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Bench dips are one of the most commonly performed exercises in the gym. Given their ease of setup, they are actually a great exercise for home workouts too since you can do them on the back of a couch or chair. The problem is, the bench dip is also one of the most abused and misperformed exercises which can quickly ruin your shoulders if you don’t fix how you’re doing them. In this video, I’m going to show you how to perform a bench dip safely so you can build your muscles without wrecking your shoulders.
The problem with the bench dip starts with the position of your shoulders during the exercise. The two things you want to avoid is letting your shoulders migrate forward as you do them, or upwards as you go down into the rep. Either one of these mistakes will wind up putting your shoulder in a compromising position that could create an impingement on the rotator cuff tendons, bursa or both.
The shoulders tend to protrude forward when doing the bench dip mostly because of the initial positioning of the hands on the bench. If you have your thumbs facing your body, you are automatically internally rotating the shoulder and making it virtually impossible that you’ll be able to perform the exercise properly without risk of injury. To correct this you want to start by rotating your hands outward so that your thumbs are pointing toward the front at the very least if not a little bit more.
From here, you want to consciously make sure that you open your chest and keep your shoulders back rather than letting them lazily fall forward as you start the exercise. This becomes much easier to do when you don’t allow your shoulders to shrug up or collapse on your body as you descend into every rep. Actively depress your shoulder blades and keep your shoulders unshrugged throughout the exercise to ensure that you are keeping the proper position during the bench dip.
When you get both of these correct you will automatically notice two things. The first is that your shoulders feel much better and do not feel any pinching pain or grinding. The second is that you are feeling way more work being done by your triceps than at any time before making these changes. When you make these tweaks you place more of the stress on the working muscles and you wind up getting much more out of the exercise.
Regarding the difficulty of the exercise, the closer your keep your feet during the movement the easier it becomes. If you want more of a challenge, you would keep your feet far away from your body and even progress to performing it on your heels. Beginners might need to keep their feet in close to their body and flat on the floor to make sure they are doing the exercise right. It is far more important to get it right first and then progress the difficulty than the other way around.
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