Benefits of the Weighted Triceps Dip
What’s the first exercise that comes to mind when thinking about tricep growth? The close-grip bench press? Or perhaps cable rope tricep extensions? While both of these movements work great, one exercise doesn’t receive nearly as much love as it should: the weighted triceps dip.
Weighted triceps dips are an effective compound exercise that overloads your triceps, shoulders, and chest. The movement also improves core strength, making you functional, more athletic, and better able to tackle everyday tasks.
The great thing about weighted triceps dips is that you can adjust the difficulty based on your strength. You can begin by attaching as little as 5 lbs on yourself and gradually work up to 20, 30, even 50 lbs worth of weight plates.
We recommend including the movement early in a push workout. You might even choose to start your training with weighted tricep dips for the best results.
How to do a Weighted Triceps Dip
- Attach a weight plate to yourself via a weight belt.
- Step up and position your feet on the two platforms to your sides.
- Grab the parallel bars firmly and have your arms to your sides with elbows extended.
- Bring your shoulder blades back and down.
- Engage your abs, squeeze your glutes, and take a breath.
- With your triceps engaged, remove your feet from the platforms to hang in the air.
- Keep your torso upright and slowly bend your elbows to dip, taking care not to swing back and forth.
- Go down until your elbows are at or near a 90-degree angle.
- Press back up to the starting position, exhaling on the way up.
- Take another breath and repeat.
- Once finished, extend your legs to your sides and position your feet on the two platforms.
What muscles does the weighted triceps dip activate?
The primary muscles that work during weighted triceps dips are the triceps, which cover the posterior of your upper arms and produce elbow extension (1, 2). Having your torso more upright prevents the pectorals from contributing as much, and the triceps work extra hard as we dip and go back to the top.
Our deltoids are the second muscle group that works during weighted triceps dips. The muscle group’s primary function is to provide stability at the shoulder joint, but it also assists the triceps during each repetition.
The pectoralis major (chest) also works to a smaller degree during triceps dips (1). As mentioned above, the more upright torso position prevents the chest from contributing as much, though some pectoral activation is inevitable.
Aside from the three primary muscles, a core musculature flexes isometrically to provide torso support as we move up and down. Examples include the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, and glutes.
Progression to the Weighted Triceps Dip
Your progression to the weighted triceps dip will depend on your current strength and comfort with the exercise. In most cases, a simple progression scheme will help you work up to your first weighted dip in a matter of three to four months.
Begin with bench dips, diamond push-ups, close-grip bench press, and other tricep-focused exercises if you’re unable to do a single bodyweight dip. Do these movements regularly and focus on making minor and consistent strength improvements.
Once you’ve built adequate strength, start doing bodyweight triceps dips, focusing on proper execution and a full range of motion. You can begin attaching a bit of weight to yourself once you can comfortably do at least 12 to 15 bodyweight repetitions. Begin with a 5 or 10-lb weight plate attached to a weight belt and do at least five to eight reps per set.
Here is a brief look at what a progression scheme might look like:
Weeks 1-4 – bench dips, diamond push-ups, close-grip bench press, etc.
Weeks 5-10 – bodyweight triceps dips and some of the above tricep movements
Weeks 11+ – first attempts at weighted triceps dips, starting with no more than 5 to 10 lbs of weight
Variations and Modifications of the Weighted Triceps Dip
1. Bodyweight Triceps Dip
The bodyweight triceps dip is an effective and necessary exercise you should perform before attempting the weighted version. Doing so would allow you to build tricep strength, improve your core stability, and become more comfortable with the exercise.
2. Chair Triceps Dips
Chair triceps dips are a more beginner-friendly movement that emphasizes your triceps. Place a chair against a wall, turn your back to it, and put your hands on the seat’s edge. From there, extend your body to support yourself on your arms and begin lowering and raising yourself by bending and extending your elbows.
3. Chest-Focused Dips
The chest-focused dip is almost the same as triceps dips, with the only difference being body angle. You have to lean forward more to put your pectorals at a mechanical advantage and make the dip more chest-focused.
Mistakes to Avoid
A common mistake with weighted triceps dips is progressing too quickly. Many eager trainees introduce external weights too early and increase the load before they are ready. Avoid the mistake by working up to 12 bodyweight triceps dips and doing at least 5 to 8 repetitions of the weighted version. Reduce the amount of weight you’re attaching to yourself if you can’t do at least that many reps.
Another mistake with weighted dips is shortening the range of motion. The error typically comes from attaching too much weight to yourself, but there could be other reasons for it. Trainees would only lower themselves halfway before going up. Doing so isn’t dangerous, but it prevents you from activating your triceps and forcing them to grow well. Avoid the error by dipping until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle before pushing back to the top.
The third error to watch out for is performing repetitions too quickly. Aside from increasing the risk of excessive joint and connective tissue stress, excessive speed can make it challenging to maintain your balance. As a result, you’re more likely to lose your balance as you reach the top and when you drop to the bottom position.
Similar Exercises to the Weighted Triceps Dip
Triceps Rope Pushdown
While not as challenging as the weighted triceps dip, rope pushdowns are an excellent movement for developing the back of your upper arms (3). The exercise is great because it reinforces proper technique and isolates the triceps. Plus, by spreading the rope as you extend your arms, you can better target the lateral tricep head.
Triceps kickbacks are another effective isolation movement for the muscle group. The objective is to grab a dumbbell, bend forward, and lift your elbows to torso level. Once in position, extend your arm, hold the top position, and lower the weight. The movement is unique because you can isolate your triceps and train them well even if you don’t have access to any special equipment.