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I’m doing a lot of dips these days – I follow up almost every cardio session with a handful of sets. To keep myself interested I like to mix up my sets, reps and grips to keep – after all GPP days are the ideal place for some variety! Here are my thoughts on the wide vs narrow dips debate…
At a glance…
- Narrower grip focuses on triceps
- Wider grip is more chest biased
- If you are just starting out then a NARROW grip is typically easier on the body
- Wider grips tend to agitate wrists and shoulders in people MORE OFTEN than a normal or narrow grip
- The choice between wide vs narrow dips will depend on your goals, and if your body can tolerate a wider grip
- Top tip: Use a tapered (V-shaped) dip bar to alleviate some wrist strain when dipping!
Wide vs narrow grip: Just think of the bench press…
When bench pressing with a barbell it is fairly common to think of NARROW grip bench press as a tricep focused movement, and a WIDE grip bench press as a chest heavy one.
The same logic applies to dipping – go WIDE to build your chest, but keep it narrow to hit your triceps more…
Wide grip dips are best for chest
Taking a wider-than-shoulder-width grip on your dips bars and performing dips with your elbows slightly flared outwards will emphasise your CHEST when dipping.
This is the same as a simple press up – go WIDE to hit your chest!
To throw even more focus on to your pecs lean forward slightly throughout the range of motion. This is quite easy to do by using your legs as a counterbalance. The slight angle puts more strain on the chest by getting you in to a similar position as a decline-press with the dip bars.
When performing a wide grip dip focus on SQUEEZING your chest muscle as you push upwards, and try and get the sensation of your chest being PULLED apart as you descend.
With this mind-muscle connection (yes – pseudo science alert!) you will really feel the work in the chest over your arms.
The downside to wide grip dips: Possible wrist and shoulder issues
The wider your grip width then the more of an angle your wrist will be. This can cause discomfort for some (of which I am one!)
I combat this by using angled dip bars. As I currently use tall parallettes to dip between I can adjust the angle on the fly. I have found a wider grip with the bars widening away behind me of me (so facing towards the narrow end) allows me to rep out more wide grip dips in comfort than trying with parallel bars.
Secondly I try and dip on days my elbows are otherwise not overly strained – so not after heavy bench or OHP for example – to avoid over straining them. This is partly why I tend to dip on GPP days rather than within my regular training days.
Narrow grip width dips are best for triceps
A narrower dip grip width is used to target triceps. Aim to grip the dip bars just narrower than shoulder width apart and do so with your elbows tucked fairly tight to the side of your body.
While we lean forward to target chest, if you want to push the work on to your triceps keep your body VERTICAL. This puts your chest in at mechanically disadvantaged angle therefore it can’t weigh in and dominate the movement.
For the ultimate pump make sure to SQUEEZE your triceps at the top of the range of motion!
Tricep vs Chest focused: Which is best?
At risk of stating the obvious, this will depend on your goals. If you want additional chest work then a wider grip will work well for you – provided your body can tolerate it.
Wide grips in particular can aggravate wrists and shoulders in many athletes, so tread carefully and RAMP UP SLOWLY in terms of volume.
BEFORE you jump in to the gym and grab the wide bars – cast your eye over your program and critically think about WHY you are dipping… Most of us have MORE THAN ENOUGH chest dominant movements in there, so I wouldn’t rule out the triceps just yet…
If you are not specifically looking for chest then a narrower, more tricep focused dip width is preferable. It is easier on the body, still hits chest a little AND builds awesome arms!
When deciding between wide vs narrow dips it really comes down to what you ant to achieve: if you’re looking to pump up your chest then a wider, chest heavy dip will give you more bang for your buck compared to a tricep dominant, narrow equivalent.
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