Big biceps and a big chest tend to be a priority for weightlifters when building muscle, but smaller, less noticeable muscles such as the triceps get overlooked. Triceps are just as important as your other muscles, though. They enable you to extend your arms and facilitate every pushing motion you perform. You couldn't do a bench press to pump up your pectorals without your triceps. Arms that have massive biceps and no triceps look unbalanced. An effective triceps workout includes knowing how to warm up these muscles as well as understanding how to perform dips properly and work them into your exercise regimen efficiently.
Most gyms are equipped with dip bars, which have two parallel bars just below shoulder height that work your triceps as you lift and lower your body. For a basic triceps dip, stand between the bars of the dip equipment, gripping the bars on each side of you with your hands, with your palms facing down. Extend your arms, lifting your body up until your shoulders are over your hands and your arms are straight. Your feet will not touch the ground during the exercise. Bend your elbows to lower your body until you feel your shoulders stretching a bit. Extend your arms again to push your body back up until your arms are straight. If you want to increase the resistance to build bigger triceps muscles, load a weight plate onto a dip belt and place it around your waist before you mount the dip bar. For either method, do three sets of 12 to 15 reps each.
Variations of the Dip
Triceps dips are more versatile than most body-weight exercises. You can perform a self-assisted version by standing on a bench as you start the exercise. Lean forward, bracing your weight on your hands as you place them on the bars. Bend your knees, allowing your feet to roll forward so that only your toes are touching the bench. Having the bench under your feet allows your lower body to assist slightly as you extend your arms to push up. If your gym doesn't have a set of dip bars, perform the exercise with two weight benches. Position them together, close enough so that you can stand between them, and place your hands palms-down on the ends with your fingers curled down around the edges. Move your feet so that they're in front of your body, and bend your knees, putting you in a suspended sitting position. Bend your arms at the elbow to lower your body down between the benches. Extend your arms to straighten them, bringing your body up, level with the surfaces of the benches. For both versions, do three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
As with any other muscle, your triceps can be injured if you don't warm up properly. Military.com recommends doing a full-body warm-up before stretching, as you should never stretch muscles before you get the blood flowing to them. Do three to five sets of 10 jumping jacks alternating with three to five sets of 10 pushups. Then stretch your shoulders and triceps by lifting both of your arms up and behind your head, bending your elbows. Grasp your left elbow with your right hand, pulling the left elbow toward your right shoulder. Hold for the count of five, then repeat with your right elbow.
Your Workout and Frequency
When you want to strengthen the muscles on the backs of your arms using triceps dips, do them at the beginning of your workout on the day your work arms and shoulders. Personal trainer Matt Siaperas tells clients that exercising triceps early in a workout is important because if their triceps are weak, exercisers will fatigue them doing other exercises, specifically, the shoulder movements. Start your workout with three sets of triceps dips, then perform three sets of a biceps exercise such as a dumbbell curl. Do another three sets of a different version of triceps dips and then move on to your shoulder exercises. Do not overtrain or under train your triceps. ExRx.net recommends a three-day split workout that places triceps exercises on day three. Working out three days on, one day off, will have you exercising your triceps with at least two variations of dips approximately twice a week.
- ExRx.net: Triceps Dips
- ExRx.net: Weighted Triceps Dip
- ExRx.net: Self-Assisted Triceps Dip
- ExRx.net: Triceps Dip (bent knees between benches)
- Stack: Why You Need Strong Triceps
- ExRx.net: 3 Day Split Workout
- Matt Siaperas; Personal Trainer, Former Bodybuilder, Hardbodies Gym, Blackfoot, Idaho
- Military.com: Perfect Practice for Perfect Push-Ups
- YouTube.com: Brandon Williams Hits the Dip Bar for Building His Chest and Triceps
- Photo Credit Ammentorp Photography/iStock/Getty Images
How to Do a Dip Exercise
Dips primarily work your triceps, but they also train the muscles of your chest and shoulders. You won't need special equipment like...