What Muscles Do Dips Work – More Chest Or Tricep?

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what muscles do dips workThe dip is a powerful compound movement that requires strength, stability, and the proper shoulder mobility.

It’s a worthy concurrent to the bench press and alone can build you an impressive chest, and triceps. Once bodyweight dips become too easy for you, weight can be added for years, until you reach your maximum strength potential. They can be done on the regular dip bars at the gym, parallel bars in your local park, or even better for those who are seeking an extra challenge; gymnastic rings.

There are however a few important cues to take into account when performing this excellent exercise, for a few reasons. First of all, you want to be sure that you are actually targeting the right muscle group in the most efficient possible manner. You will read further into this short guide that angle and arm placement changes that drastically.

Secondly, the sheer number of people who have shoulder or sternum issues with this particular exercise is surprising. This is because some individuals lack the proper shoulder mobility, try to go too deep and end up hurting themselves. Another thing that is important is to focus on proper scapula movement. If you are one of the people who suffer from shoulder and upper chest pain during dips, you can read more about this here.

Let us now go into more depth on the dip itself, how it works, and how you can use it to target more triceps, or chest.

Anatomy of the dip

Watch the target muscles, synergists, and stabilizers involved in dips in the short demonstration video below.

Anatomy of the muscles worked in the chest dip:

Targeted muscles: Pectoralis Major

Synergists: Anterior Deltoid, Triceps Brachii, Pectoralis Minor, Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae, Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major

Stabilizers: lower Trapezius

Anatomy of the muscles worked in the tricep dip:

Targeted Muscles: Triceps Brachii

Synergists: Anterior Deltoid, Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae, Latissimus Dorsi,

Stabilizers: lower Trapezius

Dynamic Stabilizers: Biceps Brachii

How to do dips for chest

This version of the dip is chest dominant. It will also work your triceps and all above-mentioned muscles to a certain degree. To perform the movement properly and really target your chest, keep the following cues in mind:

  • Torso forward
  • Legs forward
  • Elbows slightly flared
  • Soft lockout
  • Medium – wide hand placement

How to do dips for triceps

This version of the dip is tricep dominant. It will also work your chest and all above-mentioned muscles to a certain degree. To perform the movement properly and really

target your triceps, keep the following cues in mind:

  • Torso vertical
  • Legs under/behind hips
  • Elbows tucked
  • Hard lockout
  • Narrower hand width


If you want to perform this exercise outside of the gym you have a few options.

dip station: A dip station can be purchased for a reasonable price and doesn’t take up much space in your home gym. Most a strong enough to support heavy weighted dips, just like in a commercial gym.

gymnastic rings: Another option would be to get gymnastic rings. What’s great about this piece of equipment is that you can anchor them pretty much anywhere which will support your weight. They will make your regular dips a lot more challenging as you will need to learn to stabilize the rings at first and it will take some getting use to. As soon as you’ve built up the required strength however, they will recruit more muscle fibers, and help to build a ton of strength.

DIY: This is the cheapest option, but a very good one if you are on a tight budget. Click on the link to check out an awesome build that will allow you to build that upper body size and strength, and work on a fun little weekend project.

what muscles do dips work – Conclusion

We’ve seen how the dip works not just your chest, triceps, and a little bit of shoulders, but also a plethora of synergists and stabilizers. It’s a fantastic upper body pushing movement, and can be tweaked to make it more triceps or chest dominant. Keep the mentioned guidelines in mind when you want to perform the exercise properly. Lastly, If you need somewhere to do this exercise other than at the gym check out the equipment list.

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