Chest Dips and Triceps Dips

The dips exercise is a unique compound movement that can target two different muscle groups with the slightest of alterations. It traditionally involves the use of your own bodyweight and bars. However, there are variations of the exercise which allows for you to use other equipment like machines or benches. Additionally, the dips exercise can be performed by all levels of experience depending on which exercise equipment you use.

Chest Dips Anatomy

The chest dips directly target the chest muscles, formally called the pectoralis major and minor. The pectoralis major has two heads: the clavicular and the sternal. The sternal head of the pectoralis major is directly targeted by the chest dip. However, there are numerous other muscles involved in performing this exercise.

The following muscles are known as synergists, where they assist in the movement but are not directly targeted.

  • Pectoralis Major’s Clavicular head – located in the upper chest region near the clavicle
  • Pectoralis Minor – located on the sides of the pectoralis major. Has three heads attached to the 3rd through 5th ribs.
  • Anterior Deltoid – located on the front portion of the shoulder.
  • Triceps Brachii – located in the back of the arms, between the elbows and shoulders.
  • Latissimus Dorsi – located on the back extending from the spine outward to the ribs and under the armpits.
  • Rhomboids – located in the upper back between the scapula and the thoracic portion of your vertebrae.
  • Teres Major – located on the outside of the scapula.
  • Levator Scapulae – located on the outside of the neck, just above the upper trapezius muscle.

One more muscle plays a role in the chest dip and that’s the lower portion of the trapezius muscle. It assists in maintaining a solid posture throughout the exercise movement.

Chest Dips Exercise

The chest dips are traditionally performed by using bars and your bodyweight.

  • To begin, stand on a step or in between the bars.
  • Grab the bars with each hand.
  • Push yourself up so that your weight is off the ground or the step. Your arms will be almost fully extended but do not lock out your elbows.
  • Bend your knees, with your feet behind you, so your legs don’t touch the ground when lowering yourself.
  • Lean forward roughly 45 degrees and slowly lower yourself until the middle of your chest is about even with the bars.
  • Keep your torso straight at all times.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat this exercise for the desired amount of sets and repetitions.

Triceps Dips Anatomy

The triceps dips directly targets the triceps brachii which is located on the back part of your arms between the elbow and the shoulder. This muscle is primarily responsible for the following movements: elbow extension, shoulder extension and shoulder adduction.

The triceps dips also involves the same muscles as the chest dips. However, the biceps brachii is slightly active in the triceps dips unlike in the chest dips. The biceps brachii, located on the front part of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder, assists in stabilizing the elbow joint during the triceps dips movement.

Triceps Dips Exercise

The triceps dips is performed in almost the same fashion as the chest dips but with one noticeable difference. You do not lean forward 45 degrees.

  • To begin, stand on a step or in between the bars.
  • Grab the bars with each hand.
  • Push yourself up so that your weight is off the ground or the step. Your arms will be almost fully extended but do not lock out your elbows.
  • Bend your knees, with your feet behind you, so your legs don’t touch the ground when lowering yourself.
  • Keep your torso straight and upright at all times.
  • Lower yourself until your elbows reach a 90 degree angle.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat this exercise for the desired amount of sets and repetitions.

Increase Difficulty

If using your own bodyweight is too easy for you, then add more resistance by using a dips belt. These belts are designed to wrap around your waist like a regular exercise belt but also have a chain that hangs down roughly 18 to 24 inches. This chain is then used to wrap around a dumbbell or weighted plate to add resistance.

Variations

There are a few variations of the triceps dips and chest dips if using the dip bars is too difficult for you.

  • There are dip machines where you can sit on or kneel on, which provide stability and adjustable resistance.
  • You can use benches or chairs to perform both exercises on if your gym doesn’t have any dip machines.

Injury Prevention

Like all exercises, safety is the top priority. When performing the triceps or chest dips there are a few key tips for preventing injuries.

  • Never lock out your elbows because it can lead to joint injuries
  • Do not go down too far as this could lead to shoulder and chest injuries.
  • Do not rock back and forth when performing the dip movement as this could cause a loss of balance and/or injure your elbow and shoulder joints.
  • Make sure you keep your thumbs wrapped around the bars to maintain a solid grip. This will prevent the possibility of slipping off the bars.
  • Do not curl your wrists as this could lead to a wrist injury.