Looking to build your chest and triceps? – Dips are a fantastic exercise to add to your workout. But, what's best between chest dips or tricep dips? 

The debate has been around for as long as the exercises. In this article, I’ll be putting chest dips vs tricep dips head to head to answer all the questions you have about the two exercises and which will benefit you the most.  

1. Muscles Worked 

When it comes to chest vs tricep dips for muscles worked, they are pretty similar but have some differences which set the exercises apart.  

Tricep dips mainly target your triceps (no surprises there), but the movement also works your delts, pecs, lats, levator scapulae, and rhomboids [1].

While most of these muscles act as stabilizers to help assist you during the movement, they’re still working hard.  

The movement primarily targets your triceps, making the exercise one of my all-time favorite tricep-building movements. All three heads of the triceps are activated, giving your arms the stimulus they need to grow.

However, during the chest dip exercise, the movement shifts the focus from your triceps to your chest muscles.

Along with your pec major, secondary muscles such as the pec minor, delts, triceps, lats, rhomboids, levator scapulae, and teres major play a massive role in keeping your body stable [2].  

While the chest dip can be effective at developing the chest, I’ve found it doesn’t develop as much muscle as other popular chest exercises.  

When it comes to dips for chest vs triceps, I’ve always opted for a combination of the two exercises in a workout. Using the two together helps you develop a strong upper body without lagging in certain areas.  

But, if you really must choose one, you’d get the most muscle development from tricep dips.

Related Article - Dips Vs Push Ups

Man Doing Dips In The Park

2. Execution & Technique 

Initially, chest dips and tricep dips look relatively similar. However, there is one key difference between chest and tricep dips. It changes how your muscles act... it’s the angle of your torso.

To work your triceps more (tricep dips), your body remains upright during the entire movement. This places more emphasis on your triceps, increasing muscle activation and giving you the stimulus you need to grow a god-like set of triceps.  

But, on the other hand, you’ve got the chest dips. To adjust the dipping movement to be more chest-focused, you should tilt your body forward, so your shoulders are no longer in line with your hips. Doing so targets your chest muscles and changes how your muscles are loaded.

3. Equipment Needed 

When it comes to the difference between chest and tricep dips, the equipment you need doesn’t change.  

During either movement, you require a dipping station or some form of parallel bars. Some power racks, pull-up frames, and squat racks have dipping station attachments and are excellent additions to any home gym.  

Most gym-goers can get away with performing bodyweight dips as the exercise can be challenging for all gym-goers. 

But, if you’re a beginner, you might find the exercise too difficult to perform and will need some assistance. One of the best options for you would be to use a selection of resistance bands to help you during the dipping movements.

Most resistance band sets have multiple resistance levels, so you can progress until you can perform bodyweight dips.  

If you’re an advanced gym-goer who can perform multiple sets of dips with ease, you might want to consider adding weight to your chest and tricep dips.  

You can add weight easily by using a dipping belt. A dipping belt looks like a weight lifting belt, but it has a chain around the front where you attach weighted plates.  

Other than this small list of equipment, you don’t need much to perform this exercise.

Related Article - How To Use A Dip Belt

man doing weight dips in home gym

4. Variations & Other Versions 

If you’re looking at these two dip variations and thinking they aren’t for you, there are some others you may want to look at.  

Gironda Dips

Gironda dips are a far more challenging version of the dip, which involves reversing your hands, so your knuckles are facing the side of your body and placing your legs out in front of your torso. 

While this movement does increase pec activation, I find it can place far too much stress on your joints, and it is easy to get the movement wrong. If you’re a beginner, stay away from this variation. 

While this exercise might increase your chest activation, I feel the Gironda dip has far too many risks. There are plenty of other chest exercises you can try instead of this variation. 

However, if you’re an advanced gym-goer looking for a new challenge... by all means, try it out; but be aware of the risks and use the best form you can.  

Bench Dips (knees bent)

The bench dip is the typical type of dip you see being performed in movies and is one of the easier options for you to perform. 

It uses more triceps than it does chest but is an excellent place for beginners to start. Having your knees bent helps remove some of the stress from your arms, making the movement easier to perform.

Bench Dips (legs straight)

This is a progression of the above exercise. By placing your legs out straight, you put more load on your triceps, making the movement more challenging to perform. Only move on to this if you’ve mastered the knees bent variation.  

Bench Dips (legs raised)

Again, this is a progression on the previously mentioned “legs straight” variation. By raising your legs, you’re increasing the amount of work your triceps need to do during the exercise.

I’m a fan of this variation, as you can add some weight to your legs to make the bench dips tougher.  

5. Hand Grip Options 

On most dipping stations, there are two handle width options. The wider handle option allows you to activate more chest muscle fibers, while the narrow handles are best suited for tricep dips.

While there is a lot of overlap when it comes to triceps vs chest dips, both variations can be changed by adjusting your hand position and the angle of your torso. 

Note: Some dipping stations have rotating handles which can be turned to adjust the width of your hand positions. While the most common a “v-shaped” hands, which are wider at the front and narrower in the middle.

couple doing tri dips outside

6. Safety & Injury Concerns 

Like with any exercise, there are some safety and injury concerns you should consider when you’re performing chest and tricep dips.  

Firstly, if you have a shoulder injury, you should swap these movements for another exercise that doesn't place your shoulders in an awkward position.  

While this won’t affect everyone, many gym-goers experience some level of discomfort when performing the tricep or chest dips. You can help remove this discomfort by performing resistance band rotations and other shoulder activation exercises.  

By loosening and warming up your shoulders, you’re less likely to have shoulder tightness and mobility issues. But, if you do develop shoulder pain, maybe give dips a miss for a few weeks.  

Another consideration is your wrists. As your wrists will be supporting your entire body weight, it’s vital to ensure they aren't hurting you. If you feel discomfort, look at performing bench dips and work your way up through the variations, or use a resistance band to help remove some of your body weight.  

Lastly, don’t dip too low. This places too much stress on your shoulder joint with zero benefits. Dipping to 90 degrees is deep enough and significantly lowers your risk of injury.

Learn More About - What Do Wrist Wraps Do?

Chest Dips Overview

Chest dips are an excellent alternative to performing horizontal pressing exercises such as the bench press, incline press, and decline press.  

It's a bodyweight movement that involves moving your body up and down by bending your elbows and forcing your chest and triceps to do the work. As your chest is the primary muscle during this exercise, it moves through a wide range of motion which is ideal for muscle growth. 

While most gym-goers can perform this movement, if you're new to working out or to the exercise, you might struggle to perform it correctly. It's a tough bodyweight exercise that involves a strict movement pattern; failing to control the movement results in poor form and a higher risk of injury.  

To perform this movement, you need minimal equipment, making it ideal for your home gym.

5 Benefits Of Chest Dips

Chest dips are by far one of the best body weight exercises for developing your upper body mass. Here are some of the main benefits:

1. Strengthens Upper Body Muscles

In my opinion, chest dips are an excellent compound exercise for building strength in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. During this movement you engage most of your upper body muscles, leading to improved muscle size and strength.

Who doesn't want a stronger upper body?

2. Enhances Core Stability

While you're performing chest dips the movement requires you to stabilize your core to maintain proper form. By doing so helps strengthen your abdominal and lower back muscles, resulting in improved posture and reduced risk of back injuries.

3. Improves Shoulder Mobility

The chest dip movement helps to increase your shoulder's range of motion, improving flexibility while reducing the risk of shoulder injury. 

4. Burns Calories

As chest dips are a compound exercise, they're a great exercise to burn calories. Burning additional calories will aid weight loss, allowing you to develop muscle mass while remaining lean. Sounds good, right?

5. Convenient and Versatile

Chest dips can be performed anywhere so long as you've got access to parallel bars or even sturdy home furniture. I think this makes them a convenient option for people who don't have access to a gym or want to work out at home.

Man Doing Chest Dips

When Should You Do Chest Dips?

When it comes to performing chest dips, you should perform them during the following scenarios:

As Part of a Chest Workout

Chest dips are an excellent exercise for targeting your pectoral muscles.

If you ask me, they should be one of the main exercises in your chest workout.  The movement uses a wide range of motion and has provided me with some excellent chest development over the last decade. 

To Improve Upper Body Strength

Chest dips are one of my go-to exercises for developing upper body strength.

If you're looking to build strength in your upper body, chest dips are excellent. During the movement, you'll engage the chest, shoulders, and triceps, helping you improve overall upper body strength.

There's a reason why I give this exercise to most of my clients, it's a brilliant movement.

When You Want to Work on Your Core

During chest dips, your core muscles will be activated to stabilize your body and maintain proper form. This engages your abdominal and lower back muscles, making chest dips a good exercise for developing your core stability.

As Part of a Full-Body Workout

Chest dips can be included in a full-body workout routine. They are a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, making them one of my go-to exercises while I'm performing a full body workout in my home gym.

When You Shouldn't Do Chest Dips?

While chest dips are a great exercise for developing your upper body strength, they aren't suitable for everyone. Here are some scenarios when you should avoid doing chest dips:

Shoulder Injuries or Pain

If you have a shoulder injury or experience pain in your shoulders while performing chest dips, I'd recommend giving this movement a miss.

During chest dips your shoulder joints are put under a lot of strain, which can further aggravate your injuries.

I've also found that the large range of motion can cause issues for some of my clients, so I'm always cautious when they're learning this movement.

Wrist Injuries or Pain

During chest dips, your wrist joints are placed under a lot of pressure. This can aggravate pre-existing wrist pain, so if  you've got a wrist injury or experience wrist pain, I recommend skipping chest dips.

A few years back I had tendonitis and I found chest dips incredibly difficult to perform. 

Lack of Upper Body Strength

If you lack the upper body strength to perform chest dips with proper form, you should avoid this exercise. However, you can adjust it slightly by using a resistance band to make it easier. 

Medical Conditions

If you've got any medical conditions that prevent you from performing weight-bearing exercises, you should avoid chest dips.

I recommend that you consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you've got any health issues. 

How To Perform Chest Dips

1. Place your hands on the dipping station handles.
2. Remove your feet and place the weight on your arms.
3. Tilt your body by leaning your upper body forward.
4. Lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows.
5. Stop at 90 degrees.
6. Push up to the starting position and repeat.

Pros And Cons Of Chest Dip Exercises

Pros

  • Can use a weight belt to load the exercise 
  • Targets your chest 
  • Minimal equipment 
  • Large range of motion 

Cons

  • Higher risk of injury when using weight 
  • Might get shoulder pain 

Tricep Dips Overview

Tricep dips are very similar to chest dips in regard to the way your body moves during the exercise. However, during this variation, the emphasis is placed on your triceps rather than your chest.  

Tricep dips are a brilliant exercise for developing all three heads of your triceps, and it’s capable of giving you the “horseshoe” shaped triceps muscle many gym-goers desire 

One benefit of the tricep dip is that there are multiple variations that can be performed, such as bench dips, chair dips, and even a dip machine. It’s a versatile movement.  

Like the chest dip, this exercise doesn’t require much equipment. All you need is a dipping station/dipping bars.  

One consideration to make is if you’re new to exercising, try using resistance bands to help make the exercise easier while you learn the movement. The better you get your form, the more muscle you’ll be able to build.

5 Benefits Of Tricep Dips

There are many reasons why you should add tricep dips into your workout program. Here are some of the main benefits of performing tricep dips:

1. It's A Compound Exercise

Tricep dips are a compound exercise that works your triceps, chest, shoulders, and core. As it works multiple muscles, it's excellent for developing overall muscle mass. I use this exercises with many clients as it provides you with a lot of bang for your buck. 

2. Improves Shoulder Stability

When you perform tricep dips, your shoulders have to work extra hard to keep your body stable. As you'll be strengthening your shoulder stability, the benefits of tricep dips carry over to other major lifts.

I've found that adding tricep dips to my workout helped me increase my performance during movements like military press and bench press. 

In my opinion, it's one of the best movements for increasing your shoulder stability while growing some serious upper body mass. 

3. Adds Mass To Your Triceps

If you want bigger and STRONGER triceps, you need to add this exercise into your workout routine. The movement pretty much places your entire body weight on your triceps, giving them the stimulus they need to grow. 

From my own experience, tricep dips are one of the best ways to fill your t-shirt with horseshoe shaped triceps. 

4. Uses Your Body Weight

When you're performing the tricep dips you don't need to use any additional weight (if you don't want to). They're one of my favorite calisthenic exercises and I always add them to my workout as they're simple yet effective.

5. Suitable For Most Abilities

While body weight tricep dips are difficult and certain not suitable for everyone, the exercise can be adjusted to suit most abilities. 

If you want to make the movement more challenging, you can add weight using a dipping belt. Whereas, if you need to make the exercise easier, you can use resistance bands to assist you. 

Many of my clients use a resistance band during tricep dips, and they're seeing excellent results.

When Should You Perform Tricep Dips?

Tricep dips are one of the most versatile exercises that you can add to most workout routines. Here are some scenarios when you should add them to your workout:

As Part of an Arm Workout

As tricep dips place a lot of emphasis on your triceps, they're an excellent exercise for developing your arm mass with this dip bar exercise

I always super set this movement with barbell bicep curls for the ultimate arm pump.

To Improve Upper Body Strength

If you're looking to build upper body strength, tricep dips are a great exercise. They primarily engage the triceps while also working your shoulders, and chest.

By performing this movement you'll notice your upper body strength increase significantly.

As Part of a Full-Body Workout

Like with chest dips, tricep dips can be included in a full-body workout routine. They're arguably one of the best body weight compound exercises around.

If you're looking to grow your triceps, you should add this movement to your workout routine. 

When Shouldn't You Perform Tricep Dips?

While tricep dips are an excellent body weight exercise, they're not for everyone. You shouldn't perform the movement if you've got:

Shoulder Injuries or Pain

Got a pre-existing shoulder injury or feel shoulder pain while dipping? Then you should steer clean of the tricep dip movement.

Wrist Injuries or Pain

As your hands support all of your body weight during the tricep dip movement, there is A LOT of force going through your wrist joints.

If you've got a wrist injury, then I recommend that you give this exercise a miss. 

Lack of Upper Body Strength

If you're a gym newbie and don't have the upper body strength to perform tricep dips with proper form, you should skip this movement. However, you can make the movement easier if you use a resistance band. 

Elbow Injuries or Pain

During tricep dips, a lot of force is placed through your elbow joints.

If you suffer from an elbow injury or feel pain during ticep dips, you should avoid this movement.

How To Perform Tricep Dips

1. Place your hands on a set of parallel bars or dipping station handles.
2. Remove your feet, placing the weight on your arms.
3. Keep your body upright and allow your elbows to bend.
4. Lower yourself until your arms reach 90 degrees.
5. Push up to the starting position and repeat.

Suggested Equipment - Best Power Towers For Garage Gyms

Pros And Cons Of Tricep Dip Exercises

Pros

  • Brilliant for tricep development 
  • Alternative to horizontal pressing movements 
  • Minimal equipment needed 
  • Various levels of difficulty 

Cons

  • Harder to load with weight 
  • Some people get shoulder pain 

Frequently Asked Dip Questions

Will dips give you a big chest? 

While dips can help you develop a well-rounded chest, there are many other exercises to give you more bang for your buck. To grow your chest, you need to overload the muscles with large amounts of weight to stimulate the muscle fibers. Unless you’re performing heavy-weighted dips, this will be difficult to achieve with dips alone. On the other hand, dips are fantastic for tricep development.   

Are tricep dips good for beginners? 

Tricep dips are hard to perform, especially for beginners. You need to have complete body control to perform the exercise safely, and it requires a lot of upper body strength. Now, I’m not saying they aren’t suitable for beginners, but most beginners will struggle with this exercise. If you’re a beginner, I recommend using a resistance band to help assist you during the movement. If you don’t have resistance bands available, you can perform bench dips instead. Bench dips are a brilliant variation of tricep dips and will develop your upper body strength.

Do tricep dips help push-ups? 

Tricep dips help develop your triceps and are an excellent exercise to help you with push-ups. However, if you’re struggling to perform push-ups, you’ll generally struggle with tricep dips as it’s a tricep-focused movement. In the past, I’ve used a combination of dips and push-ups to develop my upper body with great success. Try adding them to your routine and see how your body responds.  

When should weights be introduced to dips? 

I’m a big fan of performing weighted dips to help develop your upper body strength. However, you need to be careful when introducing additional weight as you don't want to "run before you can walk."  

Personally, once my clients can perform 10-12 reps with excellent form, we will start introducing weights. 

Tip From A Trainer:
Take it slow; you'd be surprised how heavy a 5.5lb plate can feel. I always recommend small regular increases over time. For example, increasing the weight by 5.5lb each week can yield a 22lb increase in a month.  

Conclusion

When it comes to chest dips vs tricep dips, there are many aspects to consider. The debate has always been an interesting one. However, I believe the best exercise will depend on your goals.  

If you’re looking to develop a barrel-like chest, then chest dips are the best variation to use during your workouts. But, if you’re looking for t-shirt popping triceps, you should perform tricep dips.  

Try both exercises and see how your body reacts to the new muscle stimulus.  

References:

1.https://www.physio-pedia.com/Levator_Scapulae

2.https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/teres-major-muscle

Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.