Why tricep dips are the best exercise you're not doing, and how to do it right

Tricep dips can work your chest, triceps (obviously) and also your lats, according to an expert

Tricep dips
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking to build muscle all over, you don't have to head to the weights room. Calisthenics, doing exercises with just your own body weight, is also a great way to get your resistance training in. Push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, and more are all fantastic exercises, but tricep dips are a severely underrated movement that work lots of different muscle groups. 

Whether you use dedicated tricep dip bars, a couple of chairs or just a bench to bust out a quick set during your run, tricep dips are a great way to build muscles. Coupled with bicep curls with the best adjustable dumbbells and the right fuel for your muscles (i.e. the best protein powder for weight loss), they're a one-way ticket to bigger arms. 

However, the reason tricep dips are so good is that they work more than just your arms: if you use parallel bars or two chairs to execute the dip, it's one of few exercises that work your chest and back simultaneously. 

Tricep dips

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Oscar Searle is a leading trainer at online fitness service Ponzu Fit with a degree in Strength and Conditioning Science. He says this exercise "challenges the pectorals, triceps and latissimus dorsi muscles", working multiple muscle groups to help you get stronger faster.

Exercises like these, involving multiple muscle groups, have been found to improve strength and VO2 Max faster than isolation exercises like bicep curls, according to research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. However, the dip has an additional benefit: compared to a push-up, the tricep dip will allow you to lift more weight, according to Searle.

"The dip is a short lever exercise. Leverage is important because of efficiency; a short lever exercise will be more efficient meaning you can lift more weight, therefore the dip has the potential to improve strength to a great extent". When doing a push-up, your feet take some of the load, whereas with the tricep dip, your whole weight is on your arms. It's the fastest way to bigger triceps using just your body weight.

You can do tricep dips on a park bench or chair in your own home, but for more even distribution of weight, two adjacent parallel bars allow you for more activation in your pecs. Leaning forward allows you to work your pectorals, while staying more upright isolates your triceps. Make sure you're executing the dip with perfect form in order to protect your shoulder joints. The video embedded below is one of the best, most comprehensive guides to doing dips we've seen so far. 

If you're struggling to execute the perfect dip, you can loop a set of the best resistance bands between the bar and your knees to lighten the load.

Watch this tricep dip instruction video:

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.