Are Tricep Dips Effective?

If you’ve ever been in a gym, chances are, you’ve seen people doing tricep dips.

Tricep dips are one of the most famous tricep exercises out there. In fact, tricep dips have been around since the beginning of bodybuilding- golden era bodybuilders were known to do them non-stop.

But, are tricep dips effective?

Yes! Tricep dips are super effective. In fact, they provide over 88% tricep muscle activation when done correctly. Plus, dips activate all three heads of the tricep head. Tricep dips are also awesome because they are a test of ‘functional’ and bodyweight strength- they help with things outside of the gym like climbing, manual labor, chores, and even saving you from falling.

But, let’s cover this a little more in-depth.

Are Tricep Dips Effective? Photo by Sinitta Leunen from Pexels
Are Tricep Dips Effective? Photo by Sinitta Leunen from Pexels

Over 88% Muscle Activation

Right off the bat, triceps provide over 88% muscle activation in your triceps.

A great way to measure how effective an exercise is, is to look at how much of the muscle it is activating when you perform that exercise.

If you do an exercise and get 0% muscle activation, that means the muscle isn’t being worked out at all.

If you’re getting 100% muscle activation, that means the muscle is being worked out extremely well.

The higher the muscle activation, the more growth you will see.

88% muscle activation is an incredible number and is one of the highest numbers you can get. That means, for the most part, 88% of your triceps are being activated in this exercise.

You can assume the other 12% is going to things like forearms and shoulders- muscle groups that stabilize your dip.

So, scientifically speaking your triceps are getting one of the highest levels of activation it can- making this one of the best tricep exercises out there.

Dips Help You Build ‘Functional’ Strength

Dips are a great exercise as they help you build ‘functional strength’.

When we are in the gym, we often focus too much on how our muscles LOOK- and not how they function.

Rich Piana was always a big guy on keeping functional strength. He always said it doesn’t matter if you gained 20 lbs of muscle if you can’t do the same amount of pull-ups you used to. That means you grew weaker and your body isn’t operating as it should.

Dips help build that functional strength.

Functional strength is the idea of strength that is actually ‘functional’ or useful in the real world.

Pull-ups are a GREAT example of functional strength. You can use pullups to climb up rocks or everyday objects.

Let’s say you needed to change a lightbulb- you can use that functional strength to climb up a cabinet. Or, likewise- you can use pull-ups to get out of a sticky situation like rock climbing where you may have fallen.

Perhaps it’s even just using that pull-up strength to get yourself out of the pool without using the ladder!

The point is, functional strength is very important in our day-to-day lives. Most bodybuilders are very active in other sports like hiking or even working on cars. Functional strength helps both of these.

It’s much different than a bench press, where that doesn’t really help much in real-life situations.

Tricep dips will make a direct impact even on things like opening a heavy door or changing a flat tire on a car.

Triceps Activate All 3 Tricep Heads

One of the best things about tricep dips is that they activate all 3 tricep heads.

Your tricep is made out of 3 muscle heads, and it is very difficult to activate all three when you work out.

The problem is- when you don’t work all three muscle heads out, then suddenly your tricep starts looking really weird. Like, it will just look completely wrong and imbalanced.

Having an exercise that works all three heads is critical in any exercise program if you want triceps that turn heads.

How to Do Dips Properly For Tricep Activation

There are different variations of ‘dips’.

For instance, if you lean forward more- you will start to activate your chest more than your triceps. While the triceps still get a good workout, the emphasis would be on the chest for that exercise.

Now, I assume if you’re specifically looking for ‘tricep dips’- you want the version that only activates your triceps.

The proper way to do it is to almost be completely vertical while you’re doing the dips, and not lean forward or backward at all.

Here’s a video demonstrating it around the 3:10 mark:


Can you get big triceps from dips?

Yes, you can get big triceps from dips. In fact, they are one of the best tricep exercises out there!

How many tricep dips should I do?

You should aim to be doing 5-8 tricep dips every set. If you are able to do more, I recommend adding weight to you by strapping on a ‘weight belt’. This will make the exercise harder and put a ton of size on your triceps.

Will dips build mass?

Yes, dips will build a ton of mass on your triceps.

Do dips hit all three tricep heads?

Yes, dips, hit all three tricep heads!

Conclusion of Are Tricep Dips Effective?

Yes, tricep dips are very effective and are one of the best tricep exercises out there!

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