Chest dips vs. triceps dips Know the difference

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Chest dips and triceps dips are similar, but if you want to emphasize your chest or your triceps, there are substantial differences in the execution.


Dips are a compound exercise so multiple muscle groups are worked. In addition to the chest and triceps, these are mainly your front shoulders, rhomboids and latissimus dorsi (“lats”). Finally, your abs (abs) work to keep your lower back in a neutral position (not bent or overly concave) throughout the exercise.

Dips are generally classified as basic exercises for both chest and triceps, so they should not be missing from your training program. More about this in the concluding section of this article.


Some consider dips counterproductive as they put a stressful strain on the joints and connective tissue. And yes, dipping can hurt, especially your shoulders (and we don’t mean ‘good’ pain). But as with squats and other exercises that put a lot of strain on your joints, the quality of the movement makes all the difference. When done correctly, dips have a therapeutic effect on your shoulders instead of a harmful one.

Now, unlike that of squats, the dip movement seems pretty basic. Nevertheless, there are necessary things that you have to pay attention to to prevent dips from turning out wrong and putting an unfavorable burden on your shoulders. In addition, we recommend that you always warm up your shoulders first, especially if dips are the first exercise in your training. Scott Bahbell Herman made a video with suggestions for a good shoulder warm-up.


You perform both chest dips and triceps dips between two dip bars or in a dip station. These two rods usually run parallel to each other, but they can also taper from narrow to wide and have a V-shape.

Dipping means as much as ‘immersing’ and that is exactly what you do. You lower yourself by bending your elbows and straightening your shoulders. In the standard version, your upper body is tilted slightly forward (about 30 degrees from parallel) and your thighs point straight down. You can bend your knees and cross your feet if you want. You dip until your upper and lower arms are at about a 90-degree angle. That means your upper arm is slightly deeper than parallel to the floor in the lower position.

standard dip

There are various dip variants – more on that later – but we will first discuss the shape requirements that you must take into account for any dip variant.


Grip the bars firmly with your thumbs wrapped around them and the lower part of your palms on the bar so that your hands don’t slip during the exercise and your wrists don’t bend back. We discuss the grip width in the next section.


You never perform dips completely straight. You always lean slightly forward. How much that “something” is depends on your first target muscle. Chest dips (see below) usually use an angle of roughly 45 degrees relative to parallel. With triceps dips, your torso will at least hang over (or in front of) your hands instead of behind them.


Maintain a neutral curve in your lower back (neither convex nor overly concave) throughout the exercise.


Don’t roll your shoulders forward or pull them up (as with the shrug), but keep them down and pull them back.


In the starting position you raise your chest, after which you tilt forward a little bit, or a little more, depending on whether it concerns triceps dips or chest dips (see below). Keep your chest out. This keeps your shoulders in the correct position (downwards and backwards) and prevents bending of the lower back.


Your elbows are in a neutral position along your body, so not overly out or in. The mechanics of dips, and therefore the position of the elbows, are comparable to that of push-ups, where your elbows should not move outwards either. At the top of the movement, the starting position, your elbows are locked for a moment.


Keep your forearms vertical throughout the exercise, both in the side and front view. This allows you to put in more power.


Also, keep your head in a neutral position (in line with your spine, so don’t look up or down) throughout the exercise.


Often dips are performed with knees bent and feet crossed. At high dip bars you can also let your legs hang straight down. For chest dips (see below) the so-called hinge position is often recommended in which the legs hang obliquely forward and the feet are therefore in front of you. As a result, the hips move back a bit, so that your torso more or less automatically makes the correct 45-degree angle for chest dips.


What exactly is the best ‘dip depth’ partly depends on the shoulder flexibility and therefore differs from person to person. For everyone, however, dipping further than 90 degrees only increases the tension on the tendons and ligaments. This entails an injury risk, while the effectiveness of the exercise is even reduced. If you now think: yes, but I only really feel dips well if I use a full range of motion, then you have to ask yourself what you feel. Your muscles? Or your tendons and ligaments that you stretch?

A general advice: dip until you feel a slight stretch in your shoulders. Usually this is around 90 degrees, for some people they can go a fraction deeper. But no more than a fraction.


It is important to use your core during the lowering movement. Make yourself big and have your torso hang slightly over your hands instead of behind them.


Try to activate your lats (large back muscle) as much as possible during the exercise. This promotes the correct positioning of both your shoulders and your elbows (namely not too far out).


In the starting or top position, raise your chest and take a deep breath. Hold your breath during the lowering and bottom position. Push up and exhale.


For hypertrophy (muscle growth), focus on the eccentric part of the movement, i.e. the descending part. You perform this relatively slowly (ie: controlled). At the bottom of the movement, with your upper and lower arms at an angle of roughly 90 degrees, pause for a moment, then quickly push up again. Keep the rest at the top to a minimum so that you keep constant tension on your muscles. Preferably, all reps in a set flow into each other more or less smoothly, although in the top position you have to take the ‘time’ to inhale and lift your chest.


Now the width of the dip bars already determines to a certain extent whether there are triceps dips or chest dips. For triceps dips, you need bars about shoulder-width apart that allow you to keep your upper arms as close to your torso as possible. For chest dips, the bars should be a little further apart.

V-shaped dip bars work around this problem and allow you to handle different grip widths, simply by moving your hands further forward or back. With such bars you can do both triceps and chest dips.

But there are more differences between triceps and chest dips than just grip width.


In addition to performing triceps dips with a shoulder-wide grip, the position of your torso also affects the extent to which you engage your triceps. It is important to keep your body as upright as possible. As you tilt forward, your chest muscles take over more and more of the work. Keep your legs back as much as possible during triceps dips.

To perform this position (upper body upright, legs back) as strictly as possible, you need to tighten your glutes. Tighten your triceps in the top position.

Read more upon triceps dips.


Now you immediately have the key to a correct chest dip performance: it is important to lean forward during the performance, at an angle of roughly 45 degrees from parallel, in order to transfer the emphasis from your triceps to your chest muscles. shift. The thighs make an angle forward.

Many choose to bend the lower legs, which displaces gravity and more or less automatically tilts you forward. However, the strictest (and effective) execution is the so-called hinge position (which the legendary bodybuilding coach Vince Gironda also propagated), or holding the feet in front of you. In this position you have to contract your abs, whereas with triceps dips you have to contract your glutes to achieve the correct posture.

As you already know, you should also place your hands further apart than with triceps dips. But not so far as to limit your range of motion. Where with triceps dips your elbows only move backwards, with chest dips they move slightly outwards.


  • Triceps dips: narrow grip, torso upright, legs back.
  • Chest dips: wider grip, torso tilted, (upper) legs forward.


No dip station or not the right station for the variant you want to do? No problem!

An alternative to conventional dips are bench dips. Place two benches parallel to each other, about leg length away. You place your hands on the edge of one bench and your feet on the edge of the other. Now bend your elbows as far as you can. You can easily determine the handle width yourself. And if you place one bench perpendicular to the other, you can also use a neutral grip by gripping the seat on both sides.

You can also place two benches next to each other, parallel to each other, and ‘dip’ between them, with one hand on one bench and your other hand on the other. Your feet are then on the ground. In fact, this facilitates the execution.


Triceps dips
We can be brief about triceps dips: most websites and coaches with any authority rank dips as the best (mass) exercise for the triceps, closely followed by the close grip bench press. We agree with that.

Chest dips
It’s always food for a lively discussion: what is the best exercise for a massive chest? Bodybuilding guru Christian Thibaudeau knows for sure: those are chest dips. Based on his rich experience as a coach:

I haven’t met one person who was strong on dips who didn’t have a very good chest. But I have seen plenty of big bench pressers with very ordinary pecs.

He is supported by fellow trainer Ben Bruno, who calls dips the “upper body squat.”

But what does research say about this? Unfortunately, relatively little scientific research is available. The only full-fledged study is a 2012 EMG study by Ace Fitness. From this study, the barbell bench press comes out as the winner, followed by the pec deck machine. The bent-forward cable crossover finished at number three. We only encounter dips at number six in the list. From a smaller EMG study (namely performed on its own) by Bret Contreras, the bodyweight dip didn’t come up as the best chest exercise either. The weighted dip (ie with extra weight on, for example, a belt, whether or not a special dipping belt) did score the best on some points. It should come as no surprise that chest dips score a lot better than that other bodyweight chest exercise, pushups, in both studies. After all, you use your entire body weight with dips, not with push-ups.

According to EMG research apparently not the exercise with the greatest activation of the chest, dips do belong in a good chest training. According to the advocates, chest dips provide those typical ‘bodybuilder pecs’: not only in thickness, but also in width (something in which the bench press would fall short). As far as we’re concerned, it doesn’t really matter which exercise is the best. After all, you don’t have to choose. Therefore, for complete chest development, the following applies: press, fly and dip.


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