grip changes the main focus of the exercise. A wide grip is generally better for working the chest. Narrower grips are best for the shoulders and triceps. The standard shoulder-width grip spreads the benefit out more evenly between all of the muscles involved.
Most of the rest of your body gets in on it as a stabilizing force. Do some heavy presses. You’ll probably notice that even your calves are tense.
Do Bench Presses Work The Back?
If the bench press didn’t work the back, I wouldn’t be calling it an upper body workout. Pressing works mostly the middle and upper back. To see something wonderful, be sure to read up on dips below.
What Is A Dip?
Dips don’t get nearly enough attention. Everyone who does upper-body workouts should be doing dips. You can get dip bars or parallel bars on the cheap, so there’s really no reason not to add them to your routine.
But what good are dips? Here’s which muscles they target.
- Anterior deltoids
- Pectoralis minor, sternal and clavicular
Yeah, you already knew about the tris. The front delts were probably expected too. But notice which pecs are being targeted here. You’re seeing pretty much all of the other chest muscles that aren’t on the bench press list.
One thing I like about dips is how easy it is to add some variations going on. When I lean slightly forward while dipping, I put more focus on my chest muscles. When I lean back, I’m targeting my back. There’s no equipment to change, and there’s no weights to fool with. You can even combine a few different dip variations in the same set.
Can Dips Replace Bench Press?
Here’s another simple question with a complicated answer. Dips can kind of replace the bench press. If you don’t have a bench, you can do dips until you do get one. Put a routine together that includes chest and back dips.
Are Chest Dips Good?
Chest dips work your entire chest, so they are good if you want to target those muscles. Your back muscles act as stabilizers.
Do Bench Dips Work The Chest?
Bench dips do work the chest, but the main focus is the triceps and front shoulder muscles. What do you want to target? Do chest dips for your chest, of course, and lean back for a back dip. That should be easy enough to remember.
Do Dips Make You Stronger?
All dips are great for strength training. That’s true of most body weight exercises, isn’t it? To add muscle bulk, you want to lift heavier weight. The best way to do that with dips is a weighted vest. Ankle weights can’t center the resistance like a good vest can.
Noe you may be considering weighted dips vs bench press. Keep in mind that the extra weight provided by the best doesn’t really change the focus of the workout. It just adds resistance.
Which One Is For You?
The answer to this question depends on what your goals are. Are you isolating one specific muscle group. Or are you planning a big upper body rip?
One or the other will be your pick if you are interested in isolation. Just find your target on one of the above lists, then see how to work it into your routine.
The thing most of us need, however, is a good, well-rounded upper body routine. You’ve probably figured this out by now, but combining dips and bench presses is the best way to strengthen, condition and add mass to your upper body. You can still do some isolation exercises, but you need to get everything else in on it as well.
You will need to work your biceps in too. Curl with a bar of dumbbells or do pull ups. One of these exercises combined with a good variety of dips and presses is all you’ll need.
Work It All In To Your Routine
Most of us will want to get our entire upper body involved. If that’s the case for you, check out how to combine both into a killer upper body shred. The great thing about combining both presses and dips into a workout is how they compliment each other. When you have them both, you need nothing else.
Getting stared from nothing isn’t particularly difficult or expensive either. You’ll need a bench and dip or parallel bars. There are a bunch of benches that have dip stations built in. Adding dip handles to most benches isn’t that hard. That’s a great option in smaller home gyms.
Once you have the equipment you need, all you have to do is make a plan. You can devore one day to presses, another to curls or pull ups and one to presses. That’s half of a weekly upper body workout with a one-day rest if you repeat the cycle every week. Of course, you can do all those exercises every day for some awesome results. But that much in a single day is for more seasoned trainees.
I know how you all love sample workouts, so check out this one I designed for a beginner.
- Monday: Five reps wide-grip presses, five narrow grips and five standard with a one-minute rest between sets
- Tuesday: Three sets of five pull ups with a 30-second rest between sets
- Four reps each of standard, chest, back and bench dops per set with a one-minute rest between sets
- Repeat the cycle for the remainder of the week and take Sunday as a rest day
The problem with that workout is that it isn’t designed for you. But it can work as a starting point for you to build your own workout plan.
The difference between dips and bench presses center around which muscles they work and how they benefit your workout. Both of them together, along with a bi's and tri's exercise, makes a good, dependable upper body workout. The only question remaining is why haven’t you put the two of them together yet.
Are you still stuck on dips vs bench press? What’s your plan look like? Perhaps start with learning how much you can lift in our “how much can I bench press” article. Knowing this will help you start off on the right foot.