How to Do the Triceps Dips Exercise
There aren’t many bodyweight movements that mobilize as much upper-body muscle as the triceps dips exercise. Spanning two joints and four major muscles, classic bar dips are an incredibly simple and effective way to build muscle and strength in your triceps, chest, shoulders, and back — as long as they’re performed safely and correctly.
Here’s how to make sure you do them right.
Triceps Dips Exercise: Step by Step Instructions
- Grab the parallel bars on a dip station and push yourself up into the top position. Your arms should be straight, shoulders down and back, abs engaged, body straight, and ankles crossed.
- Keeping your forearms vertical and your elbows at your sides (not flared), slowly lower yourself under control. Stop when your upper arms are parallel with the floor.
- Pause, then push yourself back up to the starting position.
Safety tip: It’s important not to perform full-range triceps dips if you experience shoulder pain during the movement. The reason to avoid letting your upper arms dip below parallel with the floor is that doing so can cause impingement of the shoulder.
Too hard? Beginners to bar dips can try one of the following modifications:
- Place a box or step under the bars and perform the move on one or both feet.
- Secure a resistance band between the bars and place a knee or two in the loop as you perform the exercise.
Muscles Targeted by the Triceps Dips Exercise
Like any compound exercise, bar dips hit a number of muscles involving movement at multiple joints. This is a principle of functional fitness which, in the case of the triceps dips exercise, works the following muscles.
The muscle on the back of your upper arm, or humerus, comprises two-thirds of its overall mass. During the dips exercise, your triceps straightens your elbow.
Your chest consists of two muscles on either side: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The larger pec major flexes (or raises) your humerus, while the pec minor underneath it draws your shoulders downward during triceps dips.
The muscle that presides above your arm consists of three different heads: the anterior, lateral, and posterior. Your anterior delt activates during the dips exercise, helping to flex your humerus.
Your upper body’s largest muscles flank both sides of your back. When performing bar dips, your lats draw your arms toward your body’s midline.
How Can You Add Weight to Bar Dips?
If you want to increase load during the triceps dips exercise you can strap on a dip belt. Typically, dip belts feature a chain or strap that you can loop through a weight plate. Just make sure you can perform 10 or more bodyweight dips before you start adding to your load.