In this post you will find complete step-by-step instructions on how to perform seated machine dips safely and effectively to achieve maximum results from this great triceps exercise.
One piece of equipment that often gets overlooked is the seated dip machine. Machine dips are a good exercise for those looking to utilize the dip motion, but do not feel comfortable or are not able to perform body weight dips (parallel bar dips) or even dips between two benches. Because machines don’t require much attention to balance, they allow you to simply overload the target muscle with as much weight as possible. As you fatigue, the machine prevents form breaks – such as leaning forward – so you are certain that you are targeting the triceps during your entire session.
How to Perform Seated Machine Dips?
STARTING POSITION: Sit in the machine, press your back against the pad, and place your feet flat on the floor. If there is a seat belt, secure it across your upper thighs. Grasp the handles using a closed, neutral grip (palms facing your body) with your elbows flexed and your arms near the sides of your torso.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Push the handles down until your elbows are almost fully extended. Keep your back and upper arms pressed against the pads. Allow your elbows to flex to the initial position.
Additional Tips & Key Points
Some helpful hints on how to perform seated machine dips safely and effectively.
- Keep your arms close to your sides.
- Position your feet flat on the floor, and your glutes, back and shoulder blades pressed against the support pad (stay seated on the machine throughout the exercise).
- Keep your arms close to your sides throughout (elbows pointed straight back behind you).
- Seated machine triceps dips need to be done with the upper torso straight up to keep the tension on 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.
- At the bottom of the movement, focus on keeping a little bend in your arms to keep tension on the triceps muscle.
- When your elbows veer out to the side during tricep dip exercises, you’re able to lift more weight. However, this is only because you have more leverage; your arms aren’t getting any stronger. If you let your elbows to flare out you will bring in more chest fibres to assist in the movement.
Muscles Engaged in Machine Dips
You wonder what muscles do dips work? 3 big ones…and countless others!
The triceps dip machine targets your triceps and, to some extent, your shoulder and chest muscles.
- Main muscles: triceps, pectoralis major (lower), front deltoid;
- Secondary muscles: pectoralis minor, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, subscapularis, anconeus;
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, rear deltoid
There are a number of different variations on how you can perform triceps dips.
- Parallel-Bar Tricep Dips (body weight dips)
- Assisted Triceps Dip Machine. Newer gyms have a machine for assisted dips and assisted pull-ups that allows you to work with less than your body weight. The knee pad on an assisted pull-up machine will take the part of your body weight as you build strength.
- Bench Dips. The bench dip is the stepping-stone to the parallel bar dip and is also good warmup exercise for it.
Replacement exercise for the machine dips can be found in our big triceps exercise database.
For beginners, body weight dips may be too challenging. The machine helps you learn proper form and build a baseline of strength.
Performing the exercise while seated in the triceps push-down (dip) machine, where the resistance is adjustable, makes it easier to focus your effort on the triceps. Your main concern is simply making sure you’ve set the apparatus to fit your height, as most seats adjust up and down.
Dip machines have some advantages and disadvantages. Although, as already mentioned, they can give you complete control over the amount of resistance and you don’t need to worry about balance, you may have difficulty staying seated when using heavy weights. Your body may have a tendency to pop out of the machine.
Finally, all the tips mentioned for the parallel bar dip also apply to the machine variation.