As I indicated when I did Triceps extension challengeThese muscles are naturally larger than your biceps, so if you want to build your arms, you need to do an upper arm lateral exercise. Also known as the bench press, this movement is among the best and most accurate exercises for targeting the triceps and improving overall arm strength. And they offer some welcome surprises, too.
The triceps dip is a great bodyweight exercise. As the name suggests, it mainly targets your triceps, but it will also work your pectoral muscles (chest) and the front of your shoulders – the anterior deltoids. It’s a popular move, not only because it’s fairly straightforward in terms of form, but also because it can be performed on a park bench or, really, any suitably elevated surface.
For this challenge, I used a kitchen bench. I’ve seen people do the movement using a chair, but I can’t imagine it either retracting at alarming speed or suddenly leaning forward on its front legs, so I stick to the chairs. There are movement variations that will keep things interesting as you get stronger.
How to do triceps dip
Ready to get started? Here’s how to do the perfect triceps dip:
- Start by sitting on a sturdy bench with your hands close to your hips. With your arms straight, grab the edge of the bench. Some instructors will recommend that you have your hands facing away from you, and your fingers pointing to either end of the bench. I find this makes it more difficult to push my arms back, rather than out to the sides, but see what works for you.
- Walk with your feet so your butt clears the seat. If you are new to this movement, keep your feet straight and your knees bent. If you’ve done this before and feel confident about increasing the difficulty, you can stretch your legs straight out and rest on your heels.
- Push off the bench with your palms and press your shoulder blades together. Engage your heart.
- Lower your body until your arms form a 90-degree angle. If you can’t get down that low, don’t worry about it. Make sure your elbows never rise above your shoulders – if you go too low, you risk straining your shoulder. Keep your back straight the entire time, look forward, and stay close to the bench.
- Push up through your palms to straighten your arms and squeeze your triceps at the end of the movement. Don’t lock your elbows. That’s one rep. Aim for three sets of 10 to start with.
Here’s what happened when I did triceps curls for a week
I’ve done this move before, but usually with my legs bent, so I started with my legs straight. I tend to race through this, as it’s not a move that requires a great deal of thought when it comes to maintaining decent form. However, as usual, as I slowed down, I realized that although I wasn’t doing the movement incorrectly, I found I could do it better, and get more out of it.
On the first day, I did three sets of 20, and because I was concentrating on the movement, I felt a larger stretch across my chest than usual. Watch your (figuratively) elbows, they might decide to shoot to the sides instead of the back. It should remain folded near your sides.
When I do these challenges, I take notes after each day to record my improved form. With this move, I found that there wasn’t much to distinguish from one day to the next in that regard, so the goal became to see what kind of progress I could make over the seven days in terms of iterations. By the third day, I was doing up to three sets of 30, with a minute’s rest between each set.
When I added the reps, I noticed I was giving the rhomboid muscles in my upper back a bit of a workout. This made sense, as these muscles moved the shoulder blades, which were pulled together during the movement. Strong rhombic shapes are important for good posture – sit on a chair with a straight back and draw your shoulder blades together and you’ll instantly be sitting taller. I’ve also noticed that if I pull my toes back toward my shins, the movement tones my calf and stretches my hamstrings. Again reminded that even targeted exercise like this provides more benefits than you might think.
On the fifth day, I did three sets of 35 reps and by the end decided I had maxed out my rep for the week. On days six and seven, you tried the cross bench variation, which involves resting your heels on a chair instead of on the floor. This is, of course, much more difficult, so only try this when you’re comfortable with the straight-leg version. I was careful not to do more than three sets of 20 reps.
Summarizing this move is easy: it’s technically simple, it’s a great way to build strength and size in your triceps, and you can do it almost anywhere.