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Tricep dips are great when it comes to working your triceps. They’re an incredibly versatile bodyweight exercise. They can be done almost anywhere, without the need for expensive machines or weights.

There are also plenty of variations to try that will suit the beginner through to advanced. Whatever your current level is, there’s a tricep dip to suit almost everyone and work your triceps as hard as you can take.

tricep dips main img

About the tricep

The tricep is the muscle located at the rear of the upper arm. It makes up approximately 60% of the entire muscle mass of the upper arm. Its main function is to enable the extension, and push movements of the arm. It is also used in shoulder stabilization. Its opposing muscle is the bicep.

Tricep dips muscles worked

The above muscles are all worked to different degrees depending on the variation being done. The primary target muscle worked in all variations however, will be the tricep.

The core muscles will also be worked to a lesser degree to stabilize the body during the movement.

Tricep Dips Benefits

  • Strengthens triceps
  • Balances upper arm strength
  • Increases overall arm size
  • Improve core strength/stability

Perhaps most obviously, one of the benefits of tricep dips is the strengthening of the tricep itself. This increased strength will transfer well into the like of push-ups, and bench press, as well every day pushing movements.

This also does a great job of balancing against strength gained in the biceps from pull-ups, and bicep curls, etc. This keeps the push-pull strength of the upper arm well balanced.

The triceps make up 60% of your upper arm. It therefore stands to reason that the most effective way to increase upper arm size is to increase the tricep size. Combined with the correct diet, tricep dips will help you achieve just that.

Doing dips requires you to hold the mid to lower portion of your rigid and steady. The result is an improvement in the strength, and stability of your core.

How to do a tricep dip

The following instruction assumes you have the parallel bars of a dip station, or similar.

  1. Move into and between the bars.
  2. Grip the bars with palms facing inward.
  3. Lift yourself upward until your arms are straight.
  4. You are now in the start position.
  5. Begin slowly lowering yourself downwards.
  6. Stop when the forearm and upper arm are at 90 degrees.
  7. Push yourself back upward again to the start position.
  8. You have now completed 1 rep.

Good tricep dips form is important. Hands should be about shoulder-width apart. Elbows tucked in throughout movement, don’t flare them out. Avoid any swinging movements of your legs or core.

Never push too far past your limit. Slow and controlled is the objective.

*Note – Whether you face into or away from the dip station will depend on the actual station itself. Some require facing in, and others require facing away. The execution of the movement will be the same in both scenarios.

triceps dip station bars

Common mistakes during tricep dips

  • Flaring the elbows outward.
  • Not using the arms to lift.
  • Going too low
  • Not getting low enough
  • Too much forward lean
  • Locking out the elbows
  • Unsymmetrical body movement.
  • Using body momentum to boost the lift.

Mistake #1 – Flaring the elbows outward

This mistake is easy to make, especially as fatigue sets in. Don’t allow your elbows to flare outward during the exercise. Doing so places unnecessary increased pressure, and strain on the shoulder and elbow joints.

Keep the elbows in line with the shoulders throughout the entire movement. This will minimize the injury risk, and ensure your triceps are doing most of the work.

Mistake #2 – Not using the arms to lift

A very common mistake, particularly among beginners. Many people will lift their torso using the legs and glutes, in addition to the arms. This is also likely to occur when doing them too fast, or when close to your failure point.

Keep the body pretty much rigid during the movement, and focus on only using the arms to lift. Doing so will also ensure your triceps get maximum benefit.

*Note – This only applies to the varieties of tricep dips where feet are in contact with the floor throughout the movement.

Mistake #3 – Going too low

Going too low places an unnecessary strain on your shoulder muscles, and places them in a vulnerable position. Be aware of how the shoulders feel in terms of this strain, and don’t push too far into, or past it.

The benefit you might think you’ll gain, by going lower than advised, is far outweighed by the increased injury risk. Remember, don’t go lower than that 90-degree angle between the forearm and upper arm.

Mistake #4 – Not getting low enough

I’ve seen it, and you probably have too. People not going low enough on the dip, and thinking they’re blowing everyone else out of the water. The hardest part is lifting from the lowest point. Don’t cheat yourself by only going half way down.

Mistake #5 – Too much forward lean

Keep the body as straight up as possible when doing tricep dips. Leaning too far forward will increase activation of the chest and neck muscles. This takes away from the load on your triceps, not what you want if your trying to target them.

Mistake #6 – Locking out the elbows

Another common mistake when fatigue sets in. This is often done to temporarily remove tension, and load from the tricep. Focus on not locking out the elbows at the top of the exercise. Try maintaining that tension and load throughout the entire movement. You might not do as many, but the ones you do will give back maximum benefit.

Mistake #7 – Unsymmetrical body movement

Your body should remain pretty much symmetrical during the entire movement. What do I mean by unsymmetrical body movement? Well, say for instance you might pulling, or moving your legs or torso a little to one side during the push upwards.

In time this could create a strength imbalance in the muscle groups. Equally, it could indicate a current strength imbalance. Keep the body as symmetrical as possible during the entire movement.

This issue is again very likely to occur when fatigued, and good tricep dip form begins to falter.

Mistake #8 – Using body momentum to boost the lift

Keep your body as still as possible when doing dips. By doing so you remove the temptation to use the momentum gained from body swing to aid the push upwards.

Using momentum in this way compromises your ability to hold correct form, thereby increasing injury risk.

It also reduces the effective load on the tricep, which negates the very thing you’re trying to do, to get the maximum load on the tricep.

Tricep Dip Variations

For those without a dip station at home (most of us), these variations are great for doing tricep dips at home.

Variation #1 – Tricep Dips on the Floor

How to do tricep dips on the floor.

  1. Sit down on an exercise mat, or similar soft, but firm surface.
  2. Lean back a little and place hands on the floor palms facing forward.
  3. Hands should be directly under shoulders.
  4. Extend legs straight in front, with a slight bend in knees.
  5. Push body up by extending the arms to a straight position.
  6. Your butt should be hovering above the ground at this point.
  7. You are now at the start position.
  8. Slowly lower your body down by bending the arms.
  9. Pause just before your butt hits the ground.
  10. Return to the start position by pushing upwards using your arms.
  11. You have now completed 1 rep.

Of all the dip variations this one has the least range of motion. Because it has the least natural resistance, it’s one of the easier versions to do. Great when just starting to build your tricep strength. They also have the advantage of requiring absolutely zero equipment. Just find a floor!

Variation #2 – Tricep Dips on 1 Chair

How to do tricep dips with one chair.

  1. Find a suitable sturdy chair.
  2. Position yourself as if about to sit in the chair.
  3. Place your hands on the seat of the chair, close to the sides, and front.
  4. Palms should be on the seat facing downward, and fingers gripping the sides.
  5. Extend legs out in front with a slight bend in knees.
  6. Extend arms to a straight position.
  7. You are now at the start position.
  8. Slowly begin lowering yourself by bending your arms.
  9. Stop once your forearm and upper arm form a 90-degree angle.
  10. Push yourself back upwards to the start position again.
  11. You have now completed 1 rep.

This is a good variation when doing dips at home. Most homes will have a chair of some kind you can use. Just make sure the chair is solid and able to safely handle your weight.

Variation #3 – Tricep Dips on 2 Chairs

How to do tricep dip on 2 Chairs.

  1. Find 2 suitable and sturdy chairs.
  2. Place the chairs with backs facing each other. the tops should be about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Move between the chairs and grip the tops, palms facing each other.
  4. Extend and straighten your arms to lift yourself upwards.
  5. You are now at the start position.
  6. Lower yourself slowly by bending your arms.
  7. Stop once your upper arms and forearms are 90 degrees.
  8. Push back upwards to start position using your arms.
  9. You have now completed 1 rep.

This exercise requires more care than the one-chair version. Ensure the chairs are totally stable when doing them. To allow yourself to get into the lowest position, cross the legs and bend at the knees.

This variation provides the full resistance of your total body weight. It is as close to doing the exercise in a dip station as you can get.

Variation #4 – Tricep Dips on Bench

How to do tricep dips on a bench (aka bench dips).

  1. Find a basic flat workout bench or similar.
  2. Move alongside the bench with your back facing it.
  3. Place hands behind you on the edge of the bench, shoulder width, palms facing down.
  4. Extend legs straight out in front, slight bend in knees.
  5. Lift body up by straightening and extending arms.
  6. You are now in the start position.
  7. Slowly lower your body by bending the arms.
  8. Stop once your upper arms and forearms are 90 degrees.
  9. You have now completed 1 rep.

This exercise is essentially the same as the one-chair dip. However, there is an increased ability to better position the hands.

For added resistance place the feet up on another bench that is parallel to your holding bench. Add further to this if you need to by placing a weight on your lap.

bench dip img

Tricep dips workout

For any of the above exercises, you may apply the following workout outline.

  • 8-15 reps per set
  • 3-4 sets
  • 1-3 mins rest between sets

Always work the opposing muscle in the same, or subsequent workout, applying a 1:1 ratio. For instance don’t work biceps once per week, and triceps twice per week.

The above numbers are a guide only. If 8 reps feel too many to start then just go up to your max number. Also, take as long a rest as needed between sets to feel fully recovered again.

Example full body bodyweight workout

This bodyweight, circuit style, workout will work most of the muscles in the body. Be warned though, it’s a killer when done with short rest periods.

Involved exercises – chin-ups, strict/modified pull-ups, push-ups, tabletop crunches, back extensions, tricep dips, bodyweight squats, and Hindu squats.

1- 3 min rest between sets, and no rest between exercises if possible. Adjust the rep numbers up or down depending on your current fitness level. However, it’s important to maintain the pyramid style, set structure of the workout.

  • Set 1 (70 -80% of max reps)
    • hindu squat * 20
    • tricep dip on bench * 10
    • tabletop crunch * 15
    • chin-up * 5
    • back extension on bench * 15
    • wide grip push up * 10
    • bodyweight squat * 20
    • pull-up * 5
  • Set 2 (100% of max reps)
    • hindu squat * 25
    • tricep dip on bench * 12
    • table top crunch * 20
    • chin-up * 8
    • back extension on bench * 20
    • wide grip push up * 15
    • bodyweight squat * 25
    • pull-up * 8
  • Set 3 (70-80% of max reps)
    • hindu squat * 20
    • tricep dip on bench * 10
    • table top crunch * 15
    • chin-up * 5
    • back extension on bench * 15
    • wide grip push up * 10
    • bodyweight squat * 20
    • pull-up * 5


So, is it fair to say that tricep dips are one of the best exercises for your triceps? I’d say they definitely are.

Dips really isolate the tricep when done correctly, so you know your tricep is getting worked extremely hard, and that’s a good thing. Combine this with the fact they can be done anywhere, and with basically no equipment, and you know they’re a winner.

Just remember to avoid the common mistakes, take your time, and progress slowly and carefully.

Now go do them and just watch those arms grow!

As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts, advice, questions, or opinions related to this article.


Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness, or exercise.

Michael Duffy
Michael Duffy

Fitness, health, and outdoor enthusiast! 2 decade of experience training for, and competing in different sports. Boxer, runner, road cyclist, triathlete, and XC mountain biker. More about me here.

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