Physical Benefits of Dips Exercise

Fitness in the nature
A man and woman doing dips together. (Image: Thomas Knauer/iStock/Getty Images)

Dips are intense and effective isolation exercises that help develop powerful and defined triceps. They can be performed on a machine at the gym or at home on a step; both methods use your body weight as resistance Some towers used for dips come equipped with a pulley system and platform on which you stand or rest your legs. The system provides lift support if your own body weight is too much for you.

Muscle Engagement

Dips are a compound push exercise with a small range of motion that primarily works your triceps but also engages your forearms, shoulders, chest and lower back. These muscle groups are engaged from the moment you position yourself on a dip machine, as the muscles are needed to help stabilize and balance yourself on the arm handles. As you lower and raise your body, the muscles provide resistance to the gravitational pull on your body. The lack of momentum during the dip movement keeps the muscles contracted throughout, making it one of the most effective triceps exercises.


To do a dip, position yourself on a dip machine with arms locked. Intertwine your legs and bend at the knees. Try to avoid leaning forward with your upper body. Begin by slowly lowering yourself while inhaling, until your arms form a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your triceps and shoulders to propel yourself upward and back to the starting position while exhaling. At the top of the movement, contract your arm, shoulder and chest muscles as hard as you can, hold for one count, then repeat.

If you don't have access to a dip machine, the edge of a step or or any low-lying and stable platform will work. Keep your legs in front of you and grasp the edge of the platform with your hands just below your hips. Slightly move your body forward to clear the edge and execute the dip movement as on a machine.


Arm handles on many dip machines can be moved close together or far apart. These adjustment features affect your grip width. Wide grip dips target the outer portion of the pectoral muscles and the intercostal muscles along your ribs. Narrow grip dips place the emphasis of the movement on the triceps and shoulders. All these muscle groups are engaged to a certain degree no matter the width of the grip, but the angle formed by your arms during the exercise shifts the workload of holding up your weight to different upper body areas.


Dips are an ideal exercise if you want to develop a tapered "V"-shaped upper body. Wide grip dips especially help build some of the muscles that contribute to a wide upper-body frame and physique. Incorporating dips into your workout routine keeps your chest from becoming too bulky or unevenly developed. Doing lots of bench presses and other chest-specific exercises don't necessarily help elongate your muscles. Dips, however, encourage the growth of a natural, sweeping chest by slightly stretching the pectoral muscles as you lower yourself.


Besides contributing to an appealing physique, dips make your upper body significantly stronger. Increased strength in your arms and chest through dips means greater overall strength training potential. In other words, your ability to lift more weight when performing other exercises, such as bench presses, shoulder shrugs and dumbbell arm curls, helps you develop other body parts more efficiently. Additionally, many smaller stabilizer muscles in your upper body, which are typically difficult to engage or isolate, are worked as you control and balance your body during dips.

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