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

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Also Known As: Dips, chair 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.

How to Do a Triceps Dip

woman performing triceps dip

Ben Goldstein / Verywell

Sit on the edge of a stable chair, weight bench, or step and grip the edge next to your hips. Your fingers should be pointed at your feet, your legs extended, and your feet about hip-width apart with the heels touching the ground. Look straight ahead with your chin up.

  1. Press into your palms to lift your body and slide forward just far enough that your behind clears the edge of the chair.
  2. Lower yourself until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees. Control the movement throughout the range of motion.
  3. Push yourself back up slowly until your arms are almost straight and repeat.

Benefits of Triceps Dips

The triceps dip is one of the most effective exercises for activating the triceps brachii muscle in the back of your upper arm. Additionally, you must activate your core as you hold your hips off the ground.

We use our triceps for extending our elbows. They're also used for pushing, so you engage them in any daily activities that require a pushing motion. This includes pushing a lawnmower or a shopping cart and other similar movements.

It's also important to keep your body in balance. So, if you participate in sports that use a lot of pulling actions (which involve the biceps), you need to maintain strength in your triceps in order to prevent muscle imbalances and injury.

Other Variations of Triceps Dips

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

Reduced Range of Motion for Beginners

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. Over time, as you build arm strength, you will be able to do the full chair dip.

Triceps Dip With Bent Knees

This variation is also a bit easier than the traditional triceps dip and involves bending the knees versus keeping the legs straight throughout the exercise. Because the legs offer more support in this position, less stress is placed on the shoulder joints.

Tricep Dip

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Triceps Dips With Two Chairs

You can increase the intensity by using two chairs or two sturdy benches during the triceps dip. One chair or bench supports the upper body and the other supports the lower body. In this version, you will be lifting more of your body weight.

To do it:

  1. Place the chairs facing each other, about 3 feet apart.
  2. Sit on the edge of one chair and grip the edge 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. Push yourself back up to the start position and repeat. Go slowly and control the movement throughout the range of motion.

You can make any triceps dip variation even more difficult by crossing one ankle over the opposite knee while dipping.

Triceps Dips With Bars or Rings

A more intense version of the dip is done using parallel bars or a set of rings. In this version, sometimes referred to as assisted dips, you will be lifting the entire weight of your body with no support other than your arms.

  1. Use an overhand grip to hold 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. End by straightening your legs to stand up.

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

Common Mistakes

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

Hunching Shoulders

Keep your shoulders down, away from your ears, when performing triceps dips. Strive to maintain a long neck throughout the movement.

Dipping Too Low

Pay attention to the strain on your shoulders during this exercise. 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 in your body without any forward lean.

Safety and Precautions

This exercise can stress the elbow and shoulder joints, so be careful if you have pain in these areas. It's also important to stop doing triceps dips if they create pain or make any current pain worse.

If you do have joint pain, you may want to use the push-up exercise to build strength in the triceps and shoulder instead. If you have any shoulder problems at all, you may want to avoid this exercise completely.

Begin with 3 sets of 10 repetitions and increase your sets and reps over several weeks as you build muscle and strength in your triceps.

Try It Out

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

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3 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. Bagchi A. A comparative electromyographical investigation of triceps brachii and pectoralis major during four different freehand exercises. J Phys Educ Res. 2015;2(II):20-27.

  2. Kovar E. 6 triceps brachii exercises for stronger triceps. American Council on Exercise. Published September 30, 2016.

  3. American Council on Exercise. Follow-up Q and A: Dangerous Dips.