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Russian Dips – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

In this article we will discuss an advanced bodyweight dip variation, the Russian dip, which can be used to boost triceps, chest, and shoulder strength, increase muscle-up skill, and promote injury resilience in the shoulders during more advanced gymnastic movements.

Muscles Worked

The Russian dip targets the larger muscle of the upper body, many similar muscle groups to the standard strict, regular dip. Note, that the increased range of motion of the Russian dip will also add some additional stress/loading to the connective tissues within the shoulder joint. While this is beneficial to training and advancement in such movements like muscle-ups (see below), coaches and athletes must be aware that proper joint function, mobility, and recovery from such a complex exercise is necessary.

  • Triceps
  • Pectorals
  • Anterior Shoulder
  • Scapular Stabilizers

Russian Dip Exercise Tutorial

In the below video the Russian dip is demonstrated. Note, that this exercise can be done on parallel bars and/or boxes, which makes it a very easy to set up dip variation (see below benefits).


4 Benefits of the Russian Dip

In the below section we will discuss four (4) benefits of the Russian dip, specifically for gymnastic, calisthenics/bodyweight, and competitive fitness athletes. It is important to note that this a more complex dip movement, and individuals should posses proper joint and connective tissue function, basic bodyweight strength, and the ability to perform strict dips at the deepest position, with a pause.

Triceps Hypertrophy

Like any dip, the triceps and chest are targeted (see muscles targeted above). When performing the Russian dip however, the increased range of motion leads to a greater stretch placed upon the triceps (due to the increased flexion of the elbow joint). Additionally, the triceps must overcome deeper ranges of motion and control for longer periods of time which can stimulate new muscle growth.

Muscle-Up Progression

The muscle-up is a gymnastic and competitive fitness movement the requires total body strength, mobility, and athleticism. Many individuals fail to establish proper control and strength during the turnover phase the muscle-up, which can result in shoulder injury and lack of movement efficiency. The Russian dip can be a great accessory/foundational movement to increase a lifters ability to withstand higher amounts of force during the kipping movement as the transition into the deep portion of the muscle-up.  

Increase Shoulder Function Near End Range

When looking to increase stability and joint function for more athletic based movements, we must be first concerned with an athletes ability to control their end ranges, which are defined by their mobility/flexibility and their neurological control of that end range. Failure to be able to promote muscle force at end ranges can increase the stress placed upon the connective tissues and joints, as they must compensate for the muscles inability to control a movement. This can be very detrimental in sports where the dip/shoulder joint is stressed (such as gymnastics, weightlifting, and competitive fitness), often leading to compensation patterning and overuse injuries (and even more traumatic injuries due to high amounts of force on the shoulder capsule). Increasing control, stability, and strength at the deepest of end ranges can over time better prepare an athlete for more complex movements that require the fullest ranges of motion (muscle-ups).

Ease of Use

While parallel or dip bars may be commonly found in some training facilities, others may lack a study place for athletes to perform dips. In my time exploring various gyms based for more strength, power, and fitness performance (so not globo gyms) I have actually had some difficulty locking down a good place to do some standard dips (other than some adjustable squat racks). Using boxes instead or GHD handle or whatever other bars you can find allows you to individualize the width needed to perform the dip to best suit your shoulder anthropometrics and abilities. Seeing that most functional fitness gyms have plyometric boxes, the Russian drip setup can be easily set up for all levels and body sizes.

More Gymnastic Exercises

Take a look at some of these gymnastic-based movement guides to increase your fitness!

Featured Image: @zuri_ela on Instagram

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Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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