In Sweden, we have a discipline called Athletic Fitness, dating back to 1994. You compete in a physique-round followed by a strength-round and finally an endurance-round. In the strength-round you have to do as many repetitions you can in the pull-up and the dip.
In the dip, you need to go deep as a frikkin’ clown, with shoulders way below 90 degrees with your biceps touching you forearms. Idiotic, yes.
Now, in training, this is never a good idea since you greatly increase the risk of injury – even more so if you use a dip belt and attach weights.
To keep your shoulders healthy, stop at 90 degrees (your shoulders in line with your elbow). And if you do go below 90 degrees in a workout, don’t do overhead presses in the same workout unless your shoulders are truly exceptional and healthy. You’ve been warned!
Now, let’s look at some easy ways to make the dip awesome.
As you lower, keep the tension on the triceps by imagining that they’re being loaded like a spring. If you’re going for hypertrophy, stop short of lockout and keep the muscles working hard during the whole set. When tired, you can emphasize the lockout by squeezing your triceps hard at the top for a second or two.
Dips are also great for explosive concentrics and really slow eccentrics. Try to lower yourself for 8 to 10 seconds, preferably wearing some added weight. You can even skip the concentric by stepping in with your feet. Doing some eccentrics only, will build strength fast! However, don’t go overboard with eccentric-only work, it can cut deep into your recovery abilities.
Another great way to quickly build strength is isometric mid-rep pauses. Simply stop and hold yourself at various points along the eccentric range. Start with 5 to 10 seconds just below lockout, halfway down and at 90 degrees. Try to shoot for 30 seconds at each position. That’s 90 seconds for each set, and that’s plenty.