Triceps Dips – How to do Dips Properly

One of the more difficult bodyweight exercises is triceps dips. This article is about how to do dips properly so you won’t injure yourself.

Let’s talk first about which muscles dips work. The main muscle involved in dips is the triceps (triceps brachii) at the back of your arms.

NOTE: If you’re interested in doing dips in your home workouts, consider adding a power tower to your home gym.

Doing dips also strengthens your back and shoulder muscles (rhomboid and deltoid), chest (pectoralis), and lats (latissimus dorsi).

In other words, dips are an upper-body compound exercise.

When you do dips on parallel bars or dip bars, you are moving your entire body weight. Therefore, it is important to use proper form to prevent injury.

There are 2 main variations of dips: triceps dips and chest dips.

Here is how to do triceps dips on parallel or dip bars:

  • Position yourself between the bars with your arms straight, nearly locked.
  • Lower yourself down until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  • There should be a 90 degree angle between your forearm and upper arm.
  • Keep your body upright. Don’t let your elbows flare out.
  • Push back up to the starting position.

Here is how to do chest dips on parallel or dip bars:

  • Position yourself between the bars with your arms straight, nearly locked.
  • Lower yourself down with your body tilted forward at about a 30 degree angle.
  • For this movement, let your elbows flare out slightly.
  • Lower your body until you feel a slight stretch in your chest and shoulders.
  • Push back up to the starting position.

What Not To Do

1. Don’t let your upper arms go down too low. This is one of the big debates about doing dips. Should your upper arms be parallel to the floor or go lower?

You will definitely see guys going very low when they do dips. The problem is, going too low increases the risk of shoulder injury.

My suggestion is that until you have increased your upper body strength and can do sets of dips, don’t go down past parallel.

2. Don’t swing or kip. The swinging motion will let the momentum of the swing move you up and down and you won’t get the full benefit of the dip.

3. Elbow flare. For triceps dips keep your elbows close to your sides. When your elbows flare out it changes the emphasis from your triceps to your chest.

Now let’s get into the videos. The first 2 videos below are how to do dips for beginners or if you don’t have dip bars available.

How to do a tricep dip – Video 1

If want to do dips at home, you may not have access to parallel bars or dip bars.

One alternative you can do is dips using a chair or bench. Just be sure the chair will not slide out from under you!

In this video personal trainer Rachel Vaziralli shows how to do a tricep dip using a chair for support.

She explains the importance of using the right starting position:

So just getting yourself into position to start by rolling your shoulders down. You want to start from good posture. Sometimes we tend to slump forward and then we’re gonna potentially cause an extra strain on the shoulder joint. So set yourself up by rolling the shoulders back, opening up the chest.

She also points out 2 mistakes people tend to make.

The biggest mistake people make here is when they come down, sinking into the shoulders. You wanna really try to just depress the shoulder blades down your back, so that you keep your neck nice and long. And the other mistake is that people just tend to move their hips up and down. And there’s no action going on in the elbow joint itself.

How to do triceps bench dips – Video 2

The personal trainer in this video is Michelle Trapp.

Michelle demonstrates 3 ways to do triceps bench dips.

In all three levels you put your hands on the bench near your hips. Then position your butt off the bench, but close to it.

Level 1 is to have your knees bent at close to a 90 degree angle.

Level 2 is to put your feet further away from your body, but to keep the knees bent.

Level 3 is to have your legs completely straight and support your weight on your heels.

How to do the perfect dip – Video 3

This video is more advanced than the first 2 I’ve included here.

The trainer in this video demonstrates how to do triceps and chest dips on both parallel bars and on a single bar.

He mentions right away that dips are controversial because they put lots of stress on the shoulders.

His goal is to demonstrate the proper form to do dips and show how not to do dips.

Watch this video closely and you should be able add dips into your workouts without fear of injury.

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