Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips

How to Perform Dips Based On The Target Muscle Group

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: September 15, 2023

If you want to build your upper body strength, incorporating dips into your workout routine is essential. It’s important to note, however, that slight variations in form can impact the exercise’s effectiveness in targeting specific muscle groups.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences in technique and mechanics between chest dips vs tricep dips so you can determine which exercise aligns with your fitness objectives and needs.

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips

Introduction to Dips

Performing dips is an excellent way to build upper body strength without needing any special equipment. You utilize your own body weight for resistance and execute the exercise on parallel dip bars, a dip machine, or a chair/bench.

This particular compound exercise is effective in working both the shoulder and elbow joints and targets multiple muscle groups. But you can also modify your movements to focus on specific muscle groups if desired.

Another interesting fact about dips is that they are a closed-chain movement, where your body moves while your hands remain stationary. In a way, dips can be thought of as the upper body equivalent of squats!

Benefits of Dips

  • Requires very little equipment
  • Works multiple muscle groups
  • Can be modified to target specific muscles
  • Closed-chain movement

Dips Muscles Worked

When performing dips, you can build upper body strength and muscle mass, targeting the lower chest, front of the shoulders, and triceps. It’s worth mentioning that dips also engage the core muscles to some extent.

Keep in mind that the particular dip variation chosen will determine which muscles are worked the most. Certain variations concentrate on the chest and shoulders, while others emphasize the triceps.

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Muscles Worked

How to Do Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips

It’s important to understand the differences between chest dips and tricep dips in order to target the right muscles and avoid injury. In this section, I’ll walk you through how to do each type of dip correctly and effectively.

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Grip

First, you’ll want to use the right grip, depending on which muscles you’re targeting. For chest dips, you should use a wider grip, while tricep dips require a narrower grip1.

Many gyms have dip machines with adjustable handles. Rotate the handles outward to create a wider grip for the chest, or rotate them inward to use the narrow grip for the triceps.

If using an angled bar dip station, grab the bars toward the rear where they are the widest for working your chest. Or choke up on the bars and use a narrower grip for working more triceps.

It’s also important to take into account the positioning of your elbows. If you’re using a wider grip, you should aim to flare out your elbows more, which will help you to better target your pectoral muscles.

On the other hand, if you’re using a narrow grip to focus on your triceps, you should keep your elbows tucked in closer to your sides.

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Elbows

Notice how my forearms stay perfectly vertical in both dip variations.

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Torso Position

When performing dips, it’s crucial to consider the position of your torso as you lower your body. Depending on your goal, you can either do a forward lean to work your chest more or maintain a more upright position to target your triceps.

To achieve a forward lean, tilt your head and shoulders forward, bend your knees, and allow your hips to move back. On the other hand, to maintain an upright position, hold your head and shoulders up while keeping your hips under your body with straighter legs.

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Lean

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Arm Angles

To better understand the differences between two exercise variations, it can sometimes be helpful to compare body and joint angles. In this experiment, I measured the angles of my torso, upper arm, and forearm at the bottom of a chest dip and tricep dip.

From those body and limb angles, I determined the angles formed at the shoulder joint and the elbow joint to demonstrate which muscles get worked more. Table 1 below shows the joint angles for chest dips and tricep dips.

Table 1. Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Joint Angles
  Chest Dips Tricep Dips
Shoulder Angle 65o 70o
Elbow Angle 69o 52o

*these are my actual joint angles, yours may differ slightly

The smaller the angle, the more that joint’s muscles must work to move the body. Therefore, the deeper shoulder bend caused by a wide grip and forward lean requires more pectoral and anterior deltoid activation.

At the same time, the deeper elbow bend caused by a narrow grip and upright body position results in more triceps activation.

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Muscle Activation

As you perform the dip exercise, it’s also helpful to think about the muscles you’re trying to work. For instance, when doing chest dips, focus on feeling a stretch across your chest and shoulders at the bottom. Then, push upward using your pectoral muscles as much as possible.

Conversely, you should think more about elbow flexion and extension during tricep dips. And be sure to extend your arms all the way at the top to get a good squeeze in your triceps.

Tricep Dips vs Chest Dips Tips

Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips Video

Although descriptions and pictures can be helpful in distinguishing between chest dips and triceps dips, watching these exercises in action is more beneficial.

Check out this video for a side-by-side comparison of dips being performed for the chest and triceps. It offers an opportunity to witness all the points discussed thus far in motion.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

When to Use Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips

When it comes to incorporating chest dips and tricep dips into your workout routine, the approach depends on your training goals and split.

Those following a 3-day push-pull-legs split could perform either chest dips or tricep dips on push day. For those following a 6-day push-pull-legs split, chest dips could be done on one push day and tricep dips on the next.

More experienced lifters who follow a bro split could do chest dips on chest day, and tricep dips on arm day.

The dip variation you choose should be based on the muscle group you are targeting. If you feel like your arms are weak or small, focus on tricep dips. Or if your chest is a weak point, do more chest dips.

Alternatively, you can perform dips for both muscle groups at once by using a medium-width grip and leaning forward slightly.

workouts mobile

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

Get a personalized meal plan built to fit your body and lifestyle. Including a custom workout routine designed around your fitness goals.

With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $19.99!

Click here to choose your plan.

Other Dip Variations

If your gym does not have a dip station, there are alternative variations that you can perform with whatever equipment is available. Moreover, if you find bodyweight dips too challenging or too easy, there are techniques you can utilize to modify the exercise to suit your strength level.

Assisted Dips

If you’re looking for an easy way to perform dips, assisted dip machines are a great option. These machines come equipped with dip bars and a counterweight knee pad, which can help reduce resistance levels and make it easier for beginners or those who want to do more reps.

If you don’t have access to an assisted dip machine, you can still perform assisted dips by using a power band stretched between a standard set of dip bars and kneeling on it.

Bench Dips

To target your triceps muscles, try bench dips as an alternative to tricep dips. First, place your hands on the edge of a bench and keep your body upright as you lower yourself in a dipping motion. You can also adjust your foot position to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise.

Machine Dips

At many gyms, you can find a dip machine that includes an upright seat and parallel dip bar handles, which are connected to a weight stack. These handles can be modified in width to focus on either the chest or triceps.

Furthermore, the adjustable weight of the machine makes it appropriate for both novices and experienced trainers.

Weighted Dips

As you advance in your strength training, bodyweight dips may become too easy for you. If you find yourself in this situation, you can try weighted dips to continue building upper body size and strength.

To do this, you will need a dip belt, a specialized piece of equipment. You can then increase the difficulty of your dips by attaching a dumbbell or weight plate to the belt.

More Chest & Tricep Exercises

The dips exercise is one of the most efficient and effective upper body movements. But a complete chest and tricep workout should still include several other exercises.

So here are some additional articles that should help you design your ultimate upper body training routine.

Best Barbell Tricep Exercises With Example Workout

21 Cable Chest Exercises for Upper, Lower, & Mid Pec Workout

11 Barbell Chest Exercises With or Without Bench

Incline Bench Press vs Flat Bench Press For Building Chest

Best Skull Crusher Alternative Exercises for Huge Triceps

13 Best Medial Head Tricep Exercises According to Physiology

Based on the information provided, you have a solid foundation for achieving your goals of building a stronger upper body. If you found this article helpful, I believe you may also find these additional resources to be valuable.

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

By |September 15, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on How to Do Chest Dips vs Tricep Dips for Upper Body Gains
Go to Top