10 Most Common Bodyweight Dip Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)
Calisthenics Academy
December 19, 2020

10 min read

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Doing dips is a great way to strengthen your arms, shoulders, and chest. However, many people make common mistakes that can lead to injuries. In this blog post, we will discuss the ten most common bodyweight dip mistakes and how to fix them!


😱Why do you need to perform good form?

If you want to stay safe and avoid injuries, it is important to maintain good form while doing dips. Poor form can lead to a number of injuries, including strains, impingement, and fractures.

Additionally, poor form can make dips less effective in terms of muscle growth and strength gains.

Learn the proper dipping technique here: 📍How to Do Bodyweight Dips

However, it’s worth mentioning that you need to balance the proper technique and exert good effort in your workout.

Mistakes common come from three things:👇

  • ❌Lack of awareness of the proper technique
  • ❌Presence of weaknesses
  • ❌& “ego lifting” or forcing yourself to do something too difficult for you

But form breakdown is inevitable if you’re training hard. So managing your training intensity by avoiding these mistakes below can help you push hard while keeping your body safe from injuries.

Read more: 📍Is Perfect Form Necessary?


✨10 Most Common Bodyweight Dip Mistakes

✊Too Much Too Soon

One of the most common mistakes people make, regardless if they’re a beginner or advanced, is doing too much too soon. This simply means doing dips or a dip progression when you’re body is not yet prepared to do it.

This mistake manifest in many ways.

Not warming up

You can take this “too much too soon” very literally. If you jump right into your dips without a proper warm-up, you can end up injured or not be able to maximize your gains from your workout.

Warming up is important because it helps prepare your body for strenuous activity to come. A proper warm-up will increase your heart rate, blood flow, and body temperature. It will also help lubricate your joints and muscles.

Learn more about how to do a proper warm-up for your dips and calisthenics here: Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics Warm-up

Not mastering the basic progressions

For beginners, progressing towards a dip progression that’s too challenging often results in many technique breakdowns that end up in injuries.

If you’re not strong enough to perform a regular push-up on the floor, then you’re probably not strong enough to perform the full range of motion of dips.

Just to give you an idea, research shows that you push around 65-73% of your body weight when performing push-ups. But in dips, you’re going to push almost your full body weight.

For those who can’t perform the dips with good technique and form, regress to easier progressions to gradually build strength, technique, and mobility for the exercise. It’s much safer and more efficient this instead of forcing your body to perform an exercise you’re clearly not prepared for.

Not staying long enough in the basic bodyweight dip

For more experienced athletes, progressing towards harder variations such as the ring dips or weighted dips is the key to making more gains.

It’s so easy to overestimate your strength once you’ve been performing some good sets of bodyweight dips. However, make sure that you have already spent a really good amount of time with dips.

Aim to reach at least 3 sets of 15 high-quality reps of dips.

Only then you should proceed to harder dip variation. It might feel boring, but the basics will always serve your needs.

And even after performing the harder variations, you can still implement the easier ones for higher rep ranges to generate more training volume.

Don’t underestimate them!

✊Incomplete Range of Motion

Another common mistake people make when doing dips is not having a full range of motion.

Many people think that as long as they lower themselves down is enough and they’ve done the exercise correctly. You need to lower until the elbows are at least at a 90-degree angle. If you can go lower, the better. If you’re not going lower at least 90 degrees, then you’re not reaping the most from the exercise.

Another case of an incomplete range of motion is only doing the bottom half to complete quarter reps. From the bottom of your dip, push back up to the starting position.

So the complete motion is as follows: from starting position -> Lower down to AT LEAST 90-degree bend in elbows -> then push back up to starting position

Completing the range of motion maximizes your upper body engagement so you can build strength and muscle efficiently.

✊Incorrect Elbow Position

There are two ways that can go wrong with your elbow positioning when performing dips.

Flaring elbows

Flaring elbows during the dip is a recipe for disaster. It increases your chance of getting rotator cuff tears and other elbow injuries.

When dipping, keep the elbows close to your body that is comfortable for you. This may require you to go slightly lighter at first if you’re used to flare your elbows out when doing dips.

But it’s better to lighten the load and perform the exercise with good technique than risk an injury by using too much weight.

Let’s be clear that we’re talking about excessive flaring of elbows on regular dips. If there’s slight flaring, but the movement doesn’t give you any shoulder or elbow pain, then opt for that elbow position.

The advanced dip variation, Bulgarian ring dip, is an excellent example of an exercise that requires some elbow flaring but still works to build strength and muscle while minimizing the risk of injury.

Choose the best elbow position that works for you.

Not locking out the Elbows

Going back to the starting position, let’s talk about the support hold.

A common myth is that locking out your elbows at the top position can potentially injure your shoulder and elbow joints.

This is a complete BUST!

If that’s the case, then why are gymnasts so strong when performing straight-arm exercises such as ring dips and planche and levers?

The straight arm position does not damage your elbow joints. In fact, it’s the other way around. The position develops your elbows and shoulder to be stronger by training your biceps and shoulder muscles.

This makes dips fantastic for building the general strength foundation for many advanced skills such as the ones mentioned above. Build stronger elbows with a complete lockout at the top. That’s when you only count one rep.

✊Inconsistent Technique

When we get tired, it’s easy to lose form. However, we must choose the correct progression so we can continue to dish out repetitions with good form until we reach a decent amount of working sets to build muscle and strength.

If you’re someone who’s doing the good form for only 2 to 3 reps, then proceeds to do an incomplete range of motion, or flaring of elbows in the next reps, stop the progression that you’re currently doing and regress to an easier one.

The consistent technique allows for maximum gains throughout your sets.

✊Using Momentum

The kipping motion is commonly known and used in the CrossFit world. It’s usually a strict no-no in bodyweight training.

The kipping dip is where people use the momentum generated from the lower body to swing themselves up and over the bar. The problem with this is that it takes away the tension from your muscles that you need to develop strength.

It also increases your chances of getting injured because you’re not using your muscles to control the movement. The only time you should be kipping is when you’re training dynamic elements for gymnastics or street calisthenics.

Engage your muscles and only use your upper body to facilitate the movement of the dips.

✊Not Choosing the Grip Technique

The common advice is to use a shoulder-width grip when performing dips. However, the better advice is to choose the grip width that works for your body anthropometry.

Each of us is different with different limb lengths and muscle insertions, etc. The grip technique is influenced by these factors which make is also different for each person.

Begin with a shoulder-width technique with one rep then experiment by trying out a slightly narrower or wider grip technique. Use a light progression for you when performing this trial dip.

Choose where you feel comfortable and the strongest so you can maximize your efforts on your dips safely. Don’t rely on anyone claiming to know what the best grip is.

Uncontrolled Movement

When you perform the eccentric phase of the dips (when you’re going down), make sure you’re still actively using your muscles to slow down the descent. Don’t let gravity pull you down easily. This can negatively impact your joints that can cause injuries.

Instead, engage your muscles and control the whole movement. Doing so not only reduces the risk of injuries but also improves your strength and muscle gains with the exercise.

✊Incorrect Scapula Position

The scapula is the shoulder blade. And in the dip position, we want to make sure that it’s retracted and depressed.

Read more here: 📍What is the Scapula

What this means is that your shoulders should be packed down and back.

Scapula depression: pushing your shoulder down and away from your ears

Scapula retraction: pinching your shoulder blades together as if squeezing a pencil between them

This creates a stable platform for your shoulder joint to work on.

If your scapula isn’t positioned correctly, you’re putting unnecessary stress on your 📍rotator cuff muscles and joints which can lead to injuries.

So make sure that before you start your dips, set your scapula in the right position. And throughout the whole movement, keep it there.

✊Not Progressing

The dip is a progressive exercise. What this means is that we must choose the correct progression so we can continue to dish out repetitions with good form until we reach a decent amount of working sets to build muscle and strength.

If you’re someone who’s doing the good form but not inducing progressive overload, then you’re going to end up frustrated with minimal progress.

Aim to add at least 1 additional repetition in each session with dips. We say aim because it’s only natural to feel weak one day, and strong the next. You have other responsibilities other than your workout and that’s ok.

That’s why we highly recommend training with 📍auto-regulation. This means that you listen to your body and let it dictate the number of repetitions you do for that day.

If you feel good, then add another set or repetition. And if not, then don’t push it and just stay where you are. The key here is not to get injured so we can continue training hard in the future.

If you’re interested in training with auto-regulation through a PERSONALISED & ADAPTIVE approach, then try out our free assessment to first know what your body is capable of.


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Training Through Pain

Pain is a sign that something isn’t right.

And when you’re dipping, if you feel any pain in your shoulder or elbow joints, then stop immediately.

We get it. No pain No gain. We know you guys are hungry individuals who love to progress and reach the best versions of yourselves.

However, this old cliche is taken out of context. You’re not supposed to experience pain when working out.

Calisthenics is a natural movement and can be used to treat injuries. Dips can build muscle, strength, and mobility, and also assist in rehabilitation. BUT issues can also manifest if you’re doing the mistakes we have enlisted above.

There are three pain points that usually flare up when mistakes are made:

Chest Pains😢

The first common issue is chain pain. This comes from the pectoralis major, the largest muscle in the chest. The pec is responsible for horizontal shoulder adduction (pulling your arm across your body) and medial rotation (rotating your arm inward).

When this muscle gets overloaded from either too much weight or incorrect form, it can cause pain in the middle of your chest.

Correct scapula positioning is crucial to avoid chest pains. So remember to depress and retract. Always prepare your shoulder positioning before performing the dips.

Elbow Pains😢

The second common issue is elbow pain, which comes from the triceps brachii. The triceps are responsible for extending your arm at the elbow joint.

Incorrect elbow positioning such as flaring them out to the sides puts unnecessary stress on the triceps, which can lead to pain in the back of your elbow or upper arm.

To avoid this, keep your elbows close to your body and tuck them around at a 45-degree angle. This will take the pressure off of your triceps and transfer it to your chest and shoulders where it should be.

Shoulder Pains😢

The last common issue is shoulder pain, which comes from the rotator cuff muscles and joints. The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint.

If these muscles are weak or imbalanced, they can cause pain in the front, back, or side of your shoulder.

🔥How to Address Aches & Pains

If you are currently experiencing any of the pains mentioned above, don’t worry. We have a few tips on how to address them so you can get back to training:

Rest: Take a few days off from dipping to let your body recover. During this time, you can focus on other exercises that don’t put as much stress on your shoulders and elbows such as push-ups and pull-ups.

Don’t fully rest from doing any exercise. Keep moving. But choose your movements wisely.

Consult:  Get a consultation from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, or certified strength and conditioning coach. They will be able to assess your situation and give you specific exercises to help address your pain.

Manage: Pain is inevitable. But it doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through it. Use pain management techniques such as icing, heat therapy, and pain medication.

However, keep in mind that these pain management methods are for only temporary relief. You need to directly address the issue by fixing your form, technique and corrected exercises.

Injury Prevention is the Key

The best way to avoid these pains is by preventing them in the first place. And the best way to do that is by using proper form and technique when performing dips.

Read more: 📍How to Avoid Injuries When Training With Calisthenics



Even if considered a calisthenics basic, the dip is a challenging exercise. It takes time and consistency to build up enough strength to do them.

Train smartly by avoiding these mistakes.

Dips are part of the calisthenics fundamental. If you want to build muscle and strength with calisthenics.


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