Dips will not target your lats. Instead, your lats are engaged very minimally during dips. Their role during this exercise is as stabilizer muscles only. Meanwhile, the muscles of your chest, triceps, and shoulders do most of the work during parallel bar dips. You may experience soreness near your armpits after dips, but this is usually due to sore serratus muscles, not sore lats. To build stronger lats, perform pull-ups, lat pulldowns, rows, and similar “pull” exercises.
What Muscles Do Dips Work?
Parallel bar dips target the chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids (muscles in the front of the shoulder). The parallel bar dip is the exercise we will focus on for this article. Tricep dips are an entirely different exercise. However, it is important to note that—as the name implies—tricep dips work your triceps, not your lats.
- Chest muscles: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and serratus anterior.
- Arm muscles: triceps.
- Shoulder muscles: Anterior deltoids.
- Core muscles and back muscles are used as stabilizers.
Although your chest, arms, and shoulders do most of the work during dips, there are other muscle groups that assist during the movement. Your abdominal muscles must be engaged to retain good form during dips. Meanwhile, the muscles of your back do a small amount of work as stabilizers as you lower yourself downward after each rep.
Do Dips Work Your Lats?
Dips do engage the lats, but they’re not the primary muscle group being targeted. Since dips mainly focus on the chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids, the lats are only worked as stabilizing muscles. The lats assist in dips by helping to stabilize the shoulder joint and control the movement of your torso. While this engagement is beneficial, it’s not enough to provide a thorough workout for your lats.
- Dips engage your lats as a stabilizer muscle only.
- You will not get a true lat workout from dips.
- Pulling motions will build your lats, but pushing movements will not.
The latissimus dorsi (commonly called “lats”) are the large, flat muscles that stretch across your back. They run from your lower spine up to the armpits and attach at the humerus (upper arm bone). These muscles are essential for pulling movements, but they are not meaningfully engaged during pushing movements, such as dips.
Why Do Your Lats Feel Sore After Dips?
If you feel soreness near your armpits after doing dips, this is because your serratus anterior muscles are sore, not your lats. The serratus anterior is a chest muscle that attaches to your ribs at one end. At the other end, the muscle attaches under the shoulder blade, very close to the upper attachment of your lats. So, sore serratus muscles feel very similar to sore lats.
- Soreness near the armpit after dips signifies sore serratus muscles, not sore lats.
- The serratus anterior is a chest muscle that is worked by pushing exercises like dips and bench press.
- For most people, dips will never work your back enough to cause sore lats.
The serratus anterior muscle is crucial for extending your arms. So, it is targeted heavily by dips. Since the serratus muscle is a smaller chest muscle, it is often forgotten. However, it adds power to your dips. So, expect some soreness below your armpit after you’ve done an intense chest workout, especially one that includes dips.
Top 3 Best Lat Exercises to Use Instead of Dips
If you’re looking for exercises that will give your lats a more effective workout than dips, you have plenty of options. Here are the best exercises to build stronger, more defined lats.
Pull-ups and Chin-ups
Pull-ups and chin-ups are the go-to exercises for working the lats. They involve pulling your body weight up towards a bar, which primarily engages the lats and biceps. To perform a pull-up, grasp a bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you). Then, use our tips for no-swing pull-up form. For a chin-up, use an underhand grip (palms facing you). Raise your body until your chin is above the bar, and then lower yourself back down.
Rows are another fantastic exercise for targeting the lats. You can perform rows using a barbell, dumbbells, or a cable machine. The basic movement involves pulling weight towards your torso while keeping your elbows close to your sides. There are several row variations, such as bent-over rows, seated cable rows, and single-arm dumbbell rows. Personally, I prefer the Pendlay row over the others. It recruits back muscles but reduces strain on the spine.
Lat pulldowns are a popular machine-based exercise for targeting the lats. To perform a lat pulldown, sit at the machine with your knees secured under the pads. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, and pull the bar down towards your upper chest. Make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you perform the movement. This movement will recruit your lats. Plus, they can train you for pull-ups and chin-ups if those movements are currently too difficult.
Are Parallel Bar Dips a Lat Exercise?
Before you begin to consider dips a lat exercise, review these quick facts:
- Dips do not work the lats as a primary muscle.
- Your chest, triceps, and shoulders do most of the work during dips.
- During dips, your lats do minimal work as stabilizers.
- The feeling of “sore lats” after dips is actually sore serratus anterior muscles.
- Use lat pulldowns, pull-ups, chin-ups, and rows to build stronger lats.
Although dips are a fantastic upper body exercise, they won’t build stronger lats. So, it is essential to make sure your workout routine includes lat-focused exercises.