Fitness Tips

What Muscles Do Dips Work?

The humble dip has been around for ages. But it never fails to give you a brutal upper body workout every time you do a rep. 

Yet, time and again we see young fitness buffs trade it for fancier isolation machines in the gym. 

The dip is a compound move folks and depending on which variation you choose to perform, you can target just about every single muscle in your upper body with it. 

It is great for increasing strength as well as for muscular hypertrophy. 

Moreover, it does not take any equipment to do one. It’s a bodyweight exercise after all. 

You can even do it at home. 

If you have been skimping on the dip cause it’s too ordinary, then here are some reasons why it should be a part of every workout routine.

What Are Dips?

what muscles do dips work

The dip is used to describe a ‘push’ exercise usually performed on parallel bars, that targets the deltoids, the pectoral muscles and the rhomboid muscles of the upper back.

Altering the grip and your body position on the handles allows you to place additional emphasis on the pectorals if need be. 

In fact, if you maintain the correct form, grip and posture, then there’s no better exercise to target the entire pectoral muscle group than the dip. 

A variation of the dip called the ‘bench dip’ or the ‘triceps dip’ is done on a chair or a bench, and primarily targets the triceps. 

How To Do Dips Properly – Target the Right Muscles

The thing about dips is that it is such a simple exercise and many people because of this reason overlook performing them correctly and in turn do not do them correctly. Not doing them correctly in turn causes you to target and work the wrong muscles.

Watch the video below to understand the proper form so that you make sure that you are doing dips correctly.

Two variations of the dip and the different muscles they target

As we just mentioned, there are two variations of the dip. Let’s start with the easier of the lot. 

Triceps dip

seated triceps dip muscles

The triceps dip can be performed using a single chair/bench, or two of them (for experienced athletes). Place your hands on the bench so that the fingers are facing forward. Now raise your legs and place them on the second bench of equal height that’s placed three to four feet away. Lift your body until the weight is supported by the straight arms. This is the starting position for the dip. Now lower your body sinking towards the floor, until the arms are bent at the elbow at 90-degrees before raising yourself back to the starting position. This is one dip repetition. If you do not have the space for two chairs, you can place your feet on the ground, stretched out straight in front. Beginners can also bend their knees slightly as this makes the dip easier. 

Chest dip

what muscles do dips work

The Chest dip or the parallel bar dip is performed on a dip stand or on any two parallel bars of equal height. Grab the two bars of the dip stand with each hand and raise your body until the arms are fully extended above the bars. Your legs must now be bent and not touching the ground. Your entire body weight is being supported by the arms. Lower yourself until the arms are bent at the elbow at 90-degrees before raising yourself up again until the arms are straight. That’s one repetition. If you maintain a narrow grip and a straight body during the dip, it targets all the muscles of the upper body with a slight emphasis on your triceps. But if you lean forward slightly and allow the elbows to flare outwards, the dip predominantly targets the pectoralis major. Other than this, it also targets the anterior deltoids, the lats, the rhomboid muscles and the pectoralis minor, with the trapezius muscle firing as you try to stabilize your body during the dip movement. 

Tricep Dips Vs Chest Dips – Which One Builds More Muscle?

Now you might be wondering just which exercise is going to put on the most muscle or just which one is better all around?

Well here’s the thing, they both build muscle but they target different muscles. IF you must know which one builds more muscle, it is going to be the chest dips that pack on more muscle.

The reason for this is that leaning forward on the chest dips causing you to not only engage your triceps but also your core, and your chest. Trust me when I tell you that chest dips are extremely engaging and very taxing on your body. It is almost comparable to amount of energy expended when you are doing compound movements such as deadlifts and squats.

But if you are not wanting to target chest and instead what to target your arms then seated or hanging tricep dips are going to be the dip style that you want to be doing. These are especially effective if you have little arms and want to pack some size onto the triceps.

Benefits of Doing Dips

What is it that makes such a basic, bodyweight exercise the bee’s knees for your upper body?

Let’s find out. 

which muscles do dips work

It’s a Muscle Strength Builder

If you have been lagging behind on your bench pressing, then the chest dip is one of the best exercises to help build strength that will boost your numbers on the bench. Once you are comfortably surpassing your preferred rep count on the dip, just add weights to your torso during the dips and slowly, you’ll start to notice a marked improvement in the strength in your arms, shoulders, and back muscles. 

It’s a Muscle Mass Builder

While most chest exercises allow you to isolate each muscle of the chest, there are only a handful of compound movements that target both, the pectoralis major and minor. The dip is one of them. And it is an excellent exercise for muscle hypertrophy. You can add weights and do the 4-7 rep range. Or do the bodyweight version and hit max reps to get a juicy pump. If you increase your intensity at the lowest position, it also allows you to hit the outer chest as well. 

You can do it anywhere, No Equipment Needed

This is the best thing about this exercise, you can do them just about anywhere. A dip stand is one of the best pieces of home gym equipment for small space.

Stack two sturdy objects of equal height and you’ve got a makeshift dip stand. You can do it anywhere, anytime. If you don’t have weights to add, just slow down your movement to increase the resistance on the dip. 

Multiple Muscle fibers fire

Research has proven that the best exercises that engage the maximum number of muscle fibers in your body, are the ones in which your body moves freely through space. That’s why squats are considered way more superior than anything else for the legs. Pull ups are better any day than pull downs and so on. Dips fall into this category. You have multiple muscle groups firing together to keep your body stable. There’s nothing like it. 

It’s a calorie burner

Any compound exercise that hits multiple muscle groups, requires you to put in a lot more effort. That’s fat loss for you right there folks. 

Is It Bad on My Muscles to Do Dips Everyday?

Many people, myself included do dips everyday. But this brings up a good question. Would doing them everyday cause my muscles to be overtrained or is this okay?

We frequently come across 30-day challenges on Social media that spurs you to perform a stipulated number of reps of any one movement every day for a month. 

For example, you can do a 30-day dip challenge where you perform 50-100 dips every day for a month.

Can you do this safely? Sure, you can.

Will you get stronger doing this? Absolutely. Any exercise will make you stronger than resting your lazy butt all day on the couch.

But is it beneficial in the long run? Absolutely not. 

Just like any other exercise, you should be using dips specifically on ‘Push’ days when you are hitting your chest and triceps. 

After your push day, you should allow at least 48 hours for your body to rest and recuperate before doing dips again. 

Do not do dips or pull ups or crunches every day. It will over exert your muscles and could lead to a bad time.

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Ben Mayz

Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now. My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future. I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics. My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics. Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward. You can learn more about Fitlifefanatics on our About Page

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