The shoulder joint is intricate and fragile in both
structure and function. It sacrifices stability for mobility, meaning it has
great range of motion to grab things like a cup in the top of the cupboard, but
does not possess a solid foundation like the ball-and-socket hip joint. Everything is packed in there pretty close
together and because of this, there is not much room for error in function due
to its’ structure. Compared to the hip, which is a ball and socket joint, the
shoulder is more like a ball and saucer joint held together by a network of
ligaments and tendons. In fact, the only true attachment the arm has to the
rest of the skeleton is the collarbone, (sternoclavicular joint).
Given all this, it is amazing that anyone would be
willing to compromise this fine-tuned machine and its capsular integrity that
has to perform for a lifetime, by executing any exercise that puts unnecessary
stress on the joint in a weakened, less stable, and hazardous position. Yet,
any given day you can walk into any weight room in the country and see people
literally hoisting weights overhead, out to the side, bent-over, or out to the
front, not respecting the joints’ capabilities and complex, intricate function.
The Tricep Dip is a perfect example of a high-risk, low-benefit exercise where
the shoulder is put into a situation which all of these bad things are going to
How It's Done
traditional Dip is performed on two parallel bars (dip bench) or a bench
with hands spaced about shoulders’ width apart. The exerciser lowers the body
to create a shoulder range and angle somewhere below 45°, and often to 90°
where the upper arm is parallel to the floor. Really, a Dip is just an extreme
version of a Decline Press.
problems with this exercise begin with the load, (torque), increasing while the
shoulder joint is weakening and becoming less stable. In fact, at looking at
the ball of the shoulder (head of the humerus) in relation to the cup of the
shoulder blade (glenoid), at the bottom of the range, you can see that it is
really hanging on by a thread and ready to slide off. Couple this with the
excess strain on the Biceps Tendon, which itself is subjected to normal wear
and tear just due to its placement, and the anterior capsule wear, you have an
exercise that is not worth doing.
Goals Of This Exercise?
Tricep development. Sure, the Triceps are taking the brunt of the work; but at
what cost? There are better options. If you want to build strong and defined
Triceps, do what the muscle was intended to do: extend/straighten the elbow.
Various forms, grips, and attachments of the cable Pressdown and supine (lying)
Tricep extensions with two dumbbells will accomplish your goals.
Anterior portion of the Deltoids, too, are involved, but they are the most
over-worked muscles in the upper body and excessive emphasis can contribute
shoulder internal rotation, rounded shoulders, poor posture, and even more
regular stress on the Biceps Tendon.
development? Even the most
inexperienced exerciser can tell you better choices for Pectoral development.
On High Risk Low Benefit Exercises
In most cases, these exercises have been passed down in
gyms, from generations of weightlifters who haven’t taken the time, (nor have
the ability), to analyze the movement in terms of safety, effectiveness,
biomechanics, and the forces involved. It should be realized that resistance
training is no longer confined to young male bodybuilders looking only to get
as big as possible, but now includes the elderly, female, special populations,
and those of us that just want to be lean, strong, and have healthy joints for
Objective analysis of an exercise is always done from a
mechanical and neural perspective. Many will argue: ‘That’s just your point of
view’ or ‘That’s just semantics’, but in fact, we all have pretty much the same
skeleton on this planet and loading it inappropriately and analysis of the
[detrimental] forces is something no one can argue with.
There are always better options to train the
muscles/movement/joints without compromising the body, risking injury, and
promoting premature degeneration.
-Your Friendly Neighborhood Caveman