How to Do Assisted Dips: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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Assisted dips are a bodyweight exercise for the triceps and the muscles of the chest and shoulders. The movements are called dips because you literally dip your body between parallel bars as you bend your elbows 90 degrees.

Doing dips can be a real challenge if you have poor upper body strength or too much lower body weight. Assisted gym machines are equipped with weights and cables that allow you to select how much upward assistance you need to complete the exercise. By selecting a 50-pound plate, for example, you lighten the load by 50 pounds.

Some machines are designed for both pull-ups and dips; others do just one or the other. With time and perseverance, you can do dips with little, if any, assistance.

Also Known As: Machine dip

Targets: Triceps, deltoids, pectorals

Equipment Needed: Assisted dip machine

Level: Beginner

How to Do an Assisted Dip

dips exercise machine
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If new to this type of workout, it's always a good idea to read the posted instructions and to speak with a member of the gym staff to ensure you use the equipment correctly. Depending on the model of machine used, you either stand or kneel on a levered platform which is connected to a weight plate by pulleys. 

  1. Stand or kneel on the levered platform, grasping the handles of the machine with straight elbows. Start with no assistance.
  2. Lower yourself without assistance and without arching your back; see how far you can go. If you're able to bend your arms 90 degrees and push yourself back to a straight arm position, see how many more you can do. This is your baseline.
  3. Move the pin to the weight plate you think you need, and try again. If you select the right weight, you should be able to lower yourself smoothly and return to the starting position with moderate effort.

Benefits of Assisted Dips

Dips strengthen the triceps muscles at the back of the upper arms as well as the deltoid muscles of the shoulders and the upper pectoralis muscles of the chest. The triceps are used for pushing, and you engage them in any daily activities that require pushing (like opening a swinging door or using a vacuum or snow shovel).

As well, you want to keep your body in balance. If you participate in sports that use a lot of pulling action, you want to build and maintain strength in your triceps to keep your upper body muscles in balance.

Other Variations of Assisted Dips

There are other variations of dips you can perform if you do not have access to the assisted dip machine.

Bodyweight Dips

You can use your bodyweight to perform triceps dips on the floor.

  1. Sit on the floor with your arms behind you, hands on the floor facing forward.
  2. Lift your bottom off the floor, leaning back into your hands and using your feet for support, coming into a reverse tabletop position.
  3. Keep a neutral spine and bend your elbows, aiming your bottom toward the floor.
  4. Bend your elbows as far as you can before raising back up with control.

Bench Dips

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Use a bench or chair to perform triceps dips.

  1. Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair, or weight bench, your hands facing forward, fingers griping the edge beside your hips.
  2. Extend your legs and place your feet about hip-width apart with your heels on the ground. Look straight ahead.
  3. Press your weight into your palms and lift yourself up, sliding your bottom forward so it is off the edge of the chair or bench.
  4. Lower yourself by bending your elbows and lower to 45 to 90 degrees. Go slowly with control.
  5. Push yourself back up until your arms are straight.

Keep your back close to the bench throughout. Do not go lower than 90 degrees as this puts too much strain on your shoulders. For less challenge, bend you legs, for more challenge, extend them fully.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors to get the most from this exercise and to avoid strain or injury.

Arching Back

Your back should be in neutral position. Ensure you have a straight line as you begin and then maintain it as you lower and raise yourself.

Scrunching Shoulders

As you lower your body, try not to scrunch your shoulders around the ears. If you find that happening, try to straighten your upper spine as you enter the dip. That will keep your shoulders centered rather than allowing them to roll back. 

Dipping Too Low

Pay attention to the strain on your shoulders. Don't go any lower if you begin to feel a heavy strain. Otherwise, you risk a possible shoulder injury.

Locking Elbows

Don't lock your elbows at the top of the movement. Keeping them slightly soft maintains tension on the triceps.

Leaning Forward

If you lean forward, you will be exercising your chest rather than your triceps. Maintain a straight line without any forward lean if you want to work your triceps.

Safety and Precautions

If you have shoulder problems, you may want to avoid this exercise. The exercise can stress the elbows and shoulders, so if you have any joint pain, you may want to use the push-up exercise to build strength in the triceps and shoulder.

Use more weight assistance if you find any discomfort during the exercise. Stop if you feel any pain.

Start by doing at least eight to 10 reps, keeping your body centered and your core muscles taut. Rest for 60 seconds between sets. If needed, lower the weight with each set to maintain proper form. As you get stronger, gradually decrease the upward support until you can do 8 to 12 dips unassisted.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tiwana MS, Bordoni B. Anatomy, shoulder and upper limb, triceps muscle. In: StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; updated August 6, 2021.

  2. American Council on Exercise. Follow-up Q and A: Dangerous dips.

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.