Dips. One of the key exercises in a prison-style workout because of its accessibility and not needing extra equipment. But dips are often labeled as a chest exercise. So, are they good for triceps?
Dips are excellent for building triceps as they are the primary muscle group used to perform the exercise. Maintaining a vertical posture is best to maximize triceps activation.
There’s more than one dip variation, so what should you do?
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Are Dips Good For Triceps?
Dips are an excellent triceps exercise used from prison to the local park. Typically, dips are performed on parallel bars allowing you to support your entire bodyweight.
An important technical factor for targeting the triceps when doing dips is to remain upright. This allows greater triceps muscle activation .
They can be done bodyweight or by adding load using a dip belt where plates hang between your legs. If you don’t have a dip belt, you can place a dumbbell between the bottom of your legs with your feet crossed.
I recommend performing dips as an accessory exercise within your workout or after your elbows are warm from another pressing exercise. For example, you may start your triceps workout with a heavy close grip bench press and follow that with higher rep bodyweight dips.
Are Bench Dips Good For Triceps?
Bench dips are an alternative to the parallel dip for targeting the triceps. However, I don’t recommend bench dips because it’s very easy for the shoulder to roll forward in the socket. This leads to the ball of the shoulder shearing against the tendons.
All this to say, it can potentially be a recipe for shoulder pain, especially if you have a rounded shoulder posture.
Who Shouldn’t Do Triceps Dips?
Not everyone can and should do dips to build triceps. I’m one of them, and I have worked with athletes who also have the same problem I do. This is why I don’t program the dip in any of my training programs. Or, if I do, I will provide an alternative, just in case.
The problem is sternum pain. I find when I do dips, I have pain where my sternum feels like it needs to be clicked. I know some lifters have this click feeling but no pain. My pain lingers for months and stops me from doing other pressing exercises.
I’ve tried progressively increasing range of motion or load, but neither has let me do pain-free dips. I am yet to find out why this is or if it’s an anatomical issue that some people have. Either way, if you suffer from sternum pain when doing dips, you can build huge triceps without them.
What To Do Instead If You Can’t Do Dips?
These are my go-to substitutions if you can’t do dips.
1-Arm Dumbbell Press
Dips are categorized as a vertical pushing exercise. The dumbbell overhead press is the closest you’ll get to replicating the dip. I prefer the one-arm variation for loading the triceps with dumbbells since you can use heavier loads than the two-arm version.
Close Grip Push-Up
A bodyweight option is the close grip push-up. Since you’re not supporting your entire body mass like with the dip, you can crank out higher rep sets. However, this can be too easy for many of you. So, increasing the intensity of the exercise by elevating the feet or loading the push-up with a band are good options.
Dips are an excellent exercise for triceps, but not everyone can do them safely and pain-free. If you can, perform them after your main movement or once your elbows are warm. If you struggle with sternum pain, skip the dip and opt for an alternative.
1. Bagchi, A. (2015). A comparative electromyographical investigation of triceps brachii and pectoralis major during four different freehand exercises. Journal of Physical Education Research, 2(2), 20-27.