Why are dips harder than push ups?
It might seem silly to state, but dips and push ups are two different movements and therefore we shouldn’t be surprised if one is more challenging than another! We might think of dips and push ups as synonymous in the sense they both work our pressers (chest, shoulders, triceps) and are bodyweight exercises, but how they work and what is lifted in regards to our body differ.
The simplest answer for why dips are harder than push ups is that a dip requires you to lift your entire body weight during the exercise, through a larger range of motion. Meanwhile, a push-up only requires you to lift about 60% of your total body weight, and the distance your body has to travel isn’t as far.
The angle of these two movements also differs, which can explain the differing levels of difficulty as well. When we shift or modify our body’s positioning, the muscle groups used and the movement patterns demanded also shift, and therefore we shouldn’t expect the difficulty to be the same. In a rough analogy, when we back squat and when we front squat, the bar’s placement and our hands/arms placement change, and therefore what is demanded of our movement pattern, midline, back, shoulders and legs also changes, which is why most people can back squat more than they can front squat.
When we add complexity, like doing dips from a moving apparatus like the gymnastic rings, they only become more challenging, as now your body is having to control a moving piece of equipment, while also engaging in a larger distance to travel with the full bodyweight being supported.
Both movements are excellent for developing strength and physical appearance!