If you’ve never done a dip before, the best way to start is with your feet on the ground and your hands on a ledge or bench. Try not to bend your knees or lose your posture as you lower yourself downward. When your elbows get to a 90 degree angle, push yourself back up and repeat.
If phase one is easy for you, try performing dips with your hands on a bench and then put your feet onto another bench. The two benches should be of roughly equal height. Putting your feet up gives you less leverage, which means more work for your muscles.
If you are able to perform more than 20 reps of phase two dips with relative ease then you are ready to try dipping with your legs in the air. Typically this is done by holding onto a pair of parallel bars. A dip station is a pretty standard piece that any gym ought to have. (If your current gym doesn’t have a dip station, you might want to start shopping around for a new gym!)
Most men will be able to progress to phase three relatively quickly. It is generally a much longer process for women, due to the fact that women are born with less natural upper body strength than men. This is not me being sexist, ladies–it’s just biology!
If you are having a hard time with parallel bar dips, one way to practice towards doing them is to have a trainer (or other qualified spotter) give you assistance by holding onto your ankles in order to help you stabilize. Just make sure that your trainer isn’t doing too much of the work for you!
When you start to get really good at these, you can add an additional challenge by wearing a weighted vest or wearing a special belt that you can hang weights from. Dips can also be done with one arm!
Editor’s note: Check out this more recent post for more tricep dip variations.