When it comes to calisthenics exercises, there is a finite list of movements. You can only do so many push-ups before you start to lose your mind.

But you want to see muscle gains, increased strength, and have the ability to do cool things with your body. That’s the goal of calisthenics training, right?

So you need to know various ways to move your body in order to fatigue certain body parts.

One of those ways is called the Russian Dip.

In this article, we’ll go over exactly what Russian dips are, how to do them, the benefits of adding them to your routine, what muscles they work, how to progress from beginner to advanced variations, and how to implement this exercise into your routine.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

What Are Russian Dips?

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Russian dips are a slightly harder variation of traditional dips.

Also known as elbow dips, they involve dipping down to where your forearms are resting on the bars where your hands are. Then you push back up, using part strength and part momentum.

Performed on parallel bars or horizontal platforms, this dip style helps you build even more strength in your triceps, chest, and shoulders.

It’s also a great way to build up other intense movements, like muscle-ups.

How to Do Russian Dips

Here is a step-by-step guide to repping out clean Russian dips:

  1. Start in normal dip position: Hands gripping parallel bars, suspending your body in the air and perpendicular to the ground.
  2. Begin to descend, like a normal dip; bend your elbows and drop your body towards the ground, remaining suspended in the air.
  3. When your elbows get to 90 degrees, continue to descend by bringing your elbows back.
  4. Eventually, you will reach the bottom of your movement: Forearms are completely on the parallel bars, body still suspended and perpendicular to the ground.
  5. To rise back up, go from the bottom to the bottom of a normal dip.
  6. Push back all the way up to the starting position.

It’s essentially a traditional dip with the added descension at the bottom. The extra movement with your elbows works other body parts than if you were to stick with a normal dip. (We will cover the different muscles soon.)

Russian Dip Benefits

The reason why you should implement Russian dips into your fitness routine is that they have a ton of benefits, including:

  • Enhanced hypertrophy: Russian dips increase strength in your entire upper body. This will directly translate to other more taxing exercises, such as chest press, shoulder press, muscle-ups, jerks, handstands, and weighted dips. All of these will result in more muscle gain.
  • Improved control: The extra movement with Russian dips requires insane amounts of control. Rather than simply going up and down in a traditional dip, you need to use strict momentum to launch yourself back up from a low resting position, where your forearms are completely down and you need other body parts to control yourself back up.
  • Added shoulder function: At the bottom of the movement, you should feel a slight strain in your shoulders. They aren’t used to going this far while supporting your entire body weight. Russian dips provide a great way to add shoulder strength and function for all ranges.
  • Muscle-up training: A Russian dip is quite basically the top portion of a muscle-up. Seeing as doing a Russian dip is inherently easier than doing a complete muscle-up, this is fantastic practice for when you need to use it in your muscle-ups. Muscle memory will kick in from all of your Russian dips, making muscle-ups more of a breeze.
  • Help avoid injury: The Russian dip is a popular gymnastics exercise that, like other gymnastics, is tremendous for hardening your muscle tissue, ligaments, and joints. This prevents injuries that take you out of commission long-term.
  • Increased tricep range of motion: This goes deeper than a regular dip. Therefore, your triceps are stretched farther out. When you get to the bottom, your triceps are as fully extended as possible. During the upward part of the movement, your triceps begin to contract from farther out, which increases strength in the overall muscle, not just the middle. Your tendons and ligaments will be strengthened as well as the triceps muscle.

These are only a few of the awesome benefits adding a simple hack to your dips can give you.

Russian Dips Muscles Worked

This particular version of the dip works many muscles:

  • Triceps
  • Pectorals
  • Shoulder (especially the anterior)
  • Scapular stabilizers
  • Various joints, tendons, and ligaments
  • Core (when leaning back in the bottom hold)
  • LATs (also when leaning back, almost in a front lever raise way)

Because this single workout can target so many body parts, it’s definitely worth adding Russian dips in your next workout.

Russian Dips Progression

As far as going from beginner to advanced, doing a full Russian dip on the parallel bars is considered the advanced version.

If you aren’t quite there yet, there are ways to progress.

You can start by either using your toes on the ground to assist with body weight, or do true assisted Russian dips (more on this in the next section).

You can also do negatives, where you lower yourself like a normal Russian dip, then use your feet to jump up from the bottom to give yourself a boost.

Once you feel like you have this easier progression down, you can start attempting full Russian dips.

To make this even harder – ‘cause we know you want to – place your feet out in front of your for a full-body L-sit Russian dip.

Assisted Russian Dips

russian dip

For the best way to do assisted Russian dips, you’ll want a resistance band.

Place the resistance band underneath your torso, grabbing the ends with your hands as they also grab the parallel bars.

That way, when you “sit down,” it looks like you’re sitting on a swing hanging from the parallel bars at your hands.

To do assisted Russian dips, follow the same instructions for regular Russian dips.

The only difference will be that your body will be supported by the resistance band under your upper legs.

At the top of the movement, the resistance band will go slack and not support you, so you still get a full triceps contraction.

This is a brilliant strategy because you can use different resistance band strengths.

Start with a band that supports a ton, then consistently lower the resistance until you can do a Russian dip without the band.

(For more of a challenge when you get to this point, try putting the resistance band over your shoulders, still held by your hands at the bars or add weight with a belt. This adds to your body weight. You’re welcome.)

Implementing Russian Dips Into Training

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Putting Russian dips somewhere in your calisthenics training is fairly simple. If you already do dips – which should be the case – just swap them out for Russian dips.

If not, add them to your push workout or chest/shoulder/tricep day.

These are meant to target the majority of your push muscles, so supplementing exercises like bench press and shoulder press with Russian dips is an awesome way of fatiguing those push muscles.

Truthfully, Russian dips can also be the focal point of your workout.

You can start with weighted or regular Russian dips, followed by flat barbell bench press, dumbbell lateral raises, and tricep rope pulls.

This workout (3-4 sets each of 8-15 reps) would definitely hit your push muscles hard and develop new muscle growth.

Conclusion

All in all, Russian dips are an amazing workout for your entire upper body.

Basically a souped up version of a traditional dip and the close cousin to the top of a muscle-up, Russian dips can’t be beat.

They increase hypertrophy, add to your overall flexibility and range of motion, help with muscle-up training, and helps you stay clear of injury.

If you can’t do them yet, don’t worry; work your way up to a full Russian dip.

Once you can rep out clean Russian dips for a few sets and 8-15 reps, your triceps, shoulders, and chest will show incredible results.

Use resistance bands for either decreasing or increasing the load, and implement them into your regular workout routine for maximum growth.

Your physique will thank you.