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Triceps Dips Are the Upper-Body Move You Should Master ASAP

Bodyweight exercises may be synonymous with "easy" in your mind—but triceps dips (demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) will change that association forever. This classic, unassuming exercise puts a ton of demand on those small muscles on the back of your upper arms (your triceps), says Joey Thurman, fitness and nutrition expert and author of 365 Health and Fitness Hacks That Could Save Your Life.

Triceps Dips Benefits and Variations

When it comes to triceps exercises, dips are one of the best: In fact, a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise found that, among the most common triceps exercises, dips are second only to triangle push-ups and just about tie with kickbacks in terms of triceps activation. Since you're also holding your hips off the ground (rather than lying on the floor or sitting), you'll also activate your core.

While your triceps may be burning, your shoulders shouldn't be: "Make sure to keep your back as close as you can to the bench so that you don't stress your shoulders," says Thurman. "This move will work your chest and shoulders as well, but it shouldn't cause pain." If it does, try another exercise to target your triceps, like a triceps extension, triceps push-up, or these nine triceps exercises.

To make triceps dips even more challenging, extend your legs so you're balancing on your heels—or even put your feet up on an elevated surface like another bench. "Or simply change your tempo," says Thurman. "An exercise can feel completely different with changes in speed." (Just check out this slow-motion strength training workout for proof.) Want to get crazy? Head over a pull-up/dip station and do triceps dips with your entire bodyweight.

How to Do a Triceps Dip

A. Sit on a bench (or stable chair), with hands on the edge next to hips, fingers pointing toward feet. Press into palms to extend arms, lift hips off the bench, and walk feet forward a few inches so hips are in front of the bench.
B. Inhale and bend elbows straight back to lower body until elbows form a 90-degree angle.
C. Pause, then exhale and press into palms and imagine driving hands through the bench to engage triceps and straighten arms to return to starting position.

Do 10 to 15 reps. Try 3 sets.

Triceps Dips Form Tips

  • As you lower, retract shoulder blades to keep them from hunching forward.
  • Refrain from lowering your body too far down. Decrease the range of motion if it's painful.
  • Pause at the top of each rep and really contract your triceps. 

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