Dips are a classic exercise you can do at home with little to no equipment. They primarily work your tricep muscles and are a great addition to any upper body workout routine.
But, many people don’t know any dips beyond the standard chair dip. So, we’re here to help, going through 7 simple yet effective variations on the chair dip that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
What muscles do dips target?
Chair dips are probably the most common form of dip and focus on the tricep muscles on the back side of your upper arms. Normally, you use your triceps for lifting objects like grocery bags and for reaching objects overhead. They are very useful shoulder joint stabilizers and an integral part of your upper body strength overall.
Besides just the triceps, chair dips also work on:
- The pectoralis major. Also known as “pecs,” these are the main muscles of the upper chest.
- Trapezius. Also called ‘traps,’ these triangular muscles extend from the neck down to the middle of the back and across to the shoulders.
- Serratus anterior. Another upper chest muscle near the upper rib cage.
Chair dips are the most common dip, but that doesn’t mean they are the only dip in town. Although highly effective for building triceps, other dips are better for the biceps, upper chest, and upper back muscles.
For example, parallel bars dips target your upper chest muscles very effectively. Also called chest dips, these dips focus on the pectoralis major and hit the pectoralis minor, anterior deltoid, triceps, lats, and rhomboid muscles.
You can use two workout benches or chairs for the parallel bar dips as an alternative, although the grip won’t be quite the same. You can also use gymnastic rings or suspension trainers, as we discuss later in the article.
How to do Dips At Home
Dips are a very easy exercise to get started on at home. They require little to no equipment and can be done in a small space indoors. You can get started with just a chair, a workout bench, a table, or a couch.
To set-up, make sure you’ve cleared a space where you can put the chair, bench, table, or couch behind you, with enough room that your knees won’t bump into anything.
The object you use should have enough height that your arms can bend at the elbow to a full 90-degree angle when you dip down using it. You’ll need to get something slightly taller if that’s not possible.
Parallel bar dips do require some further equipment but target your chest muscles quite effectively. These might be a good investment if you’re finding the basic tricep dips aren’t doing enough for you.
You can also turn to a makeshift solution like two benches or chairs on either side of you.
Without further ado, here are seven dip exercises you can try.
Bench or Chair Dips
Bench or chair dips, also called tricep dips, are the simplest and most common dips to perform, targeting the triceps. They work by extending and contracting the tricep muscles using the range of motion dipping below the chair or bench provides.
You can begin by doing the dips with your feet planted on the floor, but as you advance, you might want to elevate them to the same height as your chair or bench. This elevation brings a further challenge to the exercise.
To perform a chair dip, do the following:
- Place your hands on the surface of the chair with your fingers facing forward. Your arms should be straight in the starting position.
- Now, lower your body until your arms form a 90-degree angle at the elbow, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat for a full set.
For a tabletop dip, you’ll need a sturdy table or desk in front of you. Instead of dipping with arms behind you, a tabletop dip is done with the surface placed in front of you, activating the biceps.
These are great to mix in with other forms of dip as they target a slightly different muscle group and you won’t fatigue your arms as quickly by alternating between them.
To do them, follow these steps:
- Find a table, desk, or countertop to stand in front of and place your hands on. Your fingers should be pointing forward.
- Now, elevate yourself by pushing down on the surface until your elbows are straight, leaning forward with your chest to keep balanced.
- Then, dip down, bending your arms until they reach about a 90-degree angle.
- Come back up into the starting position with arms straight.
- Repeat as needed for a set.
Floor Dips Workout
Floor dips don’t use a chair or bench but perform a similar function to the triceps dip. They don’t have quite the range of motion as dipping with a chair, but they are a bit easier to perform and can be done with no equipment.
To get started, all you need to do is lie down on the floor. It can be helpful to have a yoga mat or softer flooring, but not necessary.
To perform a floor dip, follow these steps:
- Start with your butt on the ground and hands splayed out behind you, knees up with feet on the ground.
- Lift your butt off the ground using your arms and legs.
- From here, dip your body using your arms by bending them at the elbows and lowering your butt to the ground.
- Now lift up again back into the starting position.
- Repeat until you’ve completed a set.
Single-leg Bench Dip and Kick
The single-leg bench dip and kick adds a little challenge to the standard bench dip by using your legs to add instability. It targets not just the triceps but also your abs through the kicking motion of the legs. By standing on one leg, they force you to engage your core to keep balanced.
The combination of core and triceps makes this a great compound exercise to add to your workout routine without being too complicated. Remember to keep doing to the dips on one leg for a whole set before switching to the other leg, as alternating legs for each rep is not very efficient in this case.
Here’s how to do it:
- First, place your workout bench (or chair) behind you.
- Next, lean your hands onto the bench with fingers facing forward.
- Your arms should be up straight for the starting position, with both feet on the ground.
- Now, dip your body using your arms as they lower to a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
- On the way back up to arms straight, lift one leg and extend it out straight in a kick-like motion.
- Do this whole rotation on one leg for a whole set before switching to the other leg.
Front Dips on Sofa
You can also perform a triceps dip on the edge of a sofa, adding a bit of instability through the cushions. This will work out your triceps, your pecs, and other small muscles as you try to maintain balance and stability.
Sofas tend to be a little lower to the ground than chairs or benches, so keep that in mind when considering the number of reps you’ll do for a set. You can use either the hard part of the couch beneath the cushions or the cushions themselves for some extra challenge.
Here’s how to do it:
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart with palms down at the edge of the couch. Your fingers should be facing forwards.
- Beginning with your arms straight, lower your body at the elbows to perform the triceps dip until they reach a 90-degree angle.
- Now push back up until you reach the starting position again.
- Repeat for a set.
Use a suspension trainer (TRX)
As we explained at the start, there are two kinds of dips, chair dips and parallel bars dips. You can use a suspension trainer for an unstable parallel bars dip, making it one of the most challenging exercises on this list.
Suspension trainers are ropes hung from the ceiling with small bars at the ends for gripping. With them, you’ll work out your triceps hard while also increasing the challenge for the pectoralis major and minor muscles at the same time, plus the deltoid and rhomboid muscles.
Compound exercises that use unstable balance like this are best for a fuller body workout, as they force you to use your stabilizer muscles. These provide support balance and the rest of the movements of your body.
To perform a parallel bars dip with a suspension trainer, do the following:
- Grab onto each suspension handle, standing up straight.
- Push down on each, lifting your body and curling your legs up so they don’t touch the ground.
- Now dip by bending at the arms until they are at a 90-degree angle before pushing back upwards again.
- Repeat as necessary to complete a set.
Parallel Dips Exercise
Parallel dips are a great compound exercise for simultaneously targeting the pecs and triceps while also hitting many other muscles. Now, they do require a bit more preparation and equipment than other dips on this list, as you’ll need a set of parallel bars.
We’ve mentioned before that you can use other items around the house to use as parallel bars, like two benches or chairs, but these won’t have the same grip as the bars do, so keep that in mind.
To set these up, make sure the bars are parallel to one another and have enough room between them that your arms can comfortably grip both from in between the two. For most people, this will mean a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
Here’s do to perform them:
- First, grip the parallel bars while standing between them and hoist yourself up.
- Now lower yourself until your arm forms a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
- Then, push yourself back up into the starting position until just before your elbows would lock.
- Repeat for a whole set.
We’ve now looked at 7 ways to do dips at home, including variations on both chair dips and parallel bars dips. These are a fantastic and easy exercise to add to any at home work out routine, and the benefits are outstanding.
You can use both kinds of dips in an upper body workout routine, benefitting both your triceps and upper chest. Depending on which specific muscles you want to target, you can choose one of the different variations. Alternatively, you might choose a variation just based on what items you have available around the house, as all of them perform much of the same function.
These are very easy exercises to work into your daily routine at home and require little extra effort or equipment, so why not get started now?