What do fresh cut grass, ice cream sandwiches and your triceps have in common? They're all underrated. Often overshadowed by their biceps neighbor, your triceps deserve a place in your upper-body strength-training routine.
If you want to give your triceps some proper attention, skip the triceps dips and opt for a triceps pushdown instead. This exercise is safer for your shoulders and isolates your triceps more so you'll really feel the burn.
The Risks of Triceps Dips
While dips may be your standard, go-to triceps exercise, they aren't totally risk-free, especially if you have bad form. While they're considered a functional movement, they can put increased stress on your shoulder joint, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Unlike your hip joints, for instance, the shoulders aren't a true ball-and-socket joint. This means that they rely on muscles and joints for stability, making the shoulders more injury-prone, according to ACE. Dips also push certain shoulder joints beyond their typical range of motion, making it more difficult to stabilize your shoulders.
A lot of people also lack the strength needed to perform a dip properly, says Sam Becourtney, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City. As a result, people tend to compensate with other muscles as their triceps fatigue, which can cause pain in the shoulders.
Even the bars used for a triceps dip can increase the stress on your shoulders, Becourtney says. Depending on the width of the bars, the triceps dip can turn into more of a chest exercise if the arms are too far apart, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.
The More Effective (and Safer) Triceps Exercise
If you're looking for a good exercise swap for your triceps dip, Becourtney recommends switching to a cable, bar or banded triceps pushdown. This move is easy to perform at a gym, the playground or even right at home.
Unlike the dip, the triceps pushdown places significantly less stress on the shoulder joint, Becourtney says. Holding the shoulder stable, this exercise is isolated at the elbow joint, leaving the triceps muscle responsible for extending the arm.
This move also helps you isolate the muscle more than the dip, giving your triceps a better workout. The pushdown is also far more beginner-friendly. It's easier to perform and more customizable based on your current abilities.
"You're able to adjust the weight or resistance as needed, so you can start lighter and gradually increase the resistance," Becourtney says. "The triceps dip requires you to move your body weight at the very least."
- Begin holding a bar, rope or band that's anchored high above your head.
- Keep your elbows bent and tight at your sides, slightly peeking behind your body.
- Keeping your upper arms stable, straighten your elbows by moving your palms toward the floor, face down.
- After your elbows are fully extended, bend them again to 90 degrees, returning to the starting position.
"The key here is to try to isolate the movement at the elbow joint and keep the rest of your body still, including your upper arm and torso with your core engaged," Becourtney says. As you return to the starting position, keep the weight maintained and control the resistance so it doesn't pull you back there with force.
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