Chest Dip Alternatives: 10 Exercises For Building Chests

Dips build mass in the upper body and strengthen those muscles using your body weight. They’re an incredibly powerful exercise for any fitness level, so much so that many gyms offer dip machines that aid with balance and proper form.

If your gym doesn’t offer a dip machine, however, or if you’d like to work out your arms and chest in your home gym instead, there are substitutions. You might decide to perform similar but different exercises or add a freestanding commercial dip station to your garage gym.

In this guide, you’ll learn the benefits of regular chest dips, 10 highly effective alternatives, and how to safely perform chest dips, so you don't injure or strain yourself during a workout.

Chest dips allow you to target your chest and triceps very precisely compared to other exercises. To perform a chest dip, you lower (dip) yourself between two parallel bars or the handles of a dip station. Variations with benches or chairs are also an option.

Some people secure extra weight to their bodies, increasing the exercise's effectiveness and providing a greater challenge. Others prefer their own weight and nothing else. If you are new to dips, start with your own weight and increase your reps, rather than rushing to add extra weight. This can cause improper form and injury.

On a dip machine, the principle is similar, but you sit or kneel on a bench instead. The machine can be adjusted so that you lift more or less of your own body weight, as is appropriate for your preference and fitness level.

Anyone looking to build more upper body strength will benefit from chest dips, whether you aim to build mass and sculpt your muscles significantly or increase your strength overall.


What Muscles Do Chest Dip Exercises Work?

  • Triceps Brachii 
    These muscles run down the back of your upper arm’s longest bone, and toning them can fix the “flabby arms” look many people struggle with. Beyond aesthetics, however, these muscles also assist in stabilizing the elbow and shoulder
  • Pectoralis
    Both the pectoralis major and minor muscle groups are targeted during chest dip exercises. Strengthening these can dramatically sculpt the chest and improve forward arm rotation.
  • Rhomboids 
    The rhomboids, located in the upper back, assist in pulling your shoulder blades together and stabilizing the shoulders. If your shoulders are prone to pops or pain, or if you frequently get “knots” in the upper back, chest dips can help by targeting the rhomboids.
  • Levator Scapulae 
    Although considered an upper back muscle, the levator scapulae runs from the shoulders to the neck. Tightness or weakness in this area can result in shoulder blade or neck pain and may even cause frequent headaches.
  • Latissimus Dorsi 
    As one of the largest back muscles, the latissimus dorsi is what allows us to move our shoulders away from the body. It also accommodates the spine so that we can reach overhead for things out of our normal reach.
  • Teres Major 
    Another shoulder muscle, the teres major assists other muscles in providing a wider and stabilized range of motion in the arms. It allows us to extend our arm even while it’s flexed, which is why chest dips are so great at activating it.
Man Bending Over Showing Arm Muscles

10 Alternatives to Chest Dips Exercises

If you can’t do chest dips due to a lack of equipment or certain physical limitations, there are alternative dip exercises that will give you identical or similar benefits.

1. Decline Bench Press

To target the lower pectoral muscles, try this inverted version of a typical bench press. It decreases strain on your shoulders and back while transferring that extra effort to the lower chest. A spotter is recommended for this exercise.

Set your bench at an incline of about 30 degrees, so that your head will be near the floor with your legs elevated. If you need a less severe slope, adjust until you’re comfortable.

With feet secured and the barbell overhead at eye level, reach up and grip the bar. Your hands should be just beyond your shoulder width, palms out.

Lift the bar, keeping elbows locked, and slowly lower the bar to your chest with your elbows now angled away from the body at 45-degree angles.

Slowly lift again, once more locking elbows. Repeat.

Decline Bench Press

2. One Arm Rows

This chest dip alternative targets your latissimus dorsi muscles and other areas of the back, one side at a time.

Lean on a bench with one leg and the corresponding hand. With your free hand, hold a dumbbell with your palm inward and your arm extended downward.

Your back should be straight while you are bent at the waist.

Lift the weight to your chest. Take care to use your back and shoulder for this instead of relying too heavily on your arm muscles.

Slowly return to starting position, then repeat.

Single Arm Row

3. Pec Flys

Also known as a dumbbell chest fly, this exercise targets the pectoralis muscles and can quickly add strength and definition to the upper chest.

On a flat bench, lie down facing the ceiling. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. You can begin with the weights resting on your upper thighs, palms in, and use your legs to help lift the weights directly over your chest. Your arms should be extended upward completely, but without locked elbows (keep them bent just a bit).

Slowly lower your arms out to either side, stopping at your shoulder level.

Bring the weights back up over your chest, but rely more on your chest muscles than the arms. At the top, focus on squeezing the pectoralis muscles together briefly, then release.

 Lower the dumbbells out to the side again and repeat the exercise
Dumbbell Chest Fly

4. Push Up

This classic move may not be too exciting, but its simplicity is exactly how it became a staple in the fitness world. Your pecs, several shoulder muscles, and triceps all see significant activity during push-ups, and the stabilizers in your back and core get a boost, as well.

Assume a plank position: palms on the floor (you can use a mat for comfort) with your hands under your shoulders and your legs straight behind you. Make sure your core is engaged so that you maintain proper form during the exercise.

Slowly lower your chest towards the floor. Do not lie down, bend or curve the back, or lower your knees to the mat.

Raise yourself back up.

Repeat. 

Man Doing Push Ups In Gym

5. Close Grip Bench Press

As its name implies, this bench press requires a narrower grip on the barbell than you might normally use. By shifting your hands closer together, you work out your triceps more heavily than the pectoralis muscles. A spotter is recommended for the chest dip alternative.

Lie down on a flat bench, facing the ceiling, and grip the barbell with hands at shoulder width or a little bit closer.

Lift the bar, keeping your core engaged and shoulders together.

Lower the bar slowly, and then repeat.

View chest press machines here

Close Grip Bench Press

6. Parallel Bar Dip

Unlike a dip performed against a bench or chair, this exercise allows for better form because you can dip your bodyweight down versus backward. You can perform these on a dip machine or a set of gymnastics bars, or purchase a set of dip bars for home use

Stand between the bars. Adjust the bars to your height or, if the bars are stationary, use a riser so that you can comfortably lift and lower yourself.

Grip a bar in each hand and lift yourself up, with your arms fully extended and elbows locked. Your neck and spine should be aligned.

Slowly lower your body, bending the elbows, until you feel a pull or stretching sensation in the chest. Your elbows will be at about 90-degree angles.

Slowly push yourself back up, activating the triceps once you reach the top.

Repeat.

Parallel Bar Dip

7. Cable Machine Tricep Pushdown

This exercise targets the triceps, so it’s especially effective at defining the upper arms. The machine can be swapped for a resistance band wrapped around a secure object.

Facing a cable machine with the bar at your chest, grab it with your palms facing downward, hands shoulder-width, and brace your abdominals.

Push the bar down, bringing it toward your hips with your elbows close to your body until your arms are extended completely. Slowly bring the bar back to the starting position. Repeat.

Also see - Cable Crossover Machine Reviews

Cable Machine Tricep Pushdown

8. Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks

To target the triceps more effectively than a bicep curl, try a dumbbell kickback. It’s simple enough for beginners, yet so adaptable any fitness level can adjust the weight or reps and see a good challenge.

With your knees bent and feet close together, hold a dumbbell in each hand and lean forward a bit, back straight.

Bend your elbows, lining up the upper arms with the back so that your biceps point towards the floor.

Lift the dumbbells backward, straightening the arm without moving your tricep. Focus on moving only your elbow, as this motion engages the tricep despite it remaining motionless.

Slowly bring the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat.

Triceps Dumbbell Kickback

9. Dumbbell Hex Press

A hex press targets the chest while reducing strain in the shoulder area compared to other press exercises. Lie down on a flat bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand, with palms facing inward.

Lift and press the dumbbells together over your chest. While maintaining that contact, slowly bring the dumbbells to your chest. Your arms should create a sort of triangle shape while you do this.

Dumbbell Hex Press

At your chest, pause for a bit and then lift the weights again, squeezing your pectorals once your arms are back overhead. Relax and repeat.

10. Ring Or Straps Chest Press

Also known as a suspended chest press, this exercise mimics the motions of a chest dip or parallel bar dip.

Besides the shoulders and chest, it also targets your core heavily.

Grab the handles of your straps with the anchor point behind you. Keep arms straight and the handles at your shoulders. 

TRX Chest Press

Lower yourself slowly until your chest meets your hands, as though doing a push-up. Be sure to keep your elbows level with the shoulders.

Raise yourself back up by squeezing your arms together. Repeat.

View our top strap options here


How to Safely Perform these Exercises (Beginners Guide)

If you don’t have access to a dip machine, you can still perform chest dips using various everyday items.

The key is to maintain proper form so the exercise is effective, and so you don’t injure yourself. 

Consider using dip belts to add extra weight where needed.

Chairs/Stools

Chair exercises are great for home workouts. There are two main ways to use chairs or stools for chest dips. You can use one chair behind yourself, or two on either side (mimicking parallel bars). 

Before you begin, make sure the chair is stable and capable of supporting not only your weight but the intended movement as well. Some chairs may slide or tip when weight is distributed to a certain point versus the entire seat.

To use one chair, stand in front of it and bend down, then plant your palms on the seat while your legs are straight out in front. Alternatively, you can bend your knees as if sitting. Slowly lower yourself, then raise yourself again. Repeat.

If using two chairs, you can either perform the same exercise as above, but with your feet on the second chair (dipping yourself between the two seats), or use the backs or seats of the chairs as parallel bars, with one hand on each.

Kitchen Counters

Face the corner where two kitchen countertops meet, one hand on each side. Lift yourself up, then slowly lower yourself back down. You can also do chest dips against a straight section of countertop for more of a challenge.

Back Of The Couch

If the back of your couch isn’t too broad, you can grip it and more effectively lower yourself into dips than when using countertops or other flat surfaces.

Playground Bars

Several playgrounds have parallel bars installed, along with monkey bars or other play structures you might be able to use for dips. What’s more, they should be able to withstand adult bodyweight better than home playground structures.

Several public parks offer interactive trails. These walking and hiking trails have exercise stations intermittently along the path, where you can find bars and benches to perform dips during a walking or running routine.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can I do chest dips or alternative exercises every day?

It’s better to give yourself rest days between the same muscle group, so try every other day for chest dips at most. When it comes to alternative exercises, however, you can choose to rotate them so that you’re focusing more on your chest one day, your triceps the next, etc.

Are dips and push ups enough for the chest?

Yes: with proper form and consistent implementations, dips and push-ups alone can sculpt the chest muscles for a noticeable change in appearance and strength. Keep in mind that you’ll need to increase your weight or reps (or both) to see continual progress, after a point.

Do dips build the upper chest?

Dips are effective exercises to build muscle strength and mass in the chest overall, but no: they do not specifically target all the upper chest muscles, such as the clavicular head.

How do you target your upper chest?

You’ll want to do exercises that engage the clavicular head muscle, located below your clavicle bones, as well as the pectoralis muscle group. Facing outward from the dip machine and leaning forward a bit while performing chest dips can help engage these muscles more directly.

If you’re up for the challenge, you might consider adding upper chest dips to your routine. These involve holding two dumbbells on the floor for stability, walking your feet up a wall or other stable, broad surface behind you, and then performing a dip.

You can also try decline push-ups. These exercises mimic traditional push-ups, but your feet are elevated—ideally, at a height that’s level to your shoulders when your arms are extended. This means your back will be parallel to the ground at the top of a push-up, then slanted downward (towards your head) when you are at the bottom.


Conclusion

To quickly and efficiently build muscle in the upper body and upper arms, you can perform chest dips on a dip machine, parallel bars, home dip bars, or even household items like chairs or couches. Additionally, alternative exercises with dumbbells or resistance bands can target the same muscle groups.

When performing chest dips, proper form is a must. This ensures all the target muscles get a safe and effective workout while reducing your risk of strain or injury.