Bodyweight exercises such as triceps dips are quite challenging.
Even well-trained individuals are often unable to do numerous reps of triceps dips on parallel bars with their full body weight.
But, if you want to strengthen your upper body you may ask yourself, how many triceps dips should I do in my workouts for results? Or, how many triceps dips should I do for mass or hypertrophy?
In this exercise guide, we will cover how to do triceps dips, how to modify triceps dips based on your fitness level and training goals, and ultimately answer your question, how many triceps dips should I do based on my fitness level?
Let’s jump in!
How Do You Do Triceps Dips?
Before we look at how many triceps dips reps to do based on your fitness goals and training level, let’s cover what the triceps dips exercise entails and how to perform triceps dips properly.
Triceps dips refers to a calisthenic exercise to strengthen the muscles of the upper body.
While you might think that the muscles worked by triceps dips are isolated to the triceps, as with other pressing or pushing exercises, triceps dips work the entire group of pressing muscles.
This includes the triceps on the back of the upper arms, the pectoralis major and minor in the chest, the deltoids in the shoulders, the traps and rhomboids in the upper back, the levator scapula in the upper back, the forearm muscles and grip strength muscles.
Triceps dips also work the lats, abs, erector spinae, and serratus anterior to some degree as well.Depending on exactly how you perform triceps dips, you can vary the workload or the particular emphasis on the muscles worked by triceps dips exercises.
Full bodyweight triceps dips are performed on parallel bars, also called dip bars, which are a set of two bars that are spaced about shoulder width apart or slightly wider and elevated off the ground.
Here are the steps for how to do bodyweight dips from dip bars:
How To Perform Triceps Dips
- Grip the dip bars with a neutral grip, palms facing one another, and press yourself upwards until your elbows are fully locked out. Make sure to engage your upper back muscles and core and keep your chest up and shoulders down throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Once you are up at the top position, bend your elbows and use your triceps to lower your body down until your elbows are bent to 90°. Make sure to squeeze your glutes and your abs to maintain a straight spine as you lower your body down. Try to keep your torso upright unless you are specifically trying to target different portions of your chest or arms.
- Pause and hold the lowered position for 1-3 seconds. Keep your gaze forward and abs engaged so that you do not round your back or hunch your shoulders forward.
- Press through the heels of your hands to return up to the full lockout position. Think about squeezing the upper portion of your pecs (chest muscles) and triceps as you lift your body up.
Do your best to minimize the angle between the wrists, elbows, and shoulders so that they are stacked on top of each other as much as possible to reduce torque on the joints.
Some dip bars can rotate so that you can flip them closer or further apart from one another based on how broad your shoulders are.
Triceps dips should be avoided by anyone who has elbow or shoulder injuries or who suffers from wrist pain, as the body position for most triceps dips variations puts a tremendous amount of stress on these joints.
If you have a current or a pre-existing injury in any of these areas, you should not attempt triceps dips without first consulting with your doctor or a physical therapist.
Modifying Triceps Dips
Triceps dips on parallel bars with your full body weight are generally too difficult for beginners. This advanced calisthenic requires tremendous upper-body strength.
Here are some triceps dips exercise modifications for beginners.
Start With Bench Dips or Chair Dips
If you aren’t strong enough to do full bodyweight dips, you can perform chair dips or bench dips with your legs straight out in front of you (or knees bent if you are a beginner).
The relative percentage of your body weight and the angle of dips from a chair reduces the difficulty of the dips exercise as well as the strengthening benefits of bodyweight dips.
You can also modify triceps dips for beginners by performing assisted dips using an assisted dip exercise weight machine.
This machine allows you to kneel on a platform while performing bodyweight dips holding onto the dip handlebars on either side of your body. You can select a certain number of pounds or kilograms to “remove” from your body weight on the machine.
Here are a few ways to progress or modify triceps dips as you get stronger:
Wear a Weighted Vest
Add a weighted vest to triceps dips if your goal is to increase strength and build muscle (once you are able to do all of the recommended reps for hypertrophy or reps for strength) rather than doing more reps of bodyweight dips.
This is because the weighted vest will help you achieve progressive overload by increasing the relative load that you are lifting so that you can stay within the guidelines for building muscle and increasing strength once your own body weight provides an insufficient load for your fitness level.
Another way to make triceps dips more challenging is to slow down as much as possible as you descend and bend your elbows for the lowering portion.
Try to count to 4 to 5 seconds on the lowering portion of the triceps dips exercise to really work your triceps, pecs, and shoulders through the eccentric (lengthening) contraction.1Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983
This will put the muscles worked by triceps dips under tension for a longer period of time, particularly during the most effective part of the exercise for stimulating muscle protein synthesis (the eccentric phase).
Try Rings Dips
Dips on the rings2McKenzie, A., Crowley-McHattan, Z., Meir, R., Whitting, J., & Volschenk, W. (2022). Bench, Bar, and Ring Dips: Do Kinematics and Muscle Activity Differ? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(20), 13211. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192013211 are even harder than body weight dips from dip bars or even parallel bars because gymnastics rings or rings in CrossFit gyms are not stationary.
As a result, you have to use your core muscles along with your rotator cuff muscles and all of the muscles in your upper body to provide stability while you try to perform dips.
Use Different Angles
It won’t necessarily make triceps dips harder per se, but you can angle your torso slightly forward and slightly backward relative to the erect perpendicular position to target different portions of the pectoralis major muscle.
A slight forward lean to your entire trunk will work more of the upper chest and anterior deltoids (front of the shoulders) while a slight backward lean will target more of the lower chest, posterior deltoids, and upper back muscles.
How Many Dips Should I Be Able to Do?
If you’re a competitive athlete, you might ask: How many bodyweight dips are “good” for men or women?
Although there are no official standards for triceps dips, the table below shows the average number of triceps dips for men and women based on fitness level, according to 1,141,754 dips workouts logged by community users of Strength Level.3Dips Standards for Men and Women (lb) – Strength Level. (n.d.). Strengthlevel.com. https://strengthlevel.com/strength-standards/dips
Because the intermediate level is said to be the average ability level—or represent the 50th percentile—across all ages for the given sex, it can be said that the average number of triceps dips for females of all ages and ability levels is 10 while the average number of triceps dips males can do is 20.
|Strength Level||Average Triceps Dips Reps for Females||Average Triceps Dips Reps for Males|
|Beginner||< 1||< 1|
How Many Triceps Dips Should I Do For Solid Arm Gains?
It may take some time to build up to being able to do regular dips.
Start with bench dips or assisted dips as described. Build up to 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. Then, when you can progress to parallel bar dips, aim for 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps of dips.
Advanced athletes can do three sets of 10 to 20 triceps dip reps.
As you get stronger, you can first add more sets of dips per workout, and then increase the weight with a weighted vest or chains.
To learn more about how to strengthen your upper body for dips workouts, check out our guide to the best upper-body workouts here.
- 1Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983
- 2McKenzie, A., Crowley-McHattan, Z., Meir, R., Whitting, J., & Volschenk, W. (2022). Bench, Bar, and Ring Dips: Do Kinematics and Muscle Activity Differ? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(20), 13211. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192013211
- 3Dips Standards for Men and Women (lb) – Strength Level. (n.d.). Strengthlevel.com. https://strengthlevel.com/strength-standards/dips