As the name implies, triceps dips work out the triceps, the muscles on the back of the upper arm where many of us have sagging fat that jiggles when we wave hello to our neighbors.
But it’s not just a spot exercise. It also works on the shoulders, back and chest.
Starting position: Seated on a stable elevated surface such as a bench or chair, place the hands shoulder-width apart and keep the arms straight. Carefully bring your rear end off the edge, with heels resting on the floor and legs straight.
Lowering phase: Bend the elbows and slowly begin to lower the body toward the floor until only a gentle chest stretch is felt. Depending on degree of flexibility and surface height, the rear end may or may not touch the floor. Without resting, slowly straighten the arms until you are back to starting position.
Beginners should initially practice the exercise focusing on proper form rather than trying to complete a predetermined number of reps or sets. This will allow those unfamiliar with dips to better gauge their current strength and flexibility levels before attempting more.
If you encounter no problems, one to two sets of eight to 12 repetitions is sufficient, or until muscle fatigue is felt. As the muscles become stronger, sets or repetitions can be added.
Tips: Ideally, the height of the surface you are pushing against should allow for complete range of motion, without overstretching. Keep the shoulders down rather than allowing them to hunch, and do not bend the elbows lower than 90 degrees. In addition, avoid fully locking out the elbows.
Triceps dips can be performed by bending the knees instead of keeping legs straight. Doing so brings the feet closer to your body, making the exercise easier to do. If bending the knees, try not to use the leg muscles to push yourself back up. If you are trying to make the exercise more challenging, the feet can be elevated using another chair or bench. Doing so will increase resistance significantly.
Keep in mind that not all exercises are right for everyone. Those with rotator cuff, elbow, wrist or shoulder problems should avoid doing dips and check with their doctor before attempting this exercise. If you are already including exercises to work the triceps, take this into consideration in order to avoid potential overtraining.