“What muscles do dips work?”
You’ve probably asked yourself this very question before. After all, dips are incredibly popular, and tons of people recommend doing them.
But what direct benefits can you get from this exercise? What makes dips so great? More importantly, how to get started with them?
You’re in luck because we’ll break everything down today. Let’s dive in.
Muscles Worked By Dips
Dips are a bodyweight exercise that primarily works your chest, shoulders, and triceps. First, your chest (pectoral) muscles work hard as they are the primary mover during this exercise. To emphasize your chest even more, lean your torso forward a bit.
Your shoulders (mainly the front deltoid heads) and triceps also assist with pushing and descending. Your shoulders directly help your chest and keep you stable, while your triceps – the primary elbow extensors – contract to straighten your arms. (1)
Besides these three muscles, dips also involve your serratus anterior, abs, transverse abdominis, back, and glutes. These muscles work to keep you in position, but they also offer some active role in supporting your body going up and down. So it’s a really solid upper body exercise that engages a number of key muscle groups.
And finally, your traps and biceps also work to some degree, mostly for stability and to keep your shoulders in position.
- Dark Red muscles above are primary (Triceps, Pecs/Chest)
- Light Red muscles above are secondary (shoulders)
Tricep Dips to Isolate and Engage Your Triceps
Tricep dips are different from standard dips, and work different muscles. Click the button below for tricep dips, which are a great bodyweight exercise to work and build your triceps.
What Makes Dips So Great?
Dips are great for a variety of reasons. Most notably, the movement is fantastic because it requires minimal equipment and trains your entire upper body. Everything from your chest, shoulders, triceps, core, back, and biceps has to work hard. (2)
Dips are also fantastic because of their impressive overloading potential. You can use this movement to overload your body for months, even years. All you have to do is increase the number of repetitions you’re doing. Eventually, you can start to attach weight to yourself for extra resistance.
How to Start Doing Dips (And Where To Do Them)?
Having access to a dip station is best because these are made specifically for the exercise. Plus, they provide stability and work well for most people. If you don’t have access to a dip station, you can improvise at home with a pair of chairs or other solid and sturdy objects. (3)
Make sure to adjust the distance between objects to fit your width, allowing you to train your chest well without hurting your shoulders. Be careful and stop a set if you start feeling pain.
Alternatively, if you can’t to a single unassisted dip, leg-assisted machines or having a spotter can work. Assisted machines work as such:
Select how much weight the machine should take away (reduce your weight), place your knees on the pads, and begin to learn the dip movement pattern.
A partner can assist you with going up by pushing you and then letting you descend on your own. This is great for building eccentric strength (the muscle lengthening under tension).
If you don’t have access to either option, you can also do jump dips. Essentially, you grab onto the dip station, jump up, and straighten your arms. You then lower yourself unassisted as slowly as possible. This is great for building strength in your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
You can also do a dip variation to emphasize your triceps better. It’s almost the same as chest dips, but the goal is to keep your body more upright, which would take the emphasis away from your pectorals and force your triceps to work harder.
No matter what your goals and situation are, always make sure to warm up properly, especially your joints – shoulders, wrists, and elbows. Begin with some light cardio, warm your joints up with dynamic movements, and lift some light weight to warm up your muscles.
Return to all bodyweight exercises.
1. Onkst, T. (2019). What muscles do dips work out? LIVESTRONG.COM. https://www.livestrong.com/article/403921-what-muscles-do-dips-work-out/.
2. Broser, E. (2019). 5 reasons you should do dips. Muscle & Fitness. https://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/5-reasons-you-should-be-doing-dips/.
3. Marcin, A. (2019). Chair dips: How to do and muscles worked. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/chair-dips.