Tricep dips are an effective bodyweight arm exercise – if done correctly. Here’s how to get it right, according to a fitness trainer.
Utilising our own body weight is an essential part of our home workouts. Since lockdown begun, we’ve been adding in press-ups, glute bridges and bird dogs into our routine for full-body strengthening without weights.
There are some bodyweight movements that really make you question your own strength, and tricep dips are one of them. Sure, you can overhead press a heavy barbell, but pushing your body off the floor using just your arms? Agony.
If you’re scoffing at the thought that tricep dips are tough, then it might be that your form isn’t quite right. It can be easy to dip up and down without really engaging the muscle but, unfortunately, that’s the easy way out. Learning to do the moves properly will help you grow muscle, strength and endurance.
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What is a tricep dip?
There are a few different variations of dips that will target different muscle groups, but this variation involves resting your hands on a raised surface and lowering your body slowly to the floor before pushing back up through the tricep muscles.
“Tricep dips are an intense burner,” says Caroline Bragg, Strong Women ambassador. “Working on pushing movements like these will help with everyday upper body strength and also translate to your big moves like press-ups,” explains Caroline.
What muscles do tricep dips work?
“Tricep dips are an isolation exercise, but they also engage other muscles,” explains Caroline. They will work:
- Back extensors
Avoid these tricep dip mistakes:
The main mistake many people make is that they push through the hips rather than the arms by bringing their bum away from the bench during the move. “If you’re weak through the triceps the body will do anything to cheat,” explains Caroline. Keeping the elbows, core and glutes tight will ensure that the move is focused through the arms.
The other important thing to remember with bodyweight moves is that time under tension will get you the best results. Smashing out as many as you can in 30 seconds might get you sweaty, but it won’t necessarily make you any stronger, reminds Caroline: “Focus on tempo. That means going slow on the eccentric, or lowering, phase so the muscle is working for longer.
“To develop strength, you need to be working until failure. That means going until you can’t get anymore reps out, and that number will be different for everyone.”
How to do a tricep dip correctly
- Sit with your back to a sofa, chair, bench, or any raised surface. Place your hands on the surface, shoulder-width apart, fingers facing the same way as your toes.
- To begin, bend the knees so your legs are at a right angle. A more advanced variation is to keep the legs straight with your heels touching the floor.
- Open up through collar bone without overextending the chest.
- Slowly bend elbows to lower down. Push back up through your hands.
- Keep the shoulder away from the ears, the bum close to the bench.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).