Parallel Bar Triceps Dips (Bodyweight Triceps Dips)
In this post you will learn how to perform parallel bar triceps dips – one of the best triceps exercise that effectively blasts all three heads simultaneously. This exercises does not use weights—your body weight provides all the resistance.
Introduction into Parallel Bar Triceps Dips
Dips are an extremely versatile exercise, but are usually thought to benefit the chest muscles. By changing your body position, however, you can work the triceps very effectively. Normally, you want to lean forward slightly as you lift and lower your body on dips, but if you keep your torso straight up and down, the stress is shifted to your triceps.
Parallel bar triceps dips are fantastic for hitting all three heads at once. Despite the involvement of the chest muscles and deltoid, you should try not to flex your shoulders (as in the lying triceps extension) in order to concentrate the effort in the triceps and give all three heads a good workout.
If you are able to do 3 sets of 15-20 reps without the assistance of a training partner, then it’s a really good result. Advanced bodybuilders sometimes attach additional weights to their waist for greater resistance. In that case the total number of repetitions is reduced. Don’t try this until you are very comfortable with regular dips.
To perform this great triceps exercise you will first have to locate the dip station in your gym. Sometimes you’ll find a stand-alone dip station. Other times it’s part of a device called the “captain’s chair” that is used for an ab exercise resembling the hanging leg raise. Some dip bars are parallel, while others have horizontal bars that taper at one end. If you use the latter, experiment with different hand positions. If you do dips where the bars are farther apart, your outer pecs will get more work.
Exercise Instructions – Proper Technique
How to do parallel bar triceps dips with optimal technique?
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Grab the railings (set of parallel bars) with a neutral grip – palms facing each other. Start with a straight-arm supported position. Keep your legs straight and head up; minimize the amount of forward lean. You want your torso to be perpendicular to the floor. If you lean forward the workout will mostly target the shoulders and chest muscles. It’s not crucial to keep your legs straight. You can also work with your ankles crossed behind you with knees bent.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Bend your elbows and lower yourself until you feel a mild stretch in your shoulder or until your shoulder joints are below your elbows. The depth of your dip will depend on your flexibility and strength level. At the bottom position push yourself up by extending your arms.
Exercise Key Points to Remember – Tips & Tricks
The procedure of performing parallel bar triceps dips is simple, but you need to remember a few important details.
- You should control the full range of motion and avoid swinging your body.
- Keeping your elbows close to your sides isolates the triceps. That’s why you need to choose a pair of parallel bars that are truly parallel (not a V-shape that allows you to hold your hands just beyond shoulder width).
- You should feel like you are “straightening” your arms rather than “pushing.” To achieve this, make sure that your elbows do not move too far from your torso.
- If you let your elbows to flare out you will bring in more chest fibres to assist in the movement.
- Keep your body vertical with your head upright to stress the triceps. Bringing the head down or leaning your torso forward places emphasis on the chest. The more upright you are, the harder you work your triceps. That is why you should keep your head very straight with your eyes looking slightly toward the ceiling.
- Bend at the elbows and lower yourself as far as your mobility and comfort allow. A good target for most lifters is to descend until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. There’s no real benefit to going lower than that, even if you can without discomfort.
- The triceps works the hardest at the top of the movement rather than the bottom. So do not go down to low, and be sure to straighten your arms at the top of the exercise.
Exercise Variations & Substitutes
There are a number of different variations on how you can perform triceps dips.
If bodyweight triceps dips are to hard for you use similar movement. Newer gyms have a machine for assisted dips and assisted pull-ups that allows you to work with less than your bodyweight. The knee pad on an assisted pull-up machine will take the part of your bodyweight as you build strength.
So if a machine unit for dips is available where you train, try it. It may enable you to find your optimum dipping pathway.
Furthermore, the bench dip is the stepping-stone to the parallel bar dip and is also good warmup exercise for it.
If you are strong enough you can add extra weight by holding a dumbbell between your legs or use a dip belt.
Replacement exercise for the parallel bar triceps dips can be found in our big triceps exercise database.
- Main muscles: triceps, pectoralis major (lower), front deltoid
- Secondary muscles: pectoralis minor, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, subscapularis, anconeus
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, rear deltoid
Closing Thoughts About Parallel Bar Triceps Dips
Triceps dips are an excellent compound exercise for developing the upper body – triceps, chest, and shoulders. In our opinion the dip is definitely the king of triceps exercises. Descending in the dip with your arms close to your sides and your elbows moving back places more stress on the triceps and works all three of the triceps heads.
In other words, the dip is to triceps (and thus to the entire upper arm) what the squat is to the quadriceps (and thus to the entire lower body). It’s the big, basic movement that works the entire muscle. If you have time to perform just one triceps exercise, this is definitely the one to do.
To do parallel bar triceps dips, you need to have plenty of strength and balance. The great thing about doing dips is that you use your own body weight. If you can’t complete a full set of dips, then do as many as you can. In time, you will be amazed at how easy they are.
Skip this triceps exercise only if you have compromised shoulders. It’s a precarious position for your shoulders, with all your weight forward while your upper arms are behind your torso. So if you have existing shoulder problems or find you’re developing them after a few attempts at dipping, you may have to skip this exercise.
People who have the most difficulty with dips are frequently heavy. Other factors are rounded shoulders and adaptive shortening of the pectoral muscles. If you are tight in those areas, then before you start dipping you should work for a few weeks on gradually increasing your shoulder and pec flexibility.