Target Your Triceps and Save Your Shoulders With Correct Bench Dip Form

Their versatility makes bench dips an excellent go-to exercise for isolating your triceps.
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Bench dips are an effective exercise for training your triceps that you can perform pretty much anywhere. However, it's important to do them correctly to get the most out of the exercise and make sure you don't injure your shoulders. We share our top bench dip form tips as well as variations and alternatives.


Common Questions

What are bench dips?

The bench dip is a bodyweight exercise that targets your triceps, shoulders and chest. It’s performed by placing your hands behind you on an elevated surface and using your arms to lower your body down to the floor.

What are bench dips good for?

Bench dips are great for building upper body muscle - especially in your triceps. They also allow you to train your upper body when you don’t have any equipment.

What muscles do bench dips work?

Triceps and shoulders are the primary muscles worked during bench dips. The pectoral muscles in chest also play a secondary role.

Are dips better than push-ups?

Bench dips and push-ups train similar muscles using different body positions. Push-ups are more full body, whereas bench dips are more of an isolation exercise. Neither is necessarily better than the other and both might fit into your routine.

Are bench dips bad for your shoulders?

Bench dips are not for everyone, as they can place high amounts of stress on your shoulder joints. You may want to avoid bench dips if you have a history of shoulder pain or injuries.

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How to Do a Bench Dip With Great Form

Skill Level All Levels
Region Upper Body
  1. Sit down on the edge of the bench (or another support, like a chair or box). Place your hands on either side of your hips, fingers pointing out to your sides. Pull your shoulders blades back and down away from your ears.
  2. Move your buttocks off the edge of the bench, and extend your legs out in front of you.
  3. Lower your hips 2 to 3 inches, bending your elbows and then press up with your arms to return to the starting position.
  4. If this is too easy, lower a little farther and press back up. Work your way up to where your shoulders are even with your elbows before pressing up to the starting position. Use your legs only as necessary for balance.
  5. Your torso should stay upright, hips below shoulders, and as close as possible to the bench throughout the range of motion.

Benefits of the Bench Dip

1. Simple to Learn

Bench dips are a relatively straightforward exercise. So long as you can perform the exercise without pain, you can quickly and easily add it to your routine. It's also easy to modify: Simply bend your knees.


2. Builds Upper-Body Muscle

There's a reason why bench dips have long been a staple of bodybuilding programs: They can help you build serious muscle. You can use bench dips as an accessory exercise to supplement heavier pressing to sculpt your triceps and shoulders.

What about bench dips for your chest?

Although your chest plays a supporting role in this exercise, you won't build much chest muscle using bench dips alone. Try combining bench dips with push-ups or other horizontal pressing exercises. Or, you can progress to bar dips (more on those below), which ‌do‌ hit your chest more effectively.

3. Strengthens Your Triceps

Tricep strength is essential for pressing exercises such as the bench press, push-ups and overhead press. If you struggle to lock out the last portion of these movements, weak triceps are often to blame. Including bench dips and other tricep isolation exercises in your workouts can help strengthen this crucial muscle.


Building strength through bench dips can also help if you want to work toward more challenging upper-body exercises such as parallel bar dips and muscle ups.

4. Allows You to Train Your Upper Body With No Equipment

Unlike other tricep-building exercises, you don't need any equipment to perform bench dips. All you need is a sturdy surface where you can elevate your hands. This means you can perform bench dips at a park, on the road, at home or wherever you want to train.


Common Bench Dip Form Mistakes and How to Fix Them

1. Incorrect Range of Motion

It can be tempting to use a shallow range of motion on bench dips. If you're only lowering yourself half an inch, you're probably not getting very much out of the exercise. Try working toward using a deeper range of motion, or pick another tricep exercise that better suits you.


On the flip side, it's not advisable to go extremely deep on your bench dips because it places high amounts of stress on your shoulders. Do not lower yourself past the point where your elbows and shoulders are level.


2. Incorrect Hand Position

Traditionally, bench dips are performed with your fingers facing the same direction as your legs. But this forces your shoulders to internally rotate and can lead to discomfort.


For better results (and better shoulder health), try positioning your hands so your fingers point out to the sides. This externally rotates your shoulders and can prevent them from collapsing inward or sliding forward during your bench dips.

3. Incorrect Shoulder Position

It's easy to let your shoulders shrug up toward your ears or round in toward your chest during bench dips. Unfortunately, both of these can lead to shoulder discomfort.


Always keep your shoulder blades pulled down away from your ears. It also helps to actively retract, or pull back, your shoulder blades. This keeps your chest open and minimizes the forward glide of your shoulder.

4. Going Too Quickly

Don't be in a hurry to get through your bench dips, even if you want them over quickly. If you want to get the most out of this exercise, you should move in a slow and controlled manner, especially on the lowering portion of the exercise.


Bench Dip Variations

Make It Easier: Bend Your Knees

The easiest way to reduce the difficulty of bench dips is to bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Bending your knees means supporting less of your bodyweight with your arms and shoulders. You can also push more through your legs to assist your upper body.

If you're struggling with bench dips, start with this variation. You can gradually extend your legs out in front of you as you get stronger and more comfortable with the exercise.


Make It Harder: Place Your Feet on a Second Bench

Once you can comfortably perform multiple sets of 10-plus straight leg bench dips, you can make the exercise harder by elevating your feet on a second bench.

When you elevate your feet, you receive less help from your legs. You must support more weight with your arms and shoulders.

This variation will also potentially allow you to go deeper into your dip. However, this isn't always ideal. Be sure to listen to your body and don't push into any joint pain. Never go so low that your shoulders drop below your elbows.

Make It Even Harder: Use Weight

The final progression of bench dips is to elevate your feet and place weight on your lap. It's best to perform this variation with a training partner who can safely position the weights and remove them when your set is finished.

Weight plates are the most comfortable option, but you could potentially use any weights available so long as they stay in place throughout your set.

How to Add Bench Dips to Your Workouts

Bench dips are best left to the latter portion of your workout, after you've done any heavy pressing exercises such as the bench press, incline press or overhead press.

It's a good idea to ease into dips to see how your body responds before adding more sets, reps or weight. Stop performing bench dips if they hurt your shoulders despite working on your technique.

Start with 2 sets of 6 to 10 reps. As you get stronger, you can work up to 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps. You can also consider making the exercise harder in other ways (such as elevating your feet or adding weight.)


Bench Dip Alternatives

1. Parallel Bar Dips

Looking for a serious upper body challenge? Give parallel bar dips a shot. You can use them as a progression once you're strong enough to perform multiple high rep sets of bench dips. Some people may find that parallel bar dips actually feel better on their shoulders than bench dips.

Skill Level Intermediate
Region Upper Body
  1. Begin with your arms fully extended and one bar in each hand. If possible, keep your legs straight and pressed together. If not, bend your knees and point your lower legs behind you.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower yourself toward the floor. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down away from your ears. Lean forward slightly over your hands.
  3. Lower yourself until your elbows are even with your shoulders. Then push yourself back up until your arms are fully extended.


If you want to really target your chest, progress to straight bar dips after getting parallel dips down.

Bench dips vs bar dips: what’s the difference?

Bench dips and bar dips both target your triceps, shoulders and chest. However, there are key differences between the two exercises.

The most important difference is your body position. When you perform dips on a bar, you can change your torso angle to keep your shoulders in a less extended and internally rotated position. This shifts the focus more to your chest and removes some of the stress on your shoulder joint.

Another difference is that you're supporting your entire bodyweight when you perform bar dips. This makes the exercise significantly more challenging than bench dips, where you rest your legs on the floor.

2. Band-Assisted Parallel Bar Dips

Using a resistance band to help with pull-ups is a tried-and-true method, and you can do the same thing using parallel bars. The band gives you more assistance in the bottom of the rep — precisely where the dip is the hardest.

Skill Level Intermediate
Region Upper Body
  1. Loop a resistance band around two parallel bars.
  2. Begin with your arms fully extended and one bar in each hand. Bend your knees and place your shins on top of the band.
  3. Bend your elbows and lower yourself toward the floor. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down away from your ears. Lean forward slightly over your hands.
  4. Lower yourself until your elbows are even with your shoulders. Then push yourself back up until your arms are fully extended.

3. Assisted Dip Machine

The assisted dip machine subtracts some of your own bodyweight to allow you to perform parallel bar dips. It's a good option if you aren't yet strong enough to perform bar dips on your own or find the hand position on the bench to be uncomfortable.

Skill Level Beginner
Region Upper Body
  1. Set up an assisted dip machine with the correct weight.
  2. Begin with your arms fully extended and one bar in each hand. Bend your knees and place your lower legs on top of the supporting pad.
  3. Bend your elbows and lower yourself toward the floor. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down away from your ears. Lean forward slightly over your hands if possible.
  4. Lower yourself until your elbows are even with your shoulders. Then push yourself back up until your arms are fully extended.

4. Other Tricep Exercises

If you aren't able to do dips but still want to hammer your triceps, you can choose from many other exercises. A few examples include:

All of these exercises target your triceps with little to no strain on your shoulders.




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