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July 26, 2022 6 min read

Exercises that include barbells and dumbbells are often thought to be superior to bodyweight exercises, but your bodyweight can provide more resistance than you may realize.

An exercise like the push up is a popular exercise that can be challenging to do just one rep properly and can prove that bodyweight exercises shouldn’t be overlooked.

Another exercise that can be difficult for lifters of all fitness levels is the triceps dip. This upper body exercise requires strength, stability, and stamina to push through the reps.

This compound exercise recruits multiple muscle groups in your upper body, and all you need is a dip station and your own bodyweight.

What Muscles Do Dips Work?

Dips are a compound exercise meaning they work multiple muscle groups at a time. This can be beneficial for building upper body strength and building muscle mass.

This effective upper body workout targets the muscles in your arms, chest, and back and can be adjusted to target one specific area to a greater degree.

Triceps

Commonly referred to as triceps dips, it’s no surprise that the triceps are one of the main muscles worked during this exercise. 

This is the muscle located on the back of your upper arm and takes up a huge portion of it. If you want bigger, stronger arms, the triceps shouldn’t be overlooked by bicep curls.

The triceps are made up of three heads: the long, lateral, and medial head. Together, they are responsible for extending your arm and stabilizing the shoulder joint, so they play a huge role in the pushing and extension part of dips.

If this muscle is weak, it can limit your range of motion in your arms, elbows, and shoulders. 

Exercising the triceps with dips can be important for pushing strength and daily function.

Pectorals

Depending on how you position yourself, you can target your pectorals more in dips. Your chest muscles, also known as your pecs, stretches across the chest from your shoulders to your breastbone.

Made up of the pectoralis major and minor, this muscle group is responsible for flexing, adducting, and rotating the arm. When you push your arms away from your body or your body away from your arms, you’re using your chest muscles.

When performing dips, if you lean slightly forward instead of staying straight up, you could target your chest more.

Deltoids

The deltoids, or the delts, are the biggest muscle in your shoulder. The anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid make up this muscle group. Together, these heads help adduct, flex, and extend the arm, and they can help compensate for shoulder stability during a rotator cuff injury.

In dips, the anterior deltoid is the head that’s recruited and is a synergist muscle, meaning it’s part of the group of muscles that assist in a movement. 

So, although you may not be able to build big shoulders with dips, they help contribute to the movement.

Rhomboids

One of the muscles in your upper back that are responsible for helping retract your scapulae are the rhomboids. Like the deltoids, the rhomboids aren't primarily worked in dips, but they help in the movement.

This muscle group also helps stabilize the shoulder and plays a role in arm movement, so they can be important in dips.

Why Do Dips?

Knowing the benefits of dips can help you better develop a workout routine, but it can also help shape your goals more. Whether your goal is bodybuilding or maximum strength, you can find a place for dips.

  • Better Bench Press: Although the main muscle group targeted during the bench press are the pectorals, the arms play an important role, specifically in the lockout phase. 

When you’re struggling to press the weight up and get stuck in the place right before your arms fully extend, you may need to strengthen the muscles responsible for extending your arms.

Coincidentally, dips can help strengthen the primary and supporting muscles used in the bench press, so by performing dips regularly, you may find yourself hitting a new bench PR.

  • Improved Pushing Strength: When it’s push day, you may be doing chest, shoulder, and triceps exercises, but you may also be pushing open a door or pushing a heavy cart of groceries through the store. 

Pushing strength is applicable in the gym, but it’s also important for everyday life.

If you’re pushing strength is lacking, your gym performance may suffer, and you can put yourself at a higher risk for injury. It can also cause an imbalance in your body, which could lead to poor posture, shoulder injury, and other injuries.

Dips can improve your overall upper body strength by strengthening the muscles and improving the functional movement pattern.

  • Easily Adjustable and Accessible: Conventional dips can be challenging for even the most advanced athletes, but they can be easily adjusted for your fitness level. 

There are ways to modify the dip exercise for beginners by using a bench or doing assisted dips, or you can easily add a dip belt with extra weight on it for a challenge.

Since only your bodyweight is required for dips, it’s also accessible and can be done just about anywhere.

  • Build Arm Mass: One of the primary muscles worked by dips takes up about 2/3 of your upper arm. Depending on how you position your body, you can target the triceps or chest muscles more, helping to build more muscle mass in that area.

By targeting your triceps more, you can help to isolate this muscle group, which can be more beneficial for muscle hypertrophy. 

So, if you really want to build your arm mass, make sure to hit those triceps muscles with dips.

How to Do Dips

 

Dips can be an effective exercise if they’re done with proper form, but you may need some guidance and practice to get this exercise down.

How to Do Dips:

  • Find a dip station or set up parallel bars on a stable surface.
  • Grab the bars with an overhand grip and your palms in neutral, meaning they’re facing inward. Your arms should be no wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Assume the starting position by extending your arms and lifting yourself up on the bars.
  • Keeping your head and chest straight up, slowly lower your body by bending at the elbows. Keep your elbows tight and don’t flare them out.
  • When the elbows reach a 90-degree angle, press through your palms to press your body up and extend your arms again.

Dip Variations

Dips are tough, and there’s no shame in modifying the exercise to help work up to it. Or if you’ve mastered dips, you may need a little challenge.

Bench Dips

 

Using a bench, chair, or other stable and secure surface can help make the exercise less intense. The surface helps give you more support, so you’re not pushing up the entirety of your bodyweight.

How to Do Bench Dips:

  • Set up a bench or stable surface.
  • Face away from it and put your palms on the surface with your fingers facing forward.
  • Extend your legs out so your heels are planted on the ground in front of you. For lesser intensity, you can bend your knees slightly.
  • Start with your arms fully extended.
  • Lower your body to the ground by bending at the elbows and press back up to the starting position.

Resistance Band Dips

 

The resistance band can help add some support while still allowing you to go through the movement of a conventional dip.

How to Do Resistance Band Dips:

  • Secure a resistance band across parallel dip bars.
  • Grab the bars and set your knees on the resistance band.
  • Perform a dip like you normally would, still making sure to get the full range of motion.

Weighted Dips

 

If your own bodyweight isn’t enough, you can add more resistance to your dips by using a dip belt, placing a chain on your upper back, or securing a weight in between your feet. The most common way to add weight is with a dip belt.

How to Do Weighted Dips:

  • Secure a weight belt around your waist with a kettlebell or weight plate attached.
  • Make sure the weight hangs between your legs.
  • Set yourself up on parallel dip bars and perform a dip like you normally would.
  • If you can’t reach your full range of motion, try lightening the weight.

Dip for Bigger Arms

Bodyweight exercises are sometimes seen as inferior to other strength training exercises, but after just a few reps of dips, you’ll see why they can be such an effective exercise for your upper body.

They can require strength and stamina as your triceps work to push you through a full range of motion. To help increase your performance and stamina, try Charged-AF  for optimal aerobic and anaerobic capacity.