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How—and Why—to Do a Triceps Dip

Last updated: March 5, 2021

By Nike Training

It's amazing what you can do with your own body weight—at least that's what you'll realise when you incorporate the triceps dip into your workout routine. The humbling move builds strong muscle from your shoulders to your abs. Nail the move with these tips from Nike Master Trainer Joe Holder.

Muscles You'll Work

Obviously the triceps dip works your triceps, the three-headed muscle that runs down the back of your upper arm. Though it sounds like an isolation exercise that recruits only one muscle, the triceps dip is actually a compound pushing exercise, because each rep also works your shoulders, chest and upper back. Leaning forwards as you dip will activate your pecs more and take some pressure off your triceps and shoulders. If you do the exercise on parallel bars, your core will kick in to help you move your entire body down and up.

Why You Should be Doing a Triceps Dip

  1. Dips can help balance out your arms if you tend to focus more on the muscles you can actually see in the mirror (you know, your biceps).
  2. Because the primary role of your triceps is to straighten your arms, when you strengthen that muscle, you also fortify your elbow joints.

When to Do It

If you're doing dips on parallel bars or rings, aim for 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps, or as many as you're able to do with good form. If you're doing them on a bench or box, up your reps (12 to 15 per set is a good target). You can incorporate them into an upper-body day or consider them skill work by focusing more on technique.

How to Do a Triceps Dip

01. Stand between a set of parallel bars and grab each bar with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).

How To Do Tricep Dips And Why You Should Be Doing Them

02. Jump to lock out your arms, stacking your wrists, elbows and shoulders to align your joints. Think about rolling the heads of your shoulders behind your collarbone, and fight the urge to shrug.

03. Cross your ankles behind you.

04. Pull your shoulders back and down and lean forwards slightly. Bend your arms, keeping your elbows tucked close to your sides and pointing straight back, as you slowly lower yourself until your shoulders are below your elbows.

05. Push through your hands and straighten your arms to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep. Repeat.

Quick PSA: Don't be a Hero

If you feel any pinching or pain, the internal rotation might be too much for your joints. To get the most out of the move, focus on extending through your arms as you push up. If you have excellent shoulder mobility, healthy joints and no pain while doing dips, you can lower yourself until your shoulders are just below your elbows. Otherwise, go only as low as you can while maintaining scapular tension (squeezing your shoulder blades together and down), even if that's just halfway.

Make It Easier

No parallel bars in sight? A stable bench, box, or the seat of a chair will do.

  1. Stand facing away from your support and bend your legs to place your palms on the edge of the support, with your fingertips facing out to mimic the grip you'd use on bars.
  2. Extend your legs in front of you with your heels on the floor and your toes pointing outwards. To make it easier, bend your knees.
  3. Keeping your back and bum as close to the chair as you can, bend your arms, keeping your elbows tucked close to your sides and pointing straight back, as you slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push through your hands and straighten your arms to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep. Repeat.

Make It Harder

To up the intensity of the triceps dip on bars, wear a weighted vest. If that's not enough, do dips on gymnastics rings, which will really fire up your core. To up the intensity on a bench, box or chair, elevate your feet across from you.

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How To Do Tricep Dips And Why You Should Be Doing Them

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How To Do Tricep Dips And Why You Should Be Doing Them

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Access our world-class experts and trainers for help staying active and healthy.

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