Tricep Dips – How To, Benefits, And Variations That Can Build Upper Arms

Learn all about tricep dips, how to do it, mistakes to avoid, and variations to help build, tone, and strengthen your upper arms.

woman doing dips exercise

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Triceps Dips – A simple but effective exercise to build arm strength and mass

Tricep dips are strength training exercises that target the triceps brachii in the upper arms. The movement also engages the shoulders and chest to a lesser degree.

Triceps dips are some of the best bodyweight exercises for building arm and shoulder strength.

You can perform the exercise using dip bars, parallel bars, or the edge of a stable surface like a bench or a chair.

Tricep Dips Muscles Worked

As the name suggests, the primary target of the tricep dips is the triceps brachii or triceps.

However, several other muscles activate to stabilize and support the movement.

man doing bench tricep dips-01

The main muscles worked during triceps dips include:

  • Triceps Brachii
    These are the principal muscles targeted during the exercise. The triceps are located at the back of the upper arm and are responsible for extending the elbow joint.
  • Anterior Deltoids
    The front shoulder muscles are anterior deltoids that assist with the upward phase of the dip.
  • Pectoralis Major
    The chest muscles help with the downward phase of the dip when the shoulders flex and the chest is engaged.
  • Rhomboids and Trapezius
    These muscles help stabilize and support the shoulders and scapulae during the movement.
  • Serratus Anterior
    This muscle, situated on the sides of the chest, aids in protracting the scapulae or moving them away from the spine, during the upward phase of the dip.
  • Biceps and forearm muscles
    The biceps and forearm muscles are engaged isometrically to stabilize the elbow joint throughout the movement.

Triceps dips proper form.

Maintaining proper form during tricep dips is crucial to ensure you can effectively target the triceps and prevent injuries.

Steps to follow

woman doing bench tricep dips bodyweight tricep exercises at home

Below is a step-by-step guide to performing triceps dips with the correct form.

Using Parallel Bars or Dip Bars

  • Stand facing the dip bars.
  • Grasp each bar with an overhand grip, palms facing down. Place your palms at shoulder-width.
  • Extend your arms fully to lift yourself off the floor. Ensure your feet are off the floor and your body is suspended between the bars.
  • Engage your core, keep your chest up and your shoulders back.
  • That is your starting position.
  • From here, follow the steps from the lowering stage below.

Using a bench or chair

  • Place a sturdy bench or chair behind you.
  • Sit on the edge of the bench or chair.
  • Place your palms at shoulder-width close to your hips and grip the edge of the bench with your fingers.
  • Stretch your feet and support your body on your heels.
  • Slide your body forward off the bench, supporting yourself with your arms on the edge of the seat.
  • Engage your core, keep your chest up and your shoulders back.
  • That is your starting position.
  • From here, follow the steps from the lowering stage below.

Lowering Phase

  • Bend your elbows to lower your body. Your elbows should move backward and stay close to your body. Avoid letting them flare out to the sides.
  • Lower yourself until your upper arms and the floor are parallel and your forearms are perpendicular to the floor.

Pushing Phase

  • Push yourself back up by straightening your arms, and use your triceps to lift your body back to your starting position.
  • Fully extend your elbows at the top of the movement without locking them.

Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 3-4 sets per session.

Tips for maintaining proper form

  • Keep your body as vertical as possible throughout the exercise. Avoid leaning too far forward or backward.
  • Avoid using momentum or swinging your legs during the movement. Control the motion to focus on engaging your triceps effectively.
  • Breathe naturally during the exercise. Inhale as you lower yourself and exhale as you push yourself back up.
  • Perform the exercise under control, aiming for a slow and steady pace.
  • Newbies can modify the exercise by bending their knees or using an assisted dip machine until they build enough strength to perform the tricep dips.

Tips and best practices for tricep dips

Tricep dips are highly potent exercises when performed correctly.

Below are some tips and best practices to ensure you get the most out of your triceps dip workout.

Follow these to perform tricep dips safely and effectively, helping you build strength and muscle mass in your triceps while minimizing the risk of injuries.

  • Warm Up
    Warm up your muscles with some light aerobic activity or dynamic stretches before performing tricep dips or any strength training exercise.
    Warming up can help increase blood flow to the muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Proper Hand Placement
    Place your palms at shoulder-width on the bars or bench.
    Adjust the width based on your comfort and individual shoulder mobility.
    Avoid placing your hands too wide or too narrow to help avoid injury to your shoulders.
  • Maintain Proper Form
    Keep your body as vertical as possible throughout the exercise.
    Do not lean too far forward or backward, as this can shift the emphasis away from the triceps.
    Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor at the bottom of the dip.
  • Engage Your Core
    Activate your core muscles throughout the exercise to stabilize your body.
    That can help maintain proper form and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Controlled Movement
    Perform triceps dips in a slow and controlled manner.
    Do not use momentum or swing your legs to power through the movement.
    Focus on using your triceps to lift your body.
  • Full Range of Motion
    Lower yourself until your upper arms and the floor are parallel.
    Going further than this may put unnecessary stress on the shoulders.
  • Avoid Locking Your Elbows
    Do not fully lock out your elbows at the top of the movement.
    Keep a slight bend in your elbows to maintain tension on the triceps and prevent hyperextension.
  • Breathing
    Inhale as you lower your body and exhale as you push yourself back up.
    Breathing helps you to maintain focus and control during the exercise.
  • Start with Assisted Dips
    Start with assisted dips using a machine or resistance bands if you are new to tricep dips or find them challenging.
    That can help you build strength gradually and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Progressive Overload
    Gradually increase the number of repetitions and sets or add additional weight to continue challenging your muscles as you become more comfortable with triceps dips.
  • Rest and Recovery
    Make way for sufficient rest between sets and workouts to allow your triceps and other muscles to recover and grow stronger.
  • Listen to Your Body
    Stop the exercise if you experience pain or discomfort.
    Consult a fitness professional or a healthcare provider if you have concerns about performing tricep dips.
tricep dips

Tricep dips common mistakes.

Triceps dips are excellent exercises for targeting and building the triceps when done with proper form.

But there are some common mistakes that people often make. Such missteps can negate or minimize the benefits of the exercise.

Avoiding these mistakes will ensure you target the triceps better and prevent potential injuries.

Below are some common mistakes to watch out for

  • Flaring Elbows
    Allowing your elbows to point outward as you perform the dip can put pressure on your shoulder joints and reduce the emphasis on the triceps.
    Keep your elbows close to your body and pointing backward throughout the movement.
  • Leaning Too Far Forward
    Leaning too far forward shifts the emphasis from the triceps to the chest and shoulders. That can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
    Keep your body as vertical as possible to target the triceps.
  • Incomplete Range of Motion
    Failing to lower yourself enough during the dip, that is, not going down to parallel or slightly below, can limit the involvement of the triceps.
    Aim for a full range of motion to fully engage the muscles.
  • Locking Out Elbows
    Locking out your elbows at the top of the movement transfers the load to your skeletal structure instead of maintaining tension on the triceps.
    Keep a slight bend in your elbows to keep tension on the muscles.
  • Using Momentum
    Swinging your legs or using momentum to lift yourself during the dip reduces the effectiveness and can lead to injuries.
    Perform the movement in a controlled manner, using the strength of your triceps to lift your body.
  • Not Engaging Core Muscles
    Neglecting to engage your core muscles can lead to instability and poor form.
    Activate your core to support your body throughout the movement.
  • Starting with Excessive Weight
    If you’re using additional weight, ensure it is appropriate for your strength level. Starting with too much weight can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury.
  • Raising Shoulders
    Avoid shrugging your shoulders or letting them rise toward your ears during the dip.
    Keep your shoulders down and back to maintain stability and protect your shoulder joints.
  • Neglecting Scapular Retraction
    Failing to retract your scapulae or squeezing your shoulder blades together can lead to improper shoulder positioning and reduced effectiveness of the exercise.
  • Ignoring Pain
    Stop immediately and assess your form if you experience pain or discomfort during the triceps dips exercise. Pain may indicate improper technique or an underlying issue that needs attention.

Tricep dips benefits

Triceps dips are valuable exercises for upper body strength and fitness. Including them in your training regimen can give you several benefits,

Triceps Muscle Development

Tricep dips are some of the most effective exercises for targeting and isolating the triceps.

Your triceps contract and extend as you lower and lift your body weight, leading to increased strength and muscle development in the back of your arms.

Upper Body Strength

Tricep dips can also engage the shoulders, chest, and upper back muscles.

As a compound exercise, triceps dips can help build upper body strength, allowing you to perform various pushing movements more efficiently and with more power.

Functional Fitness

The strength gained from tricep dips can carry over to many functional activities in daily life. Such activities include pushing objects, lifting, and performing actions that involve using your upper body.

Minimal Equipment

Tricep dips require minimal equipment. All you need is a dip bar, parallel bars, or a stable surface like a bench or chair, making them accessible to several people.

No Weights Required

Tricep dips use your body weight as resistance, making them a great exercise option for those who don’t have access to weights or prefer bodyweight workouts.

Improved Muscle Definition

As you develop and tone your triceps, you’ll notice increased muscle definition in your arms, enhancing your overall physique.

Joint Stability and Flexibility

Triceps dips require stability in your shoulder and elbow joints.

Regularly performing the exercise can help improve joint stability and flexibility in those areas.

Increased Metabolism

Compound exercises like tricep dips can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories during and after your workout.

That can help with weight management.


You can modify tricep dips to suit different fitness levels and abilities.

Novices can start with assisted dips or perform the exercise with bent knees, while more advanced individuals can add weight for additional challenges.

Time Efficiency

Triceps dips are time-efficient exercises that can form part of a full-body or upper-body workout regimen.

They work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, helping you to get the best out of your workout time.

Progressive Overload

You can increase the difficulty of tricep dips by adding more repetitions, sets, or weights, allowing for continuous progress and muscle growth.

Tricep dips limitations

Triceps dips offer several benefits, but the exerces also have limitations and considerations that exercisers should be aware of.

Shoulder Strain

Tricep dips can place significant stress on the shoulder joints if proper form is not maintained.

Individuals with shoulder issues or instability should exercise caution or consider alternative exercises that are less demanding on the shoulders.

Wrist Discomfort

Some people may experience discomfort in their wrists while performing tricep dips, especially if they have weak wrists or poor flexibility.

Placing excessive weight on the wrists can cause discomfort or even injury.

Using parallel bars or dip bars with neutral hand positions may be more wrist-friendly and may help in such situations.

Elbow Stress

Exercisers with pre-existing elbow problems, such as tendonitis or other joint issues, should approach tricep dips carefully.

The repetitive bending and extension of the elbows during the exercise can exacerbate existing conditions.

Lower Back Strain

Tricep dips can strain the lower back if the exerciser allows their hips to sag or arch excessively during the movement.

Engaging the core and maintaining a neutral spine is essential to minimize lower back strain.

Weight Limitations

Tricep dips might place excessive pressure on the joints of exercisers who are significantly overweight or have a high body fat percentage.

Triceps dips may suit such people until they have lost weight.

Equipment Availability

Tricep dips require access to a dip bar, parallel bars, or a sturdy elevated surface like a bench or chair.

Not all gyms or home setups may have these options readily available.

Progression Plateau

While tricep dips are effective for building strength initially, there might be a point where the exercise becomes less challenging, particularly for advanced individuals.

Adding weights or progressing to more challenging exercises may be necessary to continue seeing gains.

Not a Full Upper Body Workout

While tricep dips engage the triceps, shoulders, and chest to some extent, they do not provide a complete upper-body workout.

Incorporate several exercises that target other upper body muscles into your training regimen to help achieve balanced muscle development.

Tricep dips variations

bench dips - best medial head tricep exercises

The following triceps dip variations can add variety to your workout regimen to help you target your muscles from different angles.

Bench Tricep Dips

This variation is similar to regular triceps dips but performed on a bench instead of parallel bars.

Place your hands on the edge of a sturdy bench behind you with your fingers pointing forward.
Keep your legs extended straight in front of you, or bend your knees for a less challenging option.

Narrow Grip Tricep Dips

Perform tricep dips on a bench with your hands close together, forming a diamond shape with your fingers and thumbs, if possible.

The variation places greater emphasis on the triceps.

Weighted Tricep Dips

You can add resistance by wearing a weight belt with plates or holding a dumbbell between your feet.

weighted tricep dips

Assisted Tricep Dips

Newbies who are not strong enough to do tricep dips can use a resistance band or assisted dip machine to provide support and gradually build strength.

Single Leg Tricep Dips

Extend one leg straight out in front of you during the dip to help make the exercise more challenging.

The variation requires more stability and engages the core and stabilizing muscles.

L-Sit Tricep Dips

Raise both legs straight out (in front of you) during the dip, creating an L-shape with your body.

It is an advanced variation that increases the demand on the triceps and core.

Dip Station Tricep Dips

Use a dip station to perform the triceps dips. Dip stations are available in many commercial and home gyms.

The variation can provide a more stable base.

Ring Tricep Dips

You can perform triceps dips using gymnastic rings or TRX traps.

Ring dips challenge stability and engage more muscle groups.

Elevated Feet Tricep Dips

Place your feet on a raised surface (such as another bench) for the exercise.

The modification shifts more of your body weight onto your arms and triceps.

Dynamic Tricep Dips

Add a plyometric element by explosively pushing yourself off the bars or bench and into the air.
Land softly and descend back into the dip position.

Tricep dips alternatives

These alternatives can help you target your triceps and shoulder muscles if you can’t perform tricep dips for whatever reason.

The triceps dips alternatives can also help you diversify your tricep-focused workout regimen, spice them up, and help you get better results.

Mix and match these tricep dip alternatives in your workout routine to challenge your muscles in different ways and avoid plateaus.

Close Grip Push-Ups

Assume a standard push-up position, but bring your hands closer together, directly under your shoulders.
Lower yourself while keeping your elbows close to your body.

The close-up push-ups emphasize the triceps while also engaging the chest and shoulders.

Tricep pushdowns with a cable machine

To do the tricep pushdowns, stand facing the cable machine with your elbows tucked at your sides.
Push the handle downward, fully extending your arms while focusing on squeezing your triceps.

Overhead Tricep Extensions

For overhead tricep extensions, stand or sit with a dumbbell or resistance band in both hands.
Raise the weight overhead and lower it behind your head, bending your elbows.
Extend your arms back up to complete one repetition.

Skull Crushers, aka Lying Tricep Extensions

Skull crushers involve lying on a bench or the floor with a dumbbell in each hand.
Extend your arms above your shoulders, then bend your elbows to lower the weights toward your forehead.
Return the weight to your starting position to complete one repetition.

Dips on Dip Bars

They are similar to triceps dips but with parallel bars or dip bars instead of a bench. Lower yourself by bending your elbows and then push yourself back up.

Diamond Push-Ups

To do the diamond push-up exercises, assume a push-up position with your hands close together, forming a diamond shape with your fingers.
Lower yourself while keeping your elbows close to your body and your chest aligned with your hands.

Close Grip Bench Press

Lie on a flat bench and hold a barbell with a narrow grip.
Lower the barbell to your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body.
Push the barbell back up to complete one repetition.

Dumbbell Kickbacks

Bend forward at the waist with a dumbbell in each hand.
Extend your arms backward, squeezing your triceps, then return to your starting position.

Medicine Ball Push-Ups

Place your hands on medicine balls and perform push-ups. The unstable surface engages more stabilizing muscles and challenges the triceps further.

Who should do the tricep dips?

Tricep dips can benefit exercisers of various fitness levels and goals, but they are more suitable for those who want to target and strengthen their triceps and upper body.

man doing tricep dips on parallel bars

Below are some groups of people who can benefit from incorporating tricep dips into their workout regimen.

  • Strength Training Enthusiasts
    Tricep dips are a valuable addition to the workout routine of individuals interested in strength training and muscle building.
    They target and isolate the triceps, helping to develop strength and definition in the back of the arms.
  • Upper Body Muscle Development
    Those looking to enhance their upper body muscle development, particularly the triceps, shoulders, and chest, can benefit from including tricep dips in their training regimen.
  • Bodyweight Fitness Practitioners
    Triceps dips are bodyweight exercises that require minimal equipment, making them ideal for exercisers who prefer bodyweight workouts or have limited access to gym equipment.
  • Functional Fitness and Daily Activities
    Strengthening the triceps through tricep dips can improve functional fitness and help with daily activities that involve pushing or lifting.
  • Athletes
    Tricep dips can benefit athletes in sports that require upper body strength, such as gymnastics, calisthenics, swimming, and martial arts.
  • Women and arm toning
    Women, in particular, may find tricep dips useful for toning and firming their arms.
    They can help reduce “flabbiness” and improve overall arm aesthetics.
  • Beginners to Advanced Exercisers
    You can modify triceps dips to suit different fitness levels.
    Novices can start with assisted variations, while advanced exercisers can add weights or incorporate more challenging variations.

Final words from LiveLIfe

Tricep dips are valuable exercises that can fit into any well-rounded fitness regimen.

However, the exercise can put pressure on your elbow and shoulder joints. Thus, athletes with any existing medical conditions or physical limitations should consult a healthcare professional or fitness expert before including tricep dips in their exercise regimen.

Incorporate the tricep dips and some variations into your upper body workouts to help you achieve better results

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