Bench dips were a staple throughout my entire life – bootcamps, home workouts, military PT, my own
awesome routines that I put together, etc. They were always a dear friend. As much as I enjoyed doing them, I’m sure they played their fair share in my bouts of shoulder pain and impingement.
You see the shoulder is a pretty complex and extremely annoying joint. Whereas most other joints have a fairly limited range of motion the shoulder has a very large and free range of motion. However while other joints are held together through a multitude of tendons, ligaments, bones and muscle, the shoulder is basically free floating and only a few relatively small muscles are keeping things from falling apart.
So let’s look at the bottom position of a bench dip:
Hopefully the first thing you notice are this dudes shoulders. Them delts, amirite??
Looking past the superficial, we see his shoulder is pitched extremely forward; the shoulder is literally being jammed forward out of position. The free range of motion that the shoulder has is also to its detriment; the shoulder is experiencing a lot of strain and stress while it’s in a stretched and very weak position. Even with perfect shoulder function, it’s very easy for the front of the shoulder joint to slide forward which will slide across tendons and ligaments in the area. Over time, this can easily lead to “my shoulder hurts” syndrome.
Even if you do have a perfect body and everything is working 100%, there simply is no reason to do this exercise. The placement of your hands and the position of the body forces the front of your shoulders to do most of the work. If you’re doing these to work your triceps, you’re essentially wasting your time as there are much more effective exercises like rope pushdowns, close grip bench presses or even parallel grip dips. If you’re doing them to work your shoulders, there are much safer exercises to chose from such as incline bench presses, overhead press, a myriad of raise variations and more.
This is all supposing you have excellent shoulder health and function, as well! If you’re a relatively average adult, your shoulders are OK at best meaning not only is this not an effective exercise, but it’s a risky one that offers a shitty return on investment
Skip bench dips if you want to remain pain free and train effectively.