Want stronger arms? Bench dips may be your answer.
Although this bodyweight exercise mainly targets the triceps, it also hits your chest and anterior deltoid, or the front part of your shoulder.
It only requires an elevated surface — like a bench, step, or stair — and is applicable to all fitness levels.
Bench dips can strengthen muscles in your triceps, chest, and shoulders.
They’re also simple to scale. Whether you want to ease some pressure or take on more of a challenge, bench dips are a versatile move to add to your routine.
Another bonus? You won’t need any additional equipment — just an elevated surface.
When performing a bench dip, you’ll use just that — a bench — to dip off of with your feet on the floor.
In a regular dip, you’ll hoist your full body weight onto two parallel bars to complete the move.
A regular dip is a progression of a bench dip, as it requires much more strength to complete.
Follow these steps to perform a bench dip with proper form:
- Sit down on a bench, hands next to your thighs. (You can also perform a bench dip off a stair or other elevated surface; the same steps apply.)
- Walk your feet out and extend your legs, lifting your bottom off the bench and holding there with extended arms.
- Hinging at the elbow, lower your body down as far as you can go, or until your arms form a 90-degree angle.
- Push up through your palms back to start.
Shoot for 3 sets of 10–12 reps here. If this is too challenging, try bending your knees and walking your feet closer to your body to perform the dip.
Add bench dips to an upper body workout to target your chest and triceps. Continue to inch your feet out week after week, progressing to more advanced variations to challenge yourself.
Important to note: If you have a preexisting shoulder injury, dips may not be the best option.
When performed incorrectly, this exercise can cause a shoulder impingement, or an injury to the muscles between bones in the shoulder area.
The bench dip is simple from an equipment angle, but there are some nuances to its form. Watch out for these common mistakes.
You’re not going low enough
Completing partial reps instead of a full rep won’t fully engage the triceps, negating some of the benefits of the exercise.
Make sure you lower down until your upper arm is parallel to the ground and your elbow forms a 90-degree angle.
You’re flaring your elbows
When you let your elbows flare out, you move the tension from your triceps to your shoulders, which can cause injury.
Ensure that your elbows stay tucked into your body throughout the dip.
You’re going too low
If you drop too low into the dip, you’ll put too much pressure on your shoulder.
Stop when your upper arms are parallel to the floor and rise back up.
You’re moving too quickly
If you rely on momentum to complete each rep, you miss out on some of the move’s many benefits. Move slowly and with control for maximum results.
When bodyweight bench dips become easy, you can try upping the ante.
First, try a cross bench dip, detailed below.
Once this becomes easy, try adding weight. Starting with your feet on the floor again, position a dumbbell or weighted plate in your lap for added resistance.
There are several variations of a bench dip you can try with different equipment or positioning.
Cross bench dip
Position two benches — or even chairs — across from each other. Place your hands on one and your feet on the other, completing a dip.
Reverse chair dip
Instead of using a bench for a dip, use a chair. Position yourself away from the chair and complete the movement.
Try these alternatives to hit the same muscles in a different way.
Assisted dip machine
Many gyms will have an assisted dip machine, which can help you build strength in a dip.
Load the appropriate weight, put your knees on the pads and your hands on the bars, then complete a regular dip.
OK, so this move isn’t technically a dip. But a bench press targets the chest and triceps, too.
You can even grip the bar in a way that will put more emphasis on your triceps. Use a closer grip to do so.
Bench dips are an effective tool to gain strength in your triceps.
Incorporate them into your routine at least once a week — in combination with other complementary exercises, like pushups, rows, and bicep curls — to whip your upper body into shape in no time.
Nicole Davis is a writer based in Madison, Wisconsin, a personal trainer, and a group fitness instructor whose goal is to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. When she’s not working out with her husband or chasing around her young daughter, she’s watching crime TV shows or making sourdough bread from scratch. Find her on Instagram for fitness tidbits, #momlife, and more.