What Muscles Are Used in Tricep Dips?

You can do dips using classic gymnastics parallel bars.
i Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Triceps dips are one of the most effective exercises for the three-headed muscle at the back of the upper arms, a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise has concluded. The triceps muscle is primarily responsible for bending and extending the elbow. The dip is a multijoint movement, so it also activates several other muscles of the upper body, making it a valuable addition to any workout routine.


Use parallel bars to do the classic dip movement. Mount the bars and straighten your arms, aligning your shoulders directly above your wrists. Maintain straight hips and engage your abdominal muscles; you may cross your ankles for greater stability. As you bend your elbows to lower your body, you will feel a stretch in your shoulders. Full execution of the exercise calls for your shoulders to drop below your elbows. Straighten your elbows to push back up into the beginning position to complete one repetition. Avoid locking your elbows.


In addition to the triceps brachii, dips use the anterior deltoids in the front of the shoulders and the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor of the chest as assisting muscles. This exercise also engages the rhomboids of the upper back, the latissiums dorsi that runs along the back of the ribs and the levator scapulae, a small muscle along the neck. The biceps and the lower portion of the trapezius muscle of the upper back stabilize your joints as you dip down and push back up.


To place more emphasis on the pectorals and the anterior deltoid during the dip, lean forward slightly so your trunk is not quite perpendicular to the floor. Once you have mastered body weight dips and can do multiple sets of 10 repetitions or more, you can increase the challenge by adding weight. Hold a dumbbell between your ankles or wear a specially designed belt to which you can attach a weight plate or dumbbell via a chain or rope.


Dips can aggravate existing shoulder injuries, so consult with a physical therapist or your doctor before doing them if you have concerns. Perform dips in a slow, controlled manner to ensure proper form and avoid injury. Going quickly, especially if you have added weight, puts you at risk for a torn chest muscle. If dips cause you any pain, skip them and choose a diamond pushup or kickbacks instead, two exercises that the American Council on Exercise identifies as being even more effective for the triceps.

the nest