Home gyms are in the ascendant. There are many reasons for this. The inaccessibility of conventional gyms, especially in recent years, combined with the range, quality and relative affordability of home gym equipment combine to account for much of this newfound popularity.
There are a few staples that any home gym should contain. A good piece of cardio equipment, such as a rower or upright cycle, is a must. Weights and other resistance tools – barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands and so on – are another. I would make a strong case for including a power rack and deadlift platform if available, certainly for those who are serious about heavy compound lifting.
However, a lot of resistance can be found from a relatively small amount of equipment, perhaps even bypassing the need for weights entirely. Power towers and the best dip bars can give you everything you need to build a strong upper body and core simply by using your own bodyweight.
Today, we’ll be looking at a range of options, taking in various pieces of bodyweight apparatus from dip bars to parallettes to full power towers – all, in one form or another, a variation on the dip bar. Any one of these pieces of equipment will see you right – you will be able to strengthen and build the muscles of your trunk, back, chest, shoulders and arms, without having to spend thousands on all the fitness gubbins generally seen in any given weights room.
The Benefits of Using Dip Bars
Dips are amongst the best compound moves going for building upper body size, strength and stability. The unique mechanics of the movement will tax your core, your proprioception, and your mind-muscle connections through multiple areas, whilst delivering a level of stimulation guaranteed to elicit hypertrophy.
With this in mind, dips come with a few distinct advantages.
For starters, we need to look at what they are generally used for. Mostly, we are talking about building upper body mass and strength. You can tax your muscles with basic dips, though you will likely plateau. It may not feel like it when you first start out, but one day, hopefully soon, you will be able to perform dozens without fatiguing.
However, you can keep adding weight. Hold a dumbbell between your ankles or invest in a weight belt for dips and a few plates – you can continually progressively overload, bringing constant adaptation and growth.
I love push ups, and they are a great place to start – however, dips are more beneficial in most cases. You push more weight as you start out and can add more resistance as you go than is practical with push ups. They are both closed kinetic chain (CKC) exercises. This means that you will move your body whilst your hands or feet are in a fixed position. The advantage of CKC exercises – of which push ups and dips are a few of the only upper body varieties – is that you will work opposing muscle groups, whilst lifting and lowering, whilst severely taxing supporting and antagonistic muscles, as your body seeks stability.
Dips really do need to form a large part of any resistance regime. Dip bars allow this without taking up too much space – or money! They are generally reasonably priced, largely starting around fifty quid and going up to around one-fifty. They are easy to store, as they are small, light and unobtrusive. They are generally also very versatile – you can do far more on them than simple dips. Most versions will allow you to perform standard calisthenic exercises like L-sits, planche push ups, inverted rows and so forth, all from the comfort of your own living room.
Our Top Dip Bars
So, now you know why you should consider getting yourself a dip bar, let’s take a look at some of the best, most useful, most economically sound options on today’s market.
When it comes to home fitness equipment, the sky really is the limit. You could spend hundreds on a modest home gym. You could spend thousands or even tens of thousands on a more ambitious affair.
This is silly, unless you’re a pro athlete. We want to get you the best exercise going without spending such huge amounts. Everything in the following list comes in at under a couple of hundred pounds, will be chock full of utility, and will give you just about the best torso and core workout going.
Royal Fitness Dip Bar
Royal Fitness’ Dip Bars are pretty heavy duty, with a top weight of around 500 lbs (227 kg – more than most athletes will ever need!) The base adds to a good sense of stability – the bars have wider footprints with rubber feet, giving you a safe, non-slip placement. This also keeps the bars from scratching your floor, which is a must if you don’t have a dedicated training space at home (you don’t want to scuff your living room or kitchen floors!) Finally, the foam grips keep you secure no matter how sweaty you get (trust me, I get sweaty when I train, and I was solid as a rock on these things). They are comfortable and give you the control you want.
They are free standing dip bars, which is generally my preference – they will give you far more options in your exercise selection than fixed options. You can use them admirably for dips, of course. However, you can also use them for things like inverted rows, planche push ups, leg raises, and so on. You can also change up the width for emphasis in different parts of your body.
If you can, and if you don’t mind losing a little stability over fixed options, this is always the way I would go.
Royal Fitness’ Dip Bars are also lightweight and portable, which is one of the key strengths of any dip bar. They stand at 31.6 inches (so about 92 cm) and can still be used by athletes up to around six feet tall. This means they will fit into the boots of most cars and are pretty easy to carry around. They are easy to break down, stack and store in any room, so they should stay fairly unobtrusive in your home.
You will get a one-year warranty on the main frame and a lifetime warranty on other wearing parts.
Vital Gym Parallel Dip Station Bars
Again, we have some good quality dip bars here – perfect for a full range of exercises through your chest, arms, upper and lower back, shoulders and core. You will be able to perform a full gamut of calisthenic staples on these with comfort and, well, not ease… but you know what I mean.
They are lightweight yet stable, made from steel bars with an ergonomic design. They are designed with comfort in mind, have a non-slip base for stability, and have foam grips to keep you secure and stop your palms from bruising.
They are easy to store and travel with, stack well, and generally are good to live with. There is a maximum user weight of around 150 kg – not quite as much as something like the Royal Fitness Dip Bars, but still entirely adequate – and measure in at 80 cm by 71 cm. In fact, they are comparable with Royal Fitness’ offerings in pretty much every meaningful way and will give you decent change from a hundred pounds.
They are well worth the money.
Mirafit Parallel Dip Bars
Mirafit’s Parallel Dip Bars tick all the boxes you want from this kind of kit – they are flexible in use, suitable for most levels of athlete (they will give you a good beginner’s workout, but my goodness they can scale to more advanced movements!) and, at 92.5 cm, are pretty much the perfect height to encompass a full range of training techniques, exercises and styles.
They are made from powder coated steel, come with padded handle grips and keep you stable with non-slip rubber foot caps. Athletes up to 150 kg can use them, so, once again, making them open for all comers – these are very similar in their specs to Vital Gym’s Dip Bars.
As with Vital Gym’s Dip Bars, Mirafit’s version is easy to live with. The bars are lightweight and portable, can be stored away very easily when not in use, and are very quick and straightforward to put together.
Mirafit’s Parallel Dip Bars are a solid choice. They are sturdy, well made, and designed to last. In fact, they were amongst the best bars I used in writing up this list in terms of solidity and stability – which is no small feat in a list with the kinds of options on offer as this one boasts.
Again, very good value for money – for the cost of a couple of months at a mid-rate gym, you will have everything you will ever need for upper body training, all at home.
Gravity Fitness Parallettes
Gravity Fitness have a good reputation in the calisthenics, CrossFit and bodyweight athlete communities. They are sort of a household name – a staple to be relied upon each and every time. It’s no surprise, therefore, to be featuring their parallettes in this list.
This being said, their kit is perfect for absolute beginners. They are very well built, very sturdy, very stable, and will keep you completely safe as you work through some of the more intimidating movements that parallettes can host (I’m looking at you, planchet push ups!) In fact, Gravity Fitness have devoted a lot of R & D to redesigning their parallettes to ensure that they will never wobble. They are so confident in their design that they offer a full refund, no returns necessary, if they wobble even slightly!
All of their parts are developed using class leading precision machinery to ensure consistency and outstanding quality control every time, and the feet come with decent, non-slip, rubber feet. They are suitable for all types of flooring and will ably add to the above sense of stability.
They are a little on the shorter side, at 80 cm – though this is perfectly adequate for most athletes and exercises across the board. They have a top user weight of 20 stone (about 127 kg if my maths is correct). This isn’t spectacular, but it’s OK. Obviously, avoid if you’re on the larger side (or expecting to get there as your muscles swell!)
RAMASS Fitness Tall Parallettes
They call them tall, but RAMASS Fitness’ parallettes are a pretty standard, if not slightly short 80 cm. When they say ‘tall’, this is to differentiate them from short, ground-level parallettes (which we’re not looking at today) – don’t buy them simply because you’re a giant and think these will take you up to the ceiling!
You should buy them, however – or at least consider doing so. They are as sturdy as any offering on this list, with no wobbling throughout even more vigorous movements – in large part down to the well-angled, wide feet, that come with rubber end caps for extra grip, and the cleverly angled straight sections (something to do with manufacture… I’m no engineer!)
The bar diameter is also a shade smaller than you would get on a lot of models. This translates into a more comfortable grip and less stress and strain going into the palms and fingers, allowing you to focus more stimulus into the body parts you’re actually trying to work. I really quite like this feature – it’s a small detail, but it makes a big difference.
It’s made from heavy duty steel. This is good, but standard. It’s easy to assemble, to move around and to store. Again, fantastic stuff, but not remarkable. RAMASS guarantee performance, meaning that they will give you a 100% refund or a full replacement if anything goes wrong in the first decade after your purchase. This is pretty decent.
Overall, it’s an otherwise pretty standard made great by the tiniest of details. But these tiny details matter – it was one of the most pleasant user experiences going as I tried these different products out.
YOLEO Adjustable Dip Bar
Everything thus far has been a group of variations on a theme – a very good theme, executed very, very well – but without too much differentiation in the broader strokes. Let’s change things up a bit with the YOLEO Adjustable Dip Bar.
It does everything you need a set of dip bars to do. It opens up a full range of upper body calisthenic exercises for your training. However, it has a few extras that set it apart from the crowd (without adding too much by way of cost.)
Firstly, the YOLEO Adjustable Dip Bars are designed primarily for stability, with an upper weight limit on par with Royal Fitness’ Dip Bars. The bars are made of heavy-duty steel in a 1.5mm thick tube that is incredibly durable. So far, so standard. The punch comes from the two safety stabilisers that adjoin them at the floor to prevent slip and wobbling.
Now, this is controversial, at least to me. I don’t like it – I prefer separate bars, as mentioned above. However, there is no getting away from the fact that you will have a sturdier frame from combining them. You will be safer and more secure, even if you lose the flexibility of exercise variety.
Secondly, YOLEO Adjustable Dip Bars have fully adjustable height and width. This adds back a degree of versatility and will open you up to optimising bar positioning for yourself. I like this feature a lot.
Other than this, YOLEO Adjustable Dip Bars are simple, well-made, and easy to use. They are perhaps a bit of a gimmick, but if you value the unique features they boast, you will have a great user experience from them.
JX Fitness Power Tower
We’ve mostly been looking at parallette style dip bars so far. However, if you’ve got a bit of cash spare, you have a handy, free corner in your house, and you want something with a great deal of versatility, a power tower may be better for you.
It will give you a fuller range of options, including well supported pull up and chin up variations, the ability to perform hanging movements like leg raises and oblique twists, is far more stable, and will allow for deep, high quality dips without fear of touching the ground. You can also attach bands and cables to the frame for smaller resistance exercises like high rows, curls, push downs and so on.
Power towers are always good options for at-home training. For the sake of getting one and stashing a few resistance bands, the options are almost unlimited. It really does take the idea of a full upper body workout from one piece of equipment to the next level.
The JX Fitness Power Tower is one of the best power towers going. It is heavy duty in its build, with a steel tube H shaped frame base to provide more stability and safety as you train. It has 5 level adjustable height settings, making it perfect for a range of athletes. The back and arm rests – the ‘captain’s chair’ components – are all well-padded and designed to relieve pressure on the spine and elbows.
As I said, if you have the space and money, do consider a power tower.
Amazon Basics Dip Bar
Amazon Basics’ Dip Bar is objectively not the best product on our list. It is basic as hell and is made as one single piece, so loses a lot of functionality. You cannot adjust it for width or angle, you cannot perform certain exercises on it, you have very few options.
However, it is exceptional for the price. For roughly half or even one third of what some of the other dip bars on this list will set you back, you will get a pretty well made set of bars on which you can perform comfortable dips, L-sits and inverted rows in comfort.
Amazon Basics’ Dip Bar has slip-free grips for safety and comfort, as well as foam floor pads to keep you stable and the floor scuff-free. You can also use it with push-up rings or straps for a little variability (these aren’t included, but, at this price, that’s completely fair enough!)
You get a whopping 300 kg max weight capacity thanks to the durable steel from which the Amazon Basics Dip Bar is made, and it stands at nearly a metre tall, making it good for the very largest of athletes. All this, and it is still lightweight and portable (and very easy to put together).
If you like variety and frills, skip this one. However, if you’re looking for something that will do the job with little fuss and barely any impact at all on your wallet, this is the one for you. It suits its place perfectly.
These are some of the best dip bar options available to you, for use at home, largely without having to think too hard about the financial investment involved.
The first four or five products on this list are relatively – though by no means – completely similar. If you want a solid, reliable set of parallettes that are easily stored and towed about, one of these will do you well.
For a bargain, with no frills attached, try Amazon’s Basic Dip Bar. For extra stability (though, in my mind, less versatility) you have the YOLEO Adjustable Dip Bar. Then, for anyone looking to go the extra mile, a captain’s chair or power tower is always nice – JX Fitness’ version is top of the range for the money.