Bodyweight exercises get heavily overlooked once you’ve built enough strength to perform weighted exercises, especially if you’re already in the barbell stage of lifting. However, the right bodyweight exercises can be just as good at building size and strength – just take a look at tricep dips!
This challenging upper-body exercise isolates your tricep muscles to give each of the triceps heads – the long, the medial, and the lateral one – a really tough workout. That said, just because you’re only using your body weight doesn’t mean that it’s a piece of cake to master!
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about tricep dips, from how to do them correctly to the most common mistakes to avoid, and even some alternative exercises for you! But first, let’s talk a little bit more about why you should add tricep dips to your workouts…
Benefits of doing tricep dips
If you’re looking to tone your arms so that they’re rounder and stronger, then tricep dips are the perfect exercise for you! Here are some of their main fitness benefits:
- Serious arm definition: This is an isolation exercise for your triceps, meaning that most of the tension will be on the posterior side of your arms where the tricep muscles are located, helping them grow and get significantly stronger.
- Increased lifting strength: Your tricep muscles are the finishing help in any lifting or pushing movement, which not only maximizes your gains at the gym but also makes your daily chores easier!
- Upper-body gains: Even though it’s an isolation exercise, tricep dips also train several secondary muscle groups in your chest, shoulders, upper back, and core for stability as you go up and down.
- Practicality and convenience: Since standard tricep dips are a bodyweight exercise, you can perform them anywhere with no equipment whatsoever! From the gym to your house or even on a bench at the park – your call.
How to correctly perform tricep dips
If the previous benefits sound like something you’re after and want to add tricep dips to your strength training routine, here’s a step-by-step so you can make sure you’re performing them with the right tricep dip form:
Sit on the bench
- Find a bench, a chair, or another elevated platform that you can use to support yourself during the exercise.
- Sit on the long edge of the bench and place your hands on that same edge, firmly grasping it just outside of your hips.
Get in position
- Place your feet on the floor in front of you with your knees slightly bent, leaving enough room for you to lower yourself comfortably. To increase the challenge, fully extend your legs so that you’re only touching the floor with your heels.
- Bring your hips forward and press down with your hands, lifting your body from the bench so that your hips are in the air.
Perform the exercise
- Lower yourself by bending your elbows until they’re between 45 and 90 degrees so that your arms are almost parallel to the floor and your forearms nearly perpendicular.
- Hold this position for a second while you squeeze your triceps, then slowly push your body back up until your arms are almost fully extended and repeat.
Common mistakes to avoid
Even when you think that you’re performing the exercise perfectly, there are a few mistakes that active people often make without noticing when performing tricep dips. Here are a few:
Hunching your shoulders
If you hunch your shoulders, you will take the tension off your triceps and put a strain on your neck, which is definitely not the area you want to target! Keep them down and back with your head tall and looking forward at all times, not only in the starting position but also throughout the whole exercise to keep the focus fully on your triceps.
Make sure to keep your torso upright throughout the exercise so that you’re not leaning forward and engaging the incorrect muscles. If you lean forward while you dip, all the tension will move from your arms to your chest, engaging your pecs instead of your triceps and becoming a chest dip, so watch out for that!
Locking your elbows
If you lock your elbows in the top position, you’ll disengage your triceps and instead put all the stress on your elbow joints, which is not ideal. Keep your triceps engaged by maintaining a slight bend on your elbows every time you go up, not pushing yourself all the way up, just enough to give your triceps a good burn!
Going too low
By lowering yourself too much, you’ll risk putting a strain not only on your deltoid muscles but also on your shoulder joints. Make sure to stop the movement once your arms reach the parallel or around that height, without dipping too low so you can protect your shoulders and keep your triceps engaged.
Tricep dips alternatives to try
Want to try something easier, or maybe looking for more of a challenge? Here are a few alternative exercises that you can try:
Tricep dips with reduced range of motion
Tricep dips can be somewhat intimidating, but you can begin by performing them with a reduced range of motion at first so you can ease into it.
How to do it:
- Sit on the edge of a bench while grabbing the edges with both hands just outside of your hips, and place your feet in front of you with your knees bent.
- Lift your hips off the bench while you hold your body weight with your arms and push them forward.
- Begin the movement by lowering your body until your elbows are bent at 45 degrees, keeping your knees bent to reduce the range of motion.
- Hold this position for a second while you squeeze your triceps, then slowly go back up and repeat.
Triceps dips on dip bars
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, performing this exercise on parallel bars will shift all the weight to your arms since you won’t be touching the floor with your feet.
How to do it:
- Stand between the dip bars and firmly grasp them with both hands in a neutral grip, then lift your body off the floor while keeping a slight bend on your elbows.
- Begin the movement by lowering yourself until your elbows are bent at around 90 degrees, keeping a slight bend on your hips and knees to keep your balance and your feet off the floor.
- Squeeze your triceps in this position, then slowly push yourself back up and repeat.
Elevated tricep dips
This is another challenging variation, using two benches instead of one so that the range of motion is greater and your triceps carry more of your body weight.
How to do it:
- Sit on the edge of a bench and grab the edges with both hands just outside of your hips, then place your heels on top of a bench in front of you.
- Take your hips off the bench and push them forward by holding your body weight with your arms.
- Begin the movement by lowering your body until your elbows are bent at about 90 degrees, making sure you’re keeping your balance between both benches.
- Pause for a moment, squeeze your triceps, then return to the starting position and repeat.
If you ever feel like you don’t want to perform the tricep dip exercise on a certain day, there are a ton of effective tricep exercises that you can try, such as diamond push-ups!
How to do it:
- Get into a standard push-up position by placing your hands and feet on the floor, making sure your body is forming a straight line.
- Bring your hands together in a diamond position, with your index fingers and thumbs touching.
- Begin the movement by bending your elbows and lowering yourself until your face is almost touching your hands, keeping your elbows close to your body.
- Hold for a second while you squeeze your triceps, then push back up and repeat.
Tone your arms with the right upper-body exercises
Tricep dips are just one of the many effective exercises that you can try if your goal is to build strength and a more sculpted upper body. And remember, just because an exercise only uses your body weight doesn’t mean it’s not good enough – it’s all about how you do it!
Looking for more exercise ideas to add to your upper-body routine?
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