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What are Tricep Dips?

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  • Written By: Jessica Gore
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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Tricep dips are bodyweight exercises that target the triceps brachii. Often simply termed the triceps, this three-headed muscle sits at the back of the upper arm, and is responsible for extension of the elbow joint. Additionally, the pectoral muscles and anterior deltoids are activated, to a lesser extent, as synergists and stabilizers. The movement can be performed with the body either suspended between two weight benches, or hanging from a set of parallel bars. This movement is a good choice when equipment is limited or when a strictly body weight workout is desired.

Parallel bar tricep dips begin with the athlete suspended between the bars, with a hand on each. The arms should be straight and the feet tucked under the torso. Upon inhalation, the body is dipped by bending the elbows, and returned to the starting position by extending the forearms. Resistance can be increased by holding a dumbbell between the thighs, or by using a specialized piece of equipment, known as a dipping belt, to suspend large weight plates from the torso.

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Rear bench tricep dips are performed in a similar manner, but with the body supported between two weight benches. The hands are placed behind the back approximately six inches (15 cm) apart on a bench, and the feet rest on a second bench, so that the legs are comfortably outstretched. As with parallel bar dips, the whole body is dipped toward the floor by bending the elbows as much as possible, and returned to the beginning position by straightening the arms. This movement can be made more strenuous by resting a weight plate on the thighs.

Tricep dips can also be performed at home with no specialized equipment. Substituting a counter top, table, or coffee table for a weight bench, the body can be positioned in the same manner as for rear bench dips. Resistance can be modified by placing the feet higher or lower, relative to the torso. To perform the easiest version, the feet simply remain on the floor. For added difficulty, feet can be positioned on a step stool, end table, or any other stable, elevated surface.

In the gym, this exercise can be modified using an assisted tricep dips machine. This apparatus reduces the resistance by supporting a portion of the body weight during the movement, allowing the trainee to gradually work up to full tricep dips over time. While tricep dips are generally a fairly safe and easy exercise, any participant with pre-existing elbow or shoulder injuries should consult a medical professional before adding them to a workout.

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