13 Highly Effective Dip Alternatives (With Pictures)

highly effective dip alternatives

As a former bodybuilder, the dip is one of my favorite exercises in building the chest and triceps, however the dip exercise can also place our shoulders in a compromising position. 

This can lead to pain and discomfort down the road, which is why the dip is one of the most common exercises that many aren’t able to perform correctly. 

Regardless of whether or not you can perform the dip exercise, there are many alternatives to choose from, with various types of equipment and functionality that are just as, if not more effective.

The 13 best dip alternatives are:

  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Decline Bench Press
  • Diamond Push Ups
  • Plate Pinch Push
  • Cable Chest Flys
  • Cable Press
  • Iso Lateral Chest Press
  • EZ Bar Bench Press
  • Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press
  • Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Banded Chest Press
  • Dumbbell Push ups

In this article, I’ll cover each of these exercises in great detail, including why they are a great dip alternative, how to do them effectively, and some tips to get the most of these exercises. 

I have included a variety of cable, barbell, machine, bodyweight, and banded exercises that you can take on the road, do at home, or at the gym.

Check out my article on answering if you can Work Out Back And Chest On The Same Day?

What Makes a Good Dip Alternative

A great dip alternative will accomplish one of the following:

  1. Target similar muscle groups as worked with the dip.
  1. Strengthen the pressing ability of the chest and triceps.

Let’s deconstruct these factors a bit more.

Muscles Used In The Dip

The muscles used in the dip are:

  • Pectoralis Major
  • Triceps
  • Anterior Deltoid

During the dip exercise, based on the degree in which you angle your torso, you can target either your triceps or chest differently: 

  • A greater forward lean will target your chest to a greater degree
  • A more upright posture will then target your triceps to a greater degree

This versatility allows for a great range of muscle activation, while being less taxing than other pressing variations.

Takeaway: An effective dip alternative will primarily target the pecs, triceps, and anterior deltoids.

Increase Pressing Ability

During the dip exercise, the pecs stretch to support the load of your bodyweight. During the second half of this exercise, the triceps will shorten to press your body away and into full extension.

I love implementing this exercise to the end of my athlete’s training to supplement their bench press ability

The versatile and non fatiguing nature of the dip exercise allows:

  1. To program high intensity loading with high weight.
  1. Subtle technical changes can be made to focus on either the pecs or the triceps. 

These two key features are a great compliment to building a solid bench press, overhead press, or jerk.

Takeaway: A good dip alternative will enhance our pressing ability and provide good carryover to other powerlifting and weightlifting movements.

Check out my article on How To Increase Your Bench Press Without Benching

Dip Alternatives: 13 Exercises

1. Close Grip Bench Press

the close grip bench press will target the triceps, while improving pressing ability in the bench press

The close grip bench press will target the triceps, while improving pressing ability in the bench press. In conjunction, these two qualities of the close grip bench press make it a good dip substitute.

Due to its narrow hand position, the close grip bench press will increase the range of motion of the bench press. An increase in range of motion will increase the duration, mobility, and challenge of the bench press. 

These qualities combined can make your triceps bulletproof when it comes time to perform a competition bench press, jerk, or an overhead press.

How To Do It

  • As you lay under the bar, make sure your shoulders are slightly in front of the bar to minimize the line of travel after the unrack.
  • Hand placement will be about shoulder width apart, or narrower than conventional grip.
  • Drive the base of your hand through the bar, and then wrap your thumb around it.
  • Use the weight of the bar to drive your shoulders back into the bench.
  • Create additional tension by pulling your traps down and pushing your chest up.
  • After you unrack the bar, bring the bar forward until it is in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Control the bar by rowing it down to your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • At the bottom, drive the weight of the bar away from your torso until elbows are at complete extension.

Pro Tip

Tempo variations help enhance control and time under tension when doing the close grip bench press.

While time under tension can benefit our ability to increase the size of our triceps, control in any exercise allows for greater muscle activation, technical execution, and total weight moved.

2. Decline Bench Press

the decline bench press places us in an angle to target pecs

While the close grip bench press targets the triceps, the decline bench press places us in an angle to target our pecs. Our ability to focus on pecs in this exercise makes the decline bench press a good dip alternative.

The decline bench press would be most similar to a dip variation with a more forward torso angle. If you want to build more mass or stabilization of the pecs, then this would be a superior dip substitute.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise, you will need a decline bench or a complete decline bench press set up.
  • While laying at a 45 degree decline, you will then start with your shoulders directly under the bar.
  • Place your legs firmly under the leg brace to maintain a secure position during the exercise.
  • Drive the base of your hand through the bar, and then wrap your thumb around it.
  • Use the weight of the bar to drive your shoulders back into the bench.
  • Create additional tension by pulling your traps down and pushing your chest up.
  • After you unrack the bar, bring the bar forward until it is in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Control the bar by rowing it down to your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • At the bottom, drive the weight of the bar away from your torso until elbows are at complete extension.

Check out my other article that discusses your elbow position in the bench press

Pro Tip

If you have a massive arch when you bench press, this exercise can mimic and strengthen similar muscles from those that are in that position. 

For this reason, the decline bench press is exceptional at protecting the shoulders and targeting the pecs in isolation.

Check out my full guide on the role of the chest in various pressing movements.

3. Diamond Push Ups

the diamond push up is great for improving pressing mechanics of the triceps

Similar to a more upright dip exercise, the diamond push up is great for improving pressing mechanics of the triceps. As a bodyweight exercise, the diamond pushup requires minimal equipment, this makes it a great at home or on the road dip alternative.

The close hand position requires greater shoulder stability and range of motion when executing this exercise. If you want to build the size of your triceps, then the diamond push can be a valuable dip alternative to implement towards the end of your workout.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise, you will form a diamond with the index and thumb fingers.
  • Hand placement will be on the ground, under your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Lying face down, you will push the ground away from you until your elbows are at complete extension.
  • During the course of this exercise, make sure that your hips don’t drop or shift excessively.

Pro Tip

The diamond push up is a non fatiguing pressing movement that can be done for a lot of sets and reps. 

For this reason, you can implement several “as many reps as possible” sets towards the end of your workout to ensure that you are promoting muscle breakdown with this exercise.

4. Plate Pinch Press

the plate pinch press is an exercise that targets the muscles of the inner chest to a great degree

The plate pinch press is an exercise that targets the muscles of the inner chest to a great degree. This exercise places very minimal loading on the joints of the upper extremities, for this  reason this makes the plate pinch push a great injury safe dip alternative.

One time when I injured my shoulder, I was limited in my options for pressing exercises. The plate pinch push was a fundamental exercise in maintaining the mass and strength of my pecs. This exercise can be done either standing or lying down, this allows you to be versatile in how you implement it into your chest routine.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise you will press two 5 lbs or 10lbs plates together.
  • During the course of this exercise, you will squeeze these plates together as much as possible, while pushing the plates away.
  • When elbows achieve complete extension, you will then bring these plates back to the lower chest/upper abdomen.

Pro Tip

This is another exercise that is non fatiguing. You can incorporate a couple of these for “as many reps as possible” towards the end of your workout routine to increase the blood flow to your pecs. 

5. Cable Chest Flys

cable flys are an extremely effective machine alternative to the dips by targeting the pecs in varying degrees

Cable flys are an extremely effective machine alternative to the dips by targeting the pecs in varying degrees. This exercise places a low stress on your shoulder and elbow joints, which make it extremely accessible to any person wanting to build size in their pecs.

How To Do It

  • You will use two handles and set up the desired weight on the weight stack.
  • For this exercise you will grab one handle at a time, while positioned between these two weight stacks.
  • For the duration of this exercise, maintain an upright posture, with your chest up, and shoulders down and back.
  • You will maintain a slight bend in each elbow, as you create a hugging motion with the two handles in hand.
  • Upon completion of a repetition, you will bring the handles back until they are parallel with your torso and lower chest.

Pro Tip

You can adjust the angle in which you set the cable points in order to target the pecs in different ways.

  • From a low anchor point, you create an incline in which you would target your upper chest.
  • From a mid anchor point, you create a neutral plane in which you would target your mid chest.
  • From a high anchor point, you create a decline in which you would target your lower chest.

6. Cable Press

This exercise effectively targets the pecs and triceps, while placing minimal stress on the shoulders and elbows, which make it another safe dip exercise alternative.

How To Do It

  • You will use two handles and set up the desired weight on the weight stack.
  • For this exercise you will grab one handle at a time, while positioned between these two weight stacks.
  • For the duration of this exercise, maintain an upright posture, with your chest up, and shoulders down and back.
  • You will then press the hands out and in front of you until you achieve complete elbow extension.
  • You will then row the handles back until your handles are next to your lower chest.

Pro Tip

This exercise can be done with an underhand or overhand hand position. This will target the pecs, triceps, and shoulders in varying degrees. 

Additionally, this exercise can be done unilaterally to enhance the range of motion and stress that is placed on an individual side of the pecs. 

If any of these put too much stress on your shoulders, you can find slight changes in the angle to make it pain-free.

7. Iso Lateral Chest Press

The iso-lateral chest press targets similar musculature of the pecs and triceps which make it a great machine dip exercise alternative.

How To Do It

  • Ensure that the seat position places the handles in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Press the handles away until complete extension of the elbows.
  • To complete the reps, control the handles back to the starting position.

Pro Tip

There are incline, decline, and flat iso-lateral hammer strength machines that you can choose from. Depending on which angles you want to work, you can incorporate a variety of these angles into your programming.

This exercise machine can also be done unilaterally as well to change the angle and degree in which the pecs and triceps are activated. Try this one out next time you are at the gym to get a major pump.

8. EZ Bar Bench Press

Depending on the grip that you use with the EZ bar, you can target the triceps or pecs. The EZ bar bench press is a great dip alternative if you are limited in equipment and are looking for variety in your workout routine.

How To Do It

  • Lay down with your back flat on the bench.
  • Grip the center knurlings on each side with each hand.
  • Control the bar towards your lower chest until the bar slightly touches.
  • Push the EZ-bar away until you achieve complete extension of the elbows.

Pro Tip

For the EZ bar bench press, you can change the incline to target the upper or middle of the chest. A higher incline will target the upper chest, while a flat bench will target the middle of the chest.

Placing your grip in the middle part of the EZ bar will allow you to focus on the inner chest and triceps, while a wider grip will allow you to focus on the entirety of the pec muscles.

9. Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press

the neutral grip dumbbell press places less of an emphasis on shoulders, while placing a greater emphasis on inner pecs and triceps

Due to the nature of this exercise, the neutral grip dumbbell press places less of an emphasis on your shoulders, while placing a greater emphasis on your inner pecs and triceps. For this reason, the neutral grip dumbbell press is an effective dip alternative.

How To Do It

  • Grab the dumbbells that you’re going to use for your set, rest the dumbbells on your thighs.
  • As you initiate the set you will kick the dumbbells back into the starting position.
  • Palms will face the midline to assume a neutral hand position for your set duration.
  • Lay down on the bench as if you are going to do a conventional bench press.
  • Bring down the dumbbells until they are inline with the lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Push the dumbbells away from your torso until elbows are at complete extension.

Pro Tip

The closer your arms are to your torso when pressing, the greater the chest activation. If you take your hands in front of you and press them together you will feel your chest activate. 

For this reason, when doing the neutral grip dumbbell press, the closer the dumbbells are together upon lockout, the greater the chest activation.

10. Bench Press

the bench press is a good dip alternative because it's ability to improve pressing strength

The bench press is a good dip alternative because it’s ability to improve pressing strength, while increasing the size of the chest and triceps.

A main goal of many athletes is to improve exercises such as the bench press, the jerk, or overhead press. The bench press is considered fundamental in improving one’s ability to press in any plane of motion.

Strongmen, olympic lifters, powerlifters alike can benefit from incorporating some form of a bench press within their workout routine. A strong bench can improve shoulder mobility and strength, while improving triceps and chest strength/size. 

How To Do It

  • For this exercise, you will need a flat bench or a complete flat bench press set up.
  • Laying on the bench, you will start with your shoulders in front of the bar.
  • Drive the base of your hand through the bar, and then wrap your thumb around it.
  • Use the weight of the bar to drive your shoulders back into the bench.
  • Create additional tension by pulling your traps down and pushing your chest up.
  • After you unrack the bar, bring the bar forward until it is in line with your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Ensure that you are maintaining the five points of contact on the bench for the duration of this exercise: head, shoulders, hips, and feet.
  • Control the bar by rowing it down to your lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • At the bottom, drive the weight of the bar away from your torso until elbows are at complete extension.

I wrote an entire article called Should Your Elbows Be In Or Out In The Bench Press?  So, if you’re unsure where your elbows should be while benching, then give this article a read.  

Pro Tip

The bench press can be done with chains or bands to change the nature and speed of the exercise. Bands will allow you to improve acceleration out of the hole, while chains will allow you to increase your ability to grind out reps.

11. Dumbbell Bench Press

dumbbell bench press allows for greater ranges of motion, which can allow for greater recruitment of the pecs and triceps

Dumbbell bench press allows for greater ranges of motion, which can allow for greater recruitment of the pecs and triceps. Furthermore, this makes the dumbbell press a good dip alternative. 

Dumbbells can allow for greater degrees of freedom, which means that the weights aren’t fixed in one direction of movement. This challenges the stability of the pec, shoulder, and triceps. Greater stability can lead to improved health in the shoulder and pec muscles.

Additionally, the way in which you press the weight can be modified to change the stress that is placed on the shoulder. Compared to fixed dip handles, the dumbbells can be moved in a way in which one would protect the shoulders. 

How To Do It

  • Grab the dumbbells that you’re going to use for your set, rest the dumbbells on your thighs.
  • As you initiate the set you will kick the dumbbells back into the starting position.
  • Palms will face down to assume a pronated hand position for your set duration.
  • Lay down on the bench as if you are going to do a conventional bench press.
  • Bring down the dumbbells until they are inline with the lower chest/upper abdomen.
  • Push the dumbbells away from your torso until elbows are at complete extension.

Pro Tip

Similar to what was mentioned about close grip bench earlier, we can implement tempo and paused reps to improve time under tension and the quality of the dumbbell press.

Getting better at building tension in dumbbell and barbell exercises can allow us to take stress off our shoulders and onto the pecs and triceps. 

12. Banded Chest Press

Banded chest press requires only a band which makes it a great at home and on the road dip alternative.

The banded chest press is non fatiguing which allows us to do higher rep counts to ensure hypertrophy and muscular fatigue.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise, you will hold each opposite end of the band as if they are handles.
  • Either laying down or standing up, you will have the band along your upper/mid back.
  • Either laying down or standing up, you will press the band handles out until you achieve complete elbow extension.
  • You will then control the band handles down till they are inline with the lower chest/upper abdomen.

Pro Tip

The banded chest press can be done in conjunction with a dumbbell bench press to create an accommodating resistance effect. 

You can do this by placing the band behind the back, and in each hand, as you set up for dumbbell press.

13. Dumbbell Push up

dumbbell push up target predominately the triceps, which will improve pressing ability

Rather than doing a regular push up, this changes the nature in which one can descend into a push up. This exercise will target predominately the triceps, which will improve pressing ability. For this reason, this is a great dip substitute.

How To Do It

  • For this exercise, you will grab the handles of two dumbbells either shoulder width apart or a bit wider out.
  • From this position, you will lower yourself until you are almost touching the ground.
  • You will then push the ground away from you until your elbows are at complete extension.
  • During the course of this exercise, make sure that your hips don’t drop or shift excessively.

Pro Tip

One can add a single arm row at the completion of a single rep of the dumbbell push up. 

This exercise is called the “renegade row” which combines pressing and rowing exercises into one.

Other Chest & Tricep Training Resources

You may find the following articles helpful:

Final Thoughts

To conclude, a good dip exercise alternative will target the chest and triceps, while improving one’s ability to press. These exercises can be done with a wide variation of tempos and pauses to target different weaknesses one might have in their ability to bench or push overhead.

Whether it be injury or equipment availability, carefully select each exercise you plan to implement into your program. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with any of the exercises that were mentioned within this article.