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What Muscles Do Dips Work Out?

author image Timothy Onkst
Based in Harker Heights, Texas, Timothy Onkst has been writing about sports, fitness and health since 2003. His articles have appeared in a variety of publications including "Texas Roundball" magazine, Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports and other websites.
What Muscles Do Dips Work Out?
A woman is doing body weight dips. Photo Credit: Ammentorp Photography/iStock/Getty Images

Dips are a body-weight exercise that target the upper body. They can be performed in two very different ways to work different parts of the muscles in your upper body. Dips are a compound push-type exercise that works a large number of muscles at the same time.

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Parallel Bar Dips

Parallel bar dips are performed using a specially designed parallel bar machine or by using any object or objects that are sturdy and of equal height so that your knees will not touch the ground. To perform parallel bar dips, grab the two hands of the machine and start with your arms fully extended with you above the bars and your legs crossed and bent. Then lower yourself until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle before pushing back up to the starting position to complete one repetition.

Triceps Dips

Triceps dips are performed by using one or two weight benches or any surfaces of equal height. Beginners can keep their feet on the floor, but as you get stronger, placing your legs across an equal height surface will make the exercise more challenging. Start by placing your hands behind you onto a bench so that your fingers face forward. Place your heels on another bench or on the floor. Raise yourself up so that your arms are straight and this is the starting position. Then lower yourself until your arms are at a 90-degree angle before returning to the starting position to complete one repetition.

Parallel Bar Dips Muscles Worked

The pectoralis major muscle of the chest is the primary muscle that is worked during parallel bar dips. According to, other muscles that are heavily worked include the pectoralis minor, the anterior deltoid and rhomboid in the shoulders, the triceps and the lat muscles in the back. The trapezius muscle in the upper back is activated as a stabilizing muscle during parallel bar dips.

Triceps Dips Muscles Worked

The triceps muscle at the back of the upper arm is the primary muscle that is worked during the triceps dips exercise. According to the Sports Injury Clinic, the pectoralis muscles of the chest are also worked during the exercise. The main action though comes from the triceps, as the triceps muscle is responsible for extending the elbow which is the primary action in triceps dips.

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