Dips (Chest and Triceps): Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 23, 2023

Dips exercises are a popular and effective way to strengthen and tone the upper body's muscles, particularly the chest, triceps, and shoulders. Dips are a compound exercise as they engage several muscle groups at once, making them an efficient and convenient way to work out. They are suitable for people of all fitness levels, as they can be easily modified to increase or decrease difficulty.

Chest and triceps dips are two exercises that are commonly used to target the muscles of the chest and triceps, respectively.  They can be performed using parallel bars, a dip station, or furniture, and involve lowering and raising the body using the arms. 

Chest dips and triceps dips are similar in that they both use the individual's bodyweight as resistance, however, there are a few key differences between the two exercises. Exploring the differences between chest dips and triceps dips, as well as their benefits, will aid in identifying which one is considered the better exercise.

Chest vs Tricep Dips: What is the Difference?

One key difference between chest dips and triceps dips is the form and technique used during the exercise. Chest dips require a wider grip and a slight forward lean to target the chest muscles, whereas triceps dips require a narrower grip and a more vertical position to target the triceps muscles.

chest vs tricep dip

In addition, chest dips involve a greater range of motion than triceps dips, which can make chest dips more demanding in terms of energy expenditure and muscle activation. If an individual's primary goal is to target the chest muscles, chest dips would be a better option; while triceps dips would be the better choice if the primary goal is to target the triceps muscles.

It should be noted, however, that both exercises will still provide benefits for both muscle groups, even if one is considered more effective for a specific muscle group.

How to Perform Dips

Dips are great for building upper body strength but can be challenging for beginners. Beginners should start with easier variations, such as assisted or bench dips. As the lifter gets stronger, they can gradually make the exercise more challenging by using less assistance or putting more weight on their bodies. 

Start the exercise by finding a suitable dip station. For example, a lifter can use parallel bars or a dip machine at a gym. In addition, one can use sturdy furniture like chairs or tables at home.

Chest Dip

To begin the exercise, position the body facing the dip station with the feet shoulder-width apart and the hands gripping the bars. When performing a chest dip, use a wide grip on the dip station and lean the body forward. Maintaining a firm grip on the bars is essential to supporting the body weight. Next, straighten the arms and lift the body off the ground by pulling up until the arms are fully extended. This is the starting position.

chest dip movement

To perform the next part of the exercise, slowly lower the body by bending the elbows and allowing the body to drop down toward the ground until the upper arms are parallel to the floor. Keep the elbows flared out when performing chest dips. To return to the starting position, use the muscles in the arms to push back up by extending the elbows. Repeat the motion for the desired number of repetitions.

Triceps Dips

Performing triceps dips is similar to the execution of chest dips. The difference between the two lies in the grip and elbow position, and the position of the body relative to the ground.

tricep dips

Assume the starting position by standing in front of a dip station and gripping the bars using a narrow grip. Grip the bars firmly and push the body off the ground until the arms are straightened out. Maintain an upright posture throughout the motion.

Upon assuming the starting position, lower the body in a controlled manner by bending at the elbows. Upon lowering oneself, keep the elbows close to the body. This will help target your triceps more effectively. It is also important to keep the body straight and upright throughout the exercise for triceps dips.

When the elbows reach the fully flexed position, push the body back up to return to the starting position and repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions. A common goal is to complete three sets of 8–12 repetitions. It is essential to keep proper form while performing dips to avoid injury and get the most out of the exercise. 

Take a break if starting to feel tired or the form starts to suffer. It's better to take a short break and return to the exercise with good form than push the body too hard and risk injury.

Muscles Worked by Dips

Dips are a popular and effective way to tone and strengthen the upper body muscles. The triceps muscle, located on the back of the upper arm, is one of the main muscles worked during dip exercises. The triceps muscle extends the elbow joint and is used in various pushing movements.

tricep dip muscles

Another muscle heavily engaged during dips is the deltoid muscle located in the shoulder. This muscle is responsible for moving the arm out to the side and comprises three parts: the front deltoid, the middle deltoid, and the rear deltoid. Dips, specifically chest dips, can help build up these muscles, especially the front deltoids, which improves the strength and stability of the shoulders as a whole.

In addition to the tricep and deltoid muscles, dips also work the pectoral or chest muscles. The pecs are responsible for moving the arm across the body and are used in activities such as pushing and throwing activities. By performing dips, one can strengthen their chest muscles and improve their overall upper body strength and appearance.

chest dip

Another muscle group that is worked during dips is the latissimus dorsi or lats. This muscle is located on the sides of the back. The lats are responsible for pulling the arms down and back and are also crucial for good posture. 

While dips primarily target the tricep, deltoid, and pectoral muscles, they also engage several other muscle groups in the upper body. The following are also used in this exercise: the biceps on the front of the upper arm, which bend the elbow; the serratus anterior on the sides of the chest, which helps move the arm forward and up; and the trapezius in the upper back, which facilitates the movement of the shoulder blades.

Benefits of Dips Exercises

Dip exercises have a range of benefits for the upper body, including improving strength, stability, and muscle definition. They are also a convenient and effective way to work out, as they can be performed using minimal equipment and can be easily modified to increase or decrease difficulty. Some of the key benefits of dips exercises include the following:

Improved Upper Body Strength

Dips exercises require a significant amount of strength to perform, particularly in the chest, triceps, and shoulders. By regularly performing dips, lifters can improve their upper body strength and power, making it easier to perform everyday tasks and activities.

Increased Muscle Size and Definition

Dip exercises can help to increase the size and definition of the muscles in the chest, triceps, and shoulders. By performing dips with proper form and gradually increasing the difficulty, one can build muscle mass and improve the appearance of their upper body.

Better Posture and Stability

Strong chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles can help to support proper posture and upper body stability. By performing dips, an individual can improve the strength of these muscles, which can help to reduce the risk of back and shoulder injuries and improve overall body alignment.

Convenient and Adaptable

Dip exercises can be performed using minimal equipment, making them convenient and easy to fit into any workout routine. They can also be modified to increase or decrease difficulty, making them suitable for people of all fitness levels.

Final Thoughts

Chest dips and triceps dips can be beneficial when incorporated into a workout program. Both exercises use body weight as resistance, making them a great option for individuals who are looking for exercises that do not require any equipment or weights.

Also, both exercises can be modified to increase or decrease difficulty levels. It is always a good idea to mix up the exercise routine. To avoid overuse and increase muscle adaptation, both chest and triceps dips can be an excellent addition to one’s workout program.

References

1. Bagchi A. A comparative electromyographical investigation of triceps brachii and pectoralis major during four different freehand exercises. Journal of Physical Education Research. 2015;2(2):20-7.

2. Ciccantelli, Pat C.S.C.S., Strength Coordinator. STRENGTH EXERCISE: The Dip. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal 13(6):p 53-54, December 1991. 

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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