How to Do Triceps Dips

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Tricep dips
Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Dips

Targets: Triceps

Equipment Needed: Chair or bench

Level: Beginner

The triceps dip exercise is a great bodyweight exercise that builds arm and shoulder strength. This simple exercise can be done almost anywhere and has many variations to match your fitness level. Use it as part of an upper body strength workout.

Benefits

The triceps dip is one of the most effective exercises for activating the triceps muscles in your upper arm. Additionally, you must activate your core as you hold your hips off the ground. The triceps are used for pushing, and you will engage them in any daily activities that require pushing. 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 maintain strength in your triceps as well.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Find a stable chair, bench, or step.

  1. Sit on the edge of the chair and grip the edge next to your hips. Your fingers should be pointed at your feet. Your legs are extended and your feet should be about hip-width apart with the heels touching the ground. Look straight ahead with your chin up.
  2. Press into your palms to lift your body and slide forward just far enough that your behind clears the edge of the chair.
  3. Lower yourself until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees.
  4. Slowly push yourself back up to the start position and repeat. Control the movement throughout the range of motion.
  5. Begin with 10 repetitions and work up to 25 repetitions over several weeks.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this exercise and avoid injury.

High Shoulders

Keep your shoulders down, away from your ears. You need to maintain a long line of your neck throughout the movement.

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.

Modifications and Variations

You can vary the triceps dip in several ways to make it more or less difficult.

Need a Modification?

If you can't do 10 repetitions of the exercise, you can modify the chair dip to decrease the intensity. You can do the dips with bent knees for the easiest variation.

Limit how far you lower your hips to decrease the amount of effort used during the exercise. As you get stronger, increase the range of motion and number of repetitions. Over time, as you build strength, you will be able to do the full chair dip. For a complete upper body workout, add the basic push up.

Up for a Challenge?

You can increase the intensity by using two chairs or two sturdy benches. In this version, you will be lifting more of your body weight:

  1. Place the chairs facing each other, about 3 feet apart.
  2. Sit on the edge of one chair and grip the edge of the chair with your hands.
  3. Place your heels on the edge of the other chair and hold yourself up using your triceps.
  4. Slide forward just far enough that your behind clears the edge of the chair, then lower yourself until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees.
  5. Slowly push yourself back up to the start position and repeat. Control the movement throughout the range of motion.
  6. Begin with 10 repetitions and work up to 25 repetitions over several weeks.

You can also make this exercise more difficult by crossing one ankle over the opposite knee while dipping.

The intense version of the dip is done using parallel bars or a set of rings. In this version, you will be lifting the entire weight of your body with no support other than your arms.

  1. Use an overhand grip to hold onto the rails or rings with straight arms. Contract your core and take your full body weight onto your arms, bending your knees so your feet are off the ground.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your body slowly. Begin by lowering for two seconds or as low as you can go without great discomfort in your shoulders.
  3. Pause in the low position for a second or two.
  4. Press back up to the upright position.
  5. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
  6. End by straightening your legs to stand up.

For the most intense version of the triceps dip, perform it on parallel bars with a weight attached to a weight belt.

Safety and Precautions

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

Try It Out

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

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