What Muscles Do Dips Work Most? Chest Dips, Tricep Dips & Variations

a man is doing chest dips on a dip bar_what muscles do dips work
David J. Sautter post Reviewer
The article is verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, BA in Professional Writing

What muscles do dips work?🤔 Find out about types of dips and what muscles they target the most in your workout routine.

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When you look in the mirror, are you happy with how your chest looks? Guys and girls alike want a chest that complements their form, makes their posture look strong, and gives them confidence when they walk into a room.

If you’d describe your chest as frumpy, lacking, or hunched, and you’re tired of trying to build it up with push-ups, I’ve got an exercise for you: chest dips

You may have watched people in the gym performing dips and wondered, “What muscles do dips work? It looks like they are hitting the triceps.”

You wouldn’t be wrong, but dips can also be adjusted to directly target the chest as well. Dips are an effective and challenging bodyweight exercise that can help you build, tone, and sculpt both your chest and triceps. 

What are Dips?

I like to refer to dips as the “facelift for the chest.”

While there are a few types of dips, the one constant in all of them is the movement itself. As I’ll detail more below, the exercise requires you to perform the same actions:

  • Bend at the elbow
  • Lower yourself to a point where the upper arm (triceps) is parallel with the ground
  • Push up to return to the starting position

Dips are thought of as a traditional bodyweight exercise, but you can make them more challenging by adding resistance. 

For captain’s chair dips, also known as hanging dips or dip station dips, you can wear a weight belt to add resistance. For bench dips, you can simply place a weight plate on your lap.

What Muscles Do Dips Work?

In general, dips muscles worked primarily involve the chest and triceps. However, the angle of your body in relation to the equipment you’re using plays an important role. 

For example, if you lean forward during captain’s chair dips, you will target the chest more. If you perform bench dips, you will target the triceps more.

While the chest and triceps are the primary muscles targeted by dips, other muscles will also naturally get involved to help with support and stabilization. Let’s look at them in detail.

Chest Dips

So, what do dips work as far as the chest? Here’s a quick breakdown of all the muscles involved in chest-focused dips.

a male model with muscles worked during chest dips highlighted, what muscles do dips work
Muscles worked during chest dips

🔴 Target Muscles Used in Dips

  • (Chest) Pectoralis Major
  • (Chest) Pectoralis Minor

🟡 Muscles Used in Dips That Assist the Target Muscles

  • (Shoulders) Anterior Deltoid
  • (Arms) Triceps Brachii
  • (Back) Rhomboids
  • (Back) Levator Scapulae
  • (Back) Latissimus Dorsi
  • (Back) Teres Major

🔵 Muscles That Help with Stabilization

  • (Back / Shoulders) Trapezius

Triceps Dips

And what do dips target in regard to the triceps? Here is the list of muscles dips worked with a focus on the triceps.

a male model with muscles worked during triceps dips highlighted, what muscles do dips work
Muscles worked during triceps dips

🔴 Target Muscles Used in Dips

  • (Arms) Triceps Brachii

🟡 Muscles Used in Dips That Assist the Target Muscles

  • (Shoulders) Anterior Deltoid
  • (Chest) Pectoralis Major
  • (Chest) Pectoralis Minor
  • (Back) Rhomboids
  • (Back) Levator Scapulae
  • (Back) Latissimus Dorsi

🔵 Muscles That Help with Stabilization

  • (Back/Shoulders) Trapezius [1]

Benefits of Adding Dips to Your Workout

It might look like a funny exercise that is absent-mindedly thrown into your workout routine from time to time, but dips can be a great addition when used consistently. Here’s why:

Complementary to Your Routine

Dips can be used at any point during your upper body workouts. For example, dips are an excellent way to warm up your chest and triceps. You can also use dips as a burnout exercise, saving it for last and doing as many sets and reps as you can until complete muscle failure. 

Whether your goal is bigger triceps, muscular endurance, or sculpted pecs, dips can help you get there.

Follow a personalized workout plan in your Muscle Booster app and achieve your fitness goal, losing some weight and building muscle.

Easy to Scale (Difficulty Level)

Each type of dip can be regressed or progressed depending on where you are in your fitness journey.

You can make dips more difficult by adding weight. If you need a simpler version of dips, you can change the angle of your body or the equipment itself. For example, trading in the dip station for a bench. 

Dips are a great exercise for both beginners and advanced athletes alike.

Supports Muscle Growth, Strength, and Development

Dips also help support muscle growth, strength, and sculpting. Naturally, you have to perform dips with proper form, but when you combine that with the right acute variables, you can focus on the development of both the chest and triceps.

For example, if you want to grow your triceps, you can perform three to five sets of weighted dips on the captain’s chair for 8 to 12 repetitions followed by a final burnout bodyweight-only set. If you’re newer to working out, you can use the same numbers, but you’ll perform the exercise using a bench and no additional weight.

Improves Joint Health

If you don’t have prior issues with your elbows or shoulders, dips may help to improve the connective tissue in these joints. 

Properly executed dips naturally require that you take the arms and shoulders through a healthy full range of motion. If you do this safely and within your abilities, you can strengthen your joints. This will help to prevent joint stiffness, aches, pains, and injuries.

Convenience – You Can Do Them Almost Anywhere

Dips are relatively easy to do, and while you can perform them on a captain’s chair (dip station), dips don’t require special equipment. You can easily perform dips on a set of chairs or benches as well as an L-shaped countertop. 

Types of Dips and How to Do Dips

Now that we’ve answered the question, “What muscles do dips work?,” let’s discuss the different types of dips and how to perform them.

Chest Dips

For this type of dip, I’m going to explain how to do it on a captain’s chair, but the same form and execution applies if you want to start with a countertop or a set of raised benches or chairs.

a man is performing chest dips on a captains chair in a gym, what muscles do dips work
Chest dips
  • Start by gripping the handles and placing your feet on the footrests. 
  • Next, lift your body up so that your arms are straight, and your feet are off the ground. Most people will bend their knees and cross their legs.
  • Lean forward slightly as you lower your body down. 
  • Stop when your upper arm is parallel or just below parallel with the ground. 
  • Push up to return to the starting position.

Triceps Dips

Triceps dips can also be performed on a captain’s chair, making them a great addition to any triceps workout. The only change you would make is to remain vertical – do not lean forward. This will ensure the focus is placed on your triceps, and not as much on your chest.

a man is doing triceps dips on a captains chair in a gym, what muscles do dips work
Triceps dips on a captain’s chair

For this section, I’m going to describe how to perform a version of the dip that places the maximum amount of focus on your triceps—bench dips.

a man is performing bench dips, what muscles do dips work
  • Place two benches or chairs across from one another.
  • Sit on one side, gripping the edge of the bench or chair with your fingers facing you.
  • Put your feet on the other chair or bench in front of you.
  • Lift yourself up, straightening your arms and engaging your core for stabilization.
  • From here, lower your body down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. (Your arm will look like the number 7.)
  • Now, push yourself back up to return to the starting position.

Dips with Weight

If you want to make dips more difficult, you can add weight. Depending on how you are performing your dips will determine how you include more weight.

If you are using a dip station, you can invest in a weight belt. This is not to be confused with a weightlifting belt. The former has a chain that can be looped through weight plates and secured. The latter is meant to help with compound lifts like squats and deadlifts.

Place the weight belt around your waist, secure the additional plates, and then secure the locking mechanism. From here, perform the dips as you normally would.

If you are using benches or chairs, after you sit down, carefully place a weight plate on your lap. You might want to use a towel as well.

Do Dips Work Back?

Dips do not directly work the back. Dips recruit back muscles to act as stabilizers so the chest and triceps can work. While the back is involved, it is not the target muscle of the dips exercise.

If you’re looking for a great posterior-chain workout, we’ve got your back. Try our back and biceps workout.

Mistakes to Avoid While Performing Dips

Finally, let’s review some of the most common mistakes people make when doing dips.

Rounded Shoulders

The first mistake most people make is letting their shoulders round forward. This puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint and can lead to injury. Instead, keep your shoulders back and down throughout the entire exercise.

Swinging Their Body

Another mistake people make is to swing their body while performing dips. This takes away from the chest and triceps and puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint. Instead, focus on keeping your body still and controlled throughout the entire exercise.

Not Going Low Enough

Another common mistake is not going low enough. This means you’re not getting the full range of motion and not fully activating the chest and triceps. Make sure to lower your body until your upper arm is at or just below parallel.

Final Words

The muscles used in dips include most of the upper body but there’s a focus on the chest and triceps. Adding dips to your upper body workouts is an effective way to target the chest or triceps, depending on your goals. Here are some quick reminders about dips:

  • Dips are a great exercise for developing the chest and triceps. 
  • They’re relatively easy to do and don’t require any equipment other than a sturdy chair or bench. 
  • When performed correctly, they can help to increase muscle size and strength, as well as improve joint health.
  • To focus on the chest, lean forward. To focus on the triceps, stay vertical.
  • Avoid common mistakes such as rounding your shoulders, swinging your body, and not going through a full range of motion. 

The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.

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