Tricep Dips to Build Arm Strength and Size

Tricep Dips Workout

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Tricep dips are one of the best exercises to increase your arm strength, and also build lean muscle in your upper arms.  They will work all three tricep muscles, and simply must be part of any effective tricep workout or bodyweight workout.

They are also a bodyweight exercise, which means you don’t need gym equipment, dumbbells, etc to perform the exercise. You can really do them just about anywhere, and anytime.

The tricep muscle makes up two-thirds (2/3) of your upper arm, so if you want to build muscular, defined arms then you have to give your tricep workout proper attention. A good rule is to give a 50/50 focus to your biceps and your triceps. This will give you a good, balanced look.

The triceps are a 3-headed muscle on the rear of the upper arm. Click here for more on the anatomy of the triceps.

Tricep Dips

Five Types of Tricep Dips

There are five forms of this exercise as a bodyweight exercise, and all are key to your overall workout routine:

  1. Tricep dips on a bench (also called bench dips)
  2. Tricep dips with two chairs
  3. Tricep dips with one chair
  4. Tricep dips on the floor
  5. Tricep dips on parallel bars

All are great exercises for your arm strength, and tricep dips are a very targeted exercise for your triceps and can be done anywhere. They are a great bodyweight exercise that should also be part of any home workout routine.

#1 Tricep Dips on a Bench for a Great Tricep Workout

Tricep Dips

Tricep dips on a bench, also called bench dips, are simple to perform. All you need is a bench, chair, low table, etc. (anchor point). They can be done in the gym, or at your home or office.

Bench dips are tremendous when used in bi-sets, where your first do rope pulldowns or overhead tricep extensions (with dumbbell), and then followed immediately with bench dips. Really awesome tricep workout! You will almost certainly feel it the next day, even if you’re a “gym rat.”

Muscles Worked With Tricep Dips (also called Bench Dips)

  • Primary – Triceps
  • Secondary – Shoulders, Chest

Performing Tricep Dips

Tricep Dips

  1. Set your body with your feet facing away from your anchor point (bench, chair, couch). You will bend 90 degrees at the waist, so your upper body will be vertical.
  2. Extend your feet away from the bench so your knees are slightly bent (feet on the ground or elevated on a bench). Make sure you have a solid grip on the bench, approximately shoulder width apart. Arms slightly bent in the start position.  Your anchor point should be about 18″ off the floor.
  3. Lower your body down in a controlled movement until your elbows are bent 90 degrees. Your upper arms should be close to parallel to the floor.  Inhale on the way down.
  4. Hold this position at the bottom for 1 second, then push up on your hands returning to the start position.
  5. Push your upper body up to the start position to complete the rep.  Exhale going up.

Variation (higher resistance): To increase the resistance, set your feet on a parallel bench instead of on the floor (image below). So your legs will now be parallel to the floor. Perform the motion the same. For further increased resistance, put a flat plate (weight) on your lap.

Caution:  This exercise will put stress on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Make sure you do a good warm-up first, and ensure your joints are loose and warm.

#2 Triceps Dips With Two Chairs

Tricep Dips With Two Chairs

Tricep dips using two chairs works well, and will work your triceps from a slightly different angle.

A better option than using two chairs, is to use a dip station. They are solid as a rock, and also very user friendly. The dip station can adjust to your body size, and width preference as well.

CAUTION: Very important to make sure you are working with two strong and stable chairs, and that you have a good grip on the chairs.

Muscles Worked

  • Primary – Triceps
  • Secondary – Shoulders, Chest

Performing Tricep Dips With Two Chairs

  1. Mount the two chairs carefully, with your arms fully extended and nearly locked out. Your legs will be slightly bent at the knees. Make sure the chairs are fully solid and can carry your weight AND hold their position.
  2. Slowly lower your body down until your arms are bent at a 90 deg angle. Keep your back straight on the way down.
  3. Push your body up to return to the start position.

#3 Triceps Dips With One Chair

Tricep Dips With One Chair

Tricep dips using one chair is a simpler move than two chairs, and again works the triceps from a different angle. The ideal chair is one with a width just slightly wider than shoulder width, and edges that you can comfortably grip.

CAUTION: Make sure the chair is solid and sturdy and can carry your weight.

Muscles Worked

  • Primary – Triceps
  • Secondary – Shoulders, Chest

Performing Tricep Dips on One Chair

  1. Mount the single chair with your palms facing down, and your hands pointing away from each other as shown. Bend your legs slightly at the knees with your feet extended away from the chair, and start with your arms nearly straight in the up position.
  2. Slowly lower your body down until your arms are bent at a 90 deg angle. Keep your back straight on the way down. 
  3. Push your body up to return to the start position. 

#4 Tricep Dips on the Floor

Tricep Dips on the Floor

Tricep dips on the floor are still a good tricep workout, but will require more reps to fatigue the triceps. This is likely the least effective of the five, but can be used as a variation, or if you have no bench, no chairs, and nothing else to work with. There is just not a lot of room in this motion for good range.

Muscles Worked

  • Primary – Triceps
  • Secondary – Shoulders, Back (Lats), Chest

Performing Tricep Dips on the Ground

  1. Position your body on the floor with your back facing down and your hands directly under your shoulders.
  2. Extend your feet in front of you so your legs are slightly bent.
  3. Slowly bend your arms as you lower your upper body down, and at the same time move your butt towards your feet.
  4. So the best isolation on the triceps is moving your upper body and butt in a down and forward movement. Keep your back straight on the way down.
  5. Push your body up to return to the start position.

#5 Tricep Dips on Parallel Bars

Chest Dips

You probably don’t have parallel bars in your home unless you’re a hardcore gymnast, so this one is probably for your local gym. You can try this at home with either 1) perfectly spaced kitchen counters or 2) kitchen chairs backed up to each other (see #2 above). Be very careful with both for obvious reasons.

Muscles Worked With Parallel Bar Dips

  • Primary – Triceps
  • Secondary – Shoulders, Chest

Performing Tricep Dips on Parallel Bars

  1. Mount the parallel bars, with your arms fully extended and nearly locked out. Your legs will be slightly bent at the knees.
  2. Slowly lower your body down until your arms are bent at a 90 deg angle. Keep your back straight on the way down, and inhale going down. Keep your elbows close to your body to engage the triceps.
  3. Push your body up to return to the start position. Exhale on the way up.

Variations:

  • Less resistance: Machine-assisted dips (gym equipment)
  • More resistance: Add a weight belt to your routine

Avoiding Injury When Performing Tricep Dips

Tricep dips will strain your arm and shoulder joints. Make sure you properly warm-up prior to your resistance workout:

  • A few minutes of light cardio (jog in place, jumping jacks)
  • A few minutes of dynamic stretching
  • Do some light wrist stretches for your wrists and also tendons around your elbows
Click for more great tricep exercises.