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The tricep dip is one of the most effective yet underrated exercises. It is a compound workout that targets the chest muscles and when performed with a straighter movement, it can also impact the triceps.

Bodyweight exercises may look simple to the eye but tend to get relegated to warm-up exercises before weight-training workouts. The likes of push-ups, pull-ups, squats and some other bodyweight exercises are still performed regularly, but the triceps dip remains a challenge for most, at least among those starting out on their fitness journey.

Two parallel bars at shoulder-width are just what is needed to train the chest and tricep muscles like no other. Compound exercises like triceps dip also have the advantage of training both the parts of the body at the same time, rather than performing isolated exercises for each muscle group.

The tricep dip also helps you gain strength to perform weighted exercises such as bench presses with more ease. Compound exercises also have the added benefit of faster muscle growth as well more calorie burns as it helps tone multiple parts of the body in one go.

  1. Types of tricep dips exercises
  2. Benefits of doing tricep dips
  3. How to perform the triceps dip correctly
  4. Common errors and precautions
  5. Alternate exercises

While the exercise remains the same, two different techniques employed helps in putting more pressure on either the chest or the triceps.

  • Chest dip: Parallel bar
  • Triceps dip: Parallel bar or between the bench

The tricep dip is a thorough bodyweight exercise that can be added to a workout without the use of any additional weights, or even play a part in a usual workout in the gym as well, and has several benefits.

  • Compound exercise: A compound exercise lets you train multiple muscles at the same time. The tricep dip works almost all of the upper body muscles as it strengthens the muscles in the shoulders, chest as well as triceps.
  • Solid chest workout: Leaning the upper body forward while doing the tricep dip targets the chest muscles unlike any other exercise as it is surprisingly effective and efficient. You don't need to do hundreds of bench presses to develop your chest muscles; the triceps dips is an excellent exercise for this purpose.
  • Defined triceps and shoulders: The bodyweight resistance created by this exercise with the help of only the arms directly impacts the shoulders as well as the triceps. The triceps are impacted even more when the movement is performed by keeping the body straight and directly over the arms.
  • Functional strength: The tricep dips is extremely useful for building overall strength as it trains your body to perform other athletic exercises like push-ups, pull-ups as well as farmer walks.

Warm-up your body before performing strenuous exercises as it helps increase the body temperature and loosens up the muscles. Performing any intense exercise straightaway can lead to injuries like muscle strains and cramps. Stretching exercises for the chest by extending your arms, lateral raises, shoulder rotations and stretching the arms.

Muscles worked

  • Primary: Chest, shoulders and triceps
  • Secondary: Abs and back

Equipment required

  • Parallel bars shoulder-width apart
  • A bench or two benches, if available

Intensity

  • Intermediate (trainee)

Sets and reps

  • 3 sets of 10-15 reps each

Technique (on a bench)

  • Plant your both palms on the edge of a park bench or in the gym behind your body and feet on the floor, with the knees almost straight.
  • Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body as much as you can, keeping the back straight and heels planted.
  • Lift yourself up with a powerful movement until your elbows are fully straightened. This is one rep.

Tip: This movement specifically trains the triceps muscle and is a simpler technique to begin with. Once you have gained enough strength, you can proceed to performing this exercise on parallel bars.

Technique (for chest)

  • Grasp the parallel bars and straighten your arms to lift yourself off the ground. You can tuck your legs in by folding the knees behind you.
  • Lean your upper body forward and start lowering your body by bending the elbows.
  • Ensure your elbows are slightly behind your shoulder blades.
  • Go as low as your arms would allow. 
  • Lift yourself back up until your elbows are straightened. This is one rep.

Tips: Try to lean forward as much as you can to target your chest muscles. This will also help take the pressure off the triceps and shoulders, and focus more on the chest.

Technique (for triceps)

  • Assume a similar stance as that of a chest dip, but without leaning forward.
  • Keep your body straight and lower yourself as far as you can.
  • Lift yourself back up by straightening the elbows. This is one rep.

Tip: Lifting your entire bodyweight with just the help of your arms isn't the simplest movement. Some gyms also have assisted machines for pull-ups and tricep dips, where you can also start by adding some external resistance to help you get accustomed to the movement.

As a bodyweight exercise, the tricep dip is a tough movement for many to master it early on. Along with pull-ups, tricep dips are amongst the hardest bodyweight exercises to perfect. To avoid workout injuries do ensure:

  • To keep the elbows close to the body: The entire movement depends on your elbow joints, and allowing them to flare outwards can make the movement easier, but it will not impact the muscles you want to target.
  • Avoid half-reps: Half-reps is an easy way out without making the most of the movement. Try to perform full-motion reps as much as you can. This will give you the desired results and quickly at that.
  • Stabilise the body: Swinging in order to complete the full range of movement, one can injure their elbows or cause other injuries. It is important to complete the full range of motion, but by following the correct technique and form.
  • Take it slow: Slow repetitions lead to better results as it ensures proper contraction and stretching in the muscles.

Parallel bars may not be available in every gym to be able to perform tricep dips with ease, or you may not have access to one even in a park, but one can definitely continue training their triceps and chest muscles by doing the following exercises:

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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 Jun; 2(II): 20-27.
  2. [email protected]: University of Wisonsin [Internet] Maddison, WI, USA. Electromyographic analysis of the triceps brachii muscle during a variety of triceps exercises.
  3. Malavolta EA et al. Fracture of the clavicle and second rib: an indirect injury from tricep dips. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2016 Jul; 56(7-8):909-912. PMID: 27377364.
  4. Crowley E et al. The Impact of Resistance Training on Swimming Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine. 2017 May; 47: 2285–2307.
  5. Mitchell F et al. Cluster of exertional rhabdomyolysis in three young women. BMJ Case Reports. 2018 Apr; bcr-2017-223022.
  6. Tanner AV et al. Salivary and plasma cortisol and testosterone responses to interval and tempo runs and a bodyweight-only circuit session in endurance-trained men. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2014 Jul; 32(7): 680-689.
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