Anyone who knows me will know I love a good pizza and dip, it’s my Achilles’ heel! However you can probably tell from the picture above that this article refers to another type of dip. The mighty tricep dip!

Although the name would suggest the tricep dip is an isolation exercise (meaning it only targets one muscle) it is in fact a compound exercise. Done correctly, the dip can target your triceps, shoulders and chest muscles. You can also alter your form to specifically target more of the chest or more of the tricep, which I will discuss later. Firstly, let’s have a look at the standard tricep dip.

Parallel bar tricep dip

Bar Dip

Most gyms have specific tricep dip equipment, but as you can see, I like to mix it up and use the parallel bars in the park. As long as the bars are between shoulder width and 1.5x shoulder width, and are a decent height off the ground, you should be ok. The starting position should have you in an upright position, using your arms on the bars to hold your weight (first pic). From this, you will lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the ground (second pic). You will then push down on the bars until you are back in the starting position. That’s 1 rep.

To primarily target the triceps, keep your body in an upright position. To primarily target the chest, lean slightly forward in the dip until you feel more engagement in the pectoral (chest) muscles.

Don’t worry if you can’t do a dip, I have some little tips and strategies for you to try. If you can’t manage a full dip, try a bench dip. This works the muscles in a similar way, while decreasing the weight being lifted and thus making it easier. Check out the pictures below.

Bench tricep dip

Bench dip

Every park has a bench, every gym has a bench, bench dips are for all! To dip on a bench, start with your hands slightly behind your torso, placed on the bench with your arms straight (first pic). Now lower your bum towards the ground by bending your arms at the elbow, under control of your tricep muscles (second pic). Now push back up to the start position. That’s 1 rep.

For those who are more advanced, I have another dip variation for you – the straight bar dip. This kind of dip is very different from the parallel bar dip in that you only use one straight bar to dip from. This kind of dip is regarded as a more difficult variation as it takes a great deal of stabilisation. Move your hands closer together to focus more on the triceps. Move your hands further apart to hit the chest.

Straight bar tricep dip

Straight Dip

*Apologies for the low range of motion. The parallel bars are a little too close to the ground for straight bar dips.

Whatever your level, the dip is a great bodyweight exercise, but it doesn’t have to be just that. Dip belts are cheaply available for those who would like to add a little more resistance. If you don’t want a dip belt, just hold a dumbbell between your lower legs/feet.

Now you know about tricep dips – get them in your workout!