Don’t Neglect This Essential Workout If You Want Bigger, Stronger Arms
Have you always wanted to shred the sleeves off all your shirts with just a flex of your arm? Well, there’s one particular muscle that you’ll want to pay special attention to — the tricep — and the aptly named tricep dip is a simple arm workout that could be the missing link in your workout regimen.
But first, full disclosure: tricep dips are not going to get you absolutely shredded on their own, though they are a solid place to start when you want to build arm strength or add definition to your upper arms. After all, you wouldn’t try to bench press 300 pounds on your first day in the gym; you’ve got to work your way up to that point. And tricep dips are key to developing the muscle that will help you press more down the road.
A relatively entry-level arm workout, triceps dips specifically work (you guessed it) the tricep, a large muscle on the back of the upper arm. In fact, "large" is actually an understatement — the tricep can make up nearly 70% of the real estate in your upper arm! Biceps tend to get all the credit when it comes to big "guns," but the triceps are the strong and supportive base on which those biceps stand.
In addition to just being large and very much in charge of your upper arm region, the tricep helps extend the arm at the elbow and bring stability to the shoulder and the arm as a whole. As a strong tricep also improves flexibility and range of motion, the muscle is key to helping you build upper body strength. Not only do you want them well-defined from a visual standpoint, but you want them to be strong to support the muscles and joints around them, too, especially if you plan on doing any weightlifting. That’s why increasing their strength should be at the top of your list, and tricep dips are a great way to do just that.
The Benefits of Tricep Dips
We already know that tricep dips can help you get stronger, more defined upper arms — that’s a given. But despite their name, tricep dips work several muscles in your arms and even go well beyond enhancing arm strength.
The compound exercise also increases strength in your shoulders and chest, and because you’re lifting your hips off the ground when you perform a proper tricep dip, you’re also engaging your core muscles. Since they are essentially the support system of your body, strengthening your core muscles can lead to better posture, and help you avoid lower back pain and muscle injuries.
Though they’re also known as "chair dips" or "bench dips," triceps dips can be performed on any sturdy surface where you can start in the seated position, comfortably grip the edge of the surface with your hands, and have enough room to drop your body below the edge that your hands are gripping. The tricep dip is also a bodyweight exercise, so you don’t need to have any equipment nearby in order to do them. So you can do tricep dips at home, at the park, on your lunch break at work, in a hotel room on vacation, wherever. The convenience factor is truly unmatched.
But just because they don’t require anything extra doesn’t mean that you can just start doing them without any consideration. Tricep dips are one of the most common culprits of shoulder pain and rotator cuff injury in the gym, so you want to make sure you’re doing them correctly.
How to Nail Proper Form When Doing Tricep Dips
As with any exercise, you want to maintain proper form in order to maximize effectiveness and reduce the risk of injury. So we spoke to Mikey Newsom, a coach for Row House in Chicago, to get the details on how to nail your most basic tricep dip:
Sit on a chair, bench, steps, or other sturdy, raised surface. True beginners should make sure the surface is high enough to allow their knees to bend at a 90-degree angle while seated.
Grip the edge of the surface you’re using with your fingers facing forward, palms down next to each hip.
Walk your feet forward just enough to bring your butt directly in front of the surface you were sitting on. Your spine should stay straight and perpendicular to the floor no matter which level of intensity you perform.
Beginner: Keep your knees in line with your ankles so your leg is bent at a 90 degree-angle.
Intermediate: Walk your feet another step or two forward to create a 45-degree angle at the knee, while keeping your feet flat on the floor.
Advanced: Extend your leg so it is completely straight, toes pointed upward, and you are resting on just the heels of your feet.
Engage your core, and as you inhale, bend your elbows to lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor, forming a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
Push yourself back up to the starting position as you exhale.
Try to do three sets of 10 to 15 reps each, but you can always adjust that higher or lower depending on your fitness level. And when it comes to frequency, every two to three days is a good interval to perform triceps dips, as you want to give your muscles enough time to recover between sessions to maximize your results.
Also, be sure to keep these points in mind to avoid injury or undue muscle strain:
- Don’t dip too low or you risk putting the load on your shoulders and pecs instead of your arms.
- Keep your chest open and your shoulders down and as relaxed as possible throughout the movement so they don’t take on extra stress.
- Keep your knuckles forward, your palms flat, and your elbows straight back. Imagine squeezing your elbows together through the movement to help stay aligned.
How Can You Make Triceps Dips More Challenging?
We’ve just kept it simple here with the standard tricep dip, but there are advanced variations of the tricep dip that can be performed at a dip station at the gym, or on parallel bars, gymnastic rings, or a pull-up station. And, if your own body weight has become too easy for you to move around and you want to make these advanced tricep dips even more challenging, you can try implementing weighted tricep dips. It’ll be the same moves, but you’ll do them while wearing a dip belt around your waist with attached weights to intensify the movement.
How Can You Make Triceps Dips Easier?
The steps above are about as simple as tricep dips get, but they still may not be for everyone depending on where you are in your fitness journey. If you’re a true beginner, recovering from injury, or your arms are not yet strong or stable enough to support your body weight, you might want to start with tricep pull downs or supine overhead triceps extensions to build up some strength first before progressing to tricep dips.
No matter where you are or where you start, one thing is for certain: tricep dips are one of the best ways to increase your arm strength, build lean muscle, and lay a strong foundation for your strength training regimen. And now, you finally know how to do them properly!
You Might Also Dig: