This is the question we posed in our poll last week. It must have struck a nerve as it was the largest number of votes we have had yet!
What were the options? Barbell Squats, Step-ups, Bench Dips, Chin-ups, Bicep Curls. A majority of you 52.9% chose leg extensions as the worst exercise on the list and something you should never do, with 29.4% citing bench dips, and 17.6% checked off bicep curls.
And the answer is…… (according to me)……bench dips.
I know many of you chose leg extension and my guess is because you know my aversion to machine based exercise, in particular, muscle isolation machine based exercise. And I am very glad to know that you are all (well most of you) getting that message.
The truth of the matter, however is that bench dips are the absolute top of my list for exercises that should not be done. They just don’t make any sense.
First they are usually incorporated in a program to isolate your triceps. Isolate your triceps? Why do you want to do that? So your arms get huge and jacked? Try pushups, bench press, all the versions you can come up with of those exercises and then add some military presses and hand stands. Trust me; your triceps will get well abused. Your triceps are a secondary muscle, they are designed to help your chest and shoulders push things. Use them for that.
Secondly, they put your shoulder into a very bad position anatomically. I am not going to get into the details of it all but for the purpose of this post just think about it like this. At the bottom of the bench dip your humorous is pushing out of your glenoid fossa (the top of your arm is pushing out of your shoulder) and the muscles that are designed to rotate and stabilize this area are instead trying to keep it together. To keep it in place. Doesn’t sound that good does it? That’s because it isn’t.
In addition to this you limit the ability of your lats and rhomboids (big muscles in your back that stabilize the shoulder) to do their job. They simply cannot keep your shoulder supported in the position the shoulder is placed in at the bottom of a bench dip.
I look at exercises from a reward vs. risk ratio. Split squats – high reward, very low risk, great exercise. Step-ups – high reward, very low risk, great exercise. Push-ups – high reward, minimal risk, great exercise. Bench dips – low reward, high risk, not a great exercise. Simple.
To date, I have never been present a viable argument for including bench dips in a program.
If you really must isolate your triceps because you are old school and think this is the best way to blow up your pipes or decrease your waving arm flab there are other compound exercises that have a much lower injury risk than the bench dip with equal ability to isolate and train the triceps.
Get rid of bench dips. And yes, leg extensions are dumb to. Really, they are really, really dumb. Really dumb. Who ever thought they were a good idea? Bicep curls? No need! Do chin-ups. Those are too hard you say. Well, that’s my point. Do the harder version. You will get better results.