Dips do not target the biceps muscle of the upper arms. Instead, because they add resistance to elbow extension (straightening your arm), they recruit the triceps muscles. Dips also work the shoulders and chest, depending on how you do dips. Dips are a great exercise for building muscle in the arms and upper body, but they will not specifically build muscle in the biceps.
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What Muscles Do Dips Work?
Whether you’re doing bench dips, parallel bar dips, or another variation, the exercise will primarily target the triceps muscle on the rear of the upper arm. The muscles in your shoulders and chest will also be activated by dips.
- Lower Back
To a lesser degree, core muscles in your abdomen will be activated. This is due to the fact that proper dip form requires you to tense your core muscles. So, dips are a very beneficial exercise that work several muscle groups, but they won’t build your biceps.
Why are Dips Not Effective for Building Biceps?
Dips are not effective for building muscle in your biceps because the biceps muscles are not required to work during dips. During a dip, the hardest part of the exercise is when you straighten your elbow to “push” yourself upward. The biceps are not responsible for this pushing motion. Instead, the triceps are the muscle group that straightens your elbow when it is bent.
- Your biceps are worked by “pulling” motion exercises such as pull-ups and curls.
- Dips are a “push” exercise, so they do not activate the biceps.
- Push exercises activate the triceps but do not provide work for the biceps.
- In order to build biceps, incorporate “pull” exercises into your workout routine.
When evaluating whether an exercise will work your biceps or triceps, follow this simple rule—pulling exercises work biceps, and pushing exercises work triceps. Any exercise that adds resistance to the elbow flexion movement (bending your elbow) is a pulling-type exercise that activates the biceps. Curls, pull-ups, and rows are all exercises that will work your biceps. Any exercise that adds resistance to elbow extension (straightening your arm) works the triceps. So, bench press, dips, and overhead press all target the triceps.
Do Dips Make Your Arms Bigger?
Dips will contribute to larger, stronger arms. In fact, they may be more effective for arm growth than biceps curls. The triceps muscle makes up 55% of upper arm mass while the biceps only accounts for 30% of the upper arm mass (the remaining 15% is bone, tendons, and ligaments). Because the triceps are a larger muscle group, they have more capacity for growth. By working your arms with dips, you’ll build bigger triceps. Thus, you’ll develop bigger upper arms.
- Dips help build bigger triceps, which contributes to larger arms overall.
- Triceps are 50% larger than biceps, so building your triceps causes more significant arm growth than building bigger biceps.
- Work both your triceps and biceps to avoid muscle imbalance and build strong arms.
Although dips will contribute to significantly bigger arms, it’s important not to focus on the triceps only. Continue to perform biceps-focused exercises in order to maximize arm muscle mass, strength, and tone. Just keep in mind that dips might help you get bigger arms than nonstop sets of curls.
What are the Different Types of Dips?
There are two main types of dips—bench dips and parallel bar dips. Bench dips (sometimes referred to as chair dips) are the main dip exercise performed by beginners. They focus on the triceps and shoulders. Parallel bar dips are for more advanced lifters. This exercise helps build chest muscle, in addition to working the triceps and shoulders.
What are the Best Dips for Beginners? How to do Bench Dips
Bench dips are a great starting point if you have started a body weight exercise routine. The form is relatively simple to master, and it provides an excellent workout for your triceps and shoulders. Here’s how to do them:
- Grip the front edge of a chair seat or weight bench with your hands.
- Extend your arms so that your rear is off the chair or bench—do not lock your elbows.
- Extend your legs straight out at an angle. Your heels should be on the floor.
- Keep your back straight, shoulder blades retracted, and eyes forward.
- Bend your elbows, lowering your rear toward the floor while you maintain your grip on the bench.
- Lower yourself until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees.
- Slowly straighten your arms and return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.
As you grow stronger, you can increase the difficulty. You can perform dips with your feet elevated and additional weight in your lap for an even tougher dip workout. This turns bench dips into a challenging exercise for even the most experienced athlete.
Will Dips Build a Big Chest? How to Do Parallel Bar Dips
If you perform dips with the proper form, you can use a dip station to increase the size of your chest muscles. To turn dips into one of the most effective exercises for building chest size and strength, follow these tips:
- Perform your dips on a dip station or set of parallel bars.
- Grip the parallel bars with both hands facing inward.
- Begin with your arms extended and your feet off the ground—do not lock your elbows.
- Tilt forward—think of pointing your chest toward the ground at a 45-degree angle.
- Keep your back straight and keep your shoulder blades pulled back.
- Bend your elbows until they are at 90 degrees, lowering yourself to the bottom of the dip motion.
- Push yourself upward until you are back to the starting position with your arms straightened.
- Repeat for the desired sets and reps.
- Add weight with this dip belt to make your bodyweight exercise even more challenging.
By leaning forward during parallel bar dips, you will transfer more of the workload of dips onto your chest muscles, resulting in a larger chest. In contrast, performing dips using a chair or bench encourages an upright form. This places more of the workload on the triceps throughout the range of motion.
Do Dips Give You Big Shoulders?
Whether you perform parallel bar dips to target your chest or you choose to do bench dips, you’ll get a shoulder workout. Specifically, dips will target the anterior deltoid head, which is the muscle on the front of your shoulders. These muscles are responsible for rotating the shoulder forward during a pushing motion. By doing dips for sets and reps, this shoulder muscle will become larger and stronger.
- As long as you use proper form, both styles of dips will build your shoulders.
- Dips work the anterior deltoid head on the front of the shoulder.
- Add other exercises to your routine to build the muscles in the side and rear of your shoulder.
Although dips are great for building your anterior deltoids, there are three main muscles around your shoulder joints. The lateral deltoids are the muscles on the side of your shoulder. These are responsible for raising your arms out to the sides. You can work them by doing lateral raises. In order to work the posterior deltoids, on the back of your shoulder, check out our article on the best rear delt exercises.
Are the Biceps Used in Dips?
The biceps are not used significantly during dips, but dips are an excellent workout for your arms, shoulders, and chest. Here are the key facts about dips:
- Because dips add resistance to the “pushing” motion, they do not activate the biceps muscles.
- Pushing motion exercises, like dips, work the triceps muscle of the upper arms.
- Dips help build bigger arms because the triceps are the largest muscle of the upper arm.
- If you perform bench dips, you will primarily target your triceps and shoulders.
- Performing parallel bar dips with proper form will work your chest in addition to shoulders and triceps.
- Dips work your abs and lower back as secondary muscles.
Dips are an incredible tool for building upper body strength, muscle mass, and definition. Although pull-ups, curls, and rows are better for building your biceps and back, dips can be used to significantly build your triceps, chest, and shoulders.