Do Dips Work Chest, Or Are They Just for Triceps?

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Written By Dan
Dan Smullen has a Bsc. in sport science & has over 9 years of experience in personal training. Apart from training and blogging, he is also a tech fanatic & loves his coffee.

If you want to build your chest and put muscle in your upper body, you must know what should be included in your routine to do the job. Some exercises are much better for this area than others, but do dips work the chest?

Dips are often considered triceps exercises, but they can be a powerful tool for building a strong and defined chest. Weighted dips, particularly, are effective for targeting the chest muscles and adding mass to this area.

Many people neglect dips in their chest workout routine, but in this blog post, we will explore the benefits of dips for the chest, how to properly perform them, and why they are essential exercises for a well-rounded chest workout.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer, this post will provide valuable insights on how to add dips to your chest routine.

Do Dips Work the Chest or Triceps?

Dips work the chest muscles when performed at a 90 degrees angle. Dips primarily target the triceps but also engage the chest, shoulders, and upper back muscles.

The chest muscles, specifically the pectoralis major and minor, are used to stabilize the body during the exercise.

Adding weight or adjusting your body angle can increase the emphasis on the chest muscles. Performing dips with a wider grip will also work the chest more.

It’s important to note that dips are compound exercises that work for multiple muscle groups, so it’s essential to include other exercises specifically targeting the chest in your workout routine for well-rounded development.

Read on to learn how to make the most out of your dips and discover other great chest exercises to try as well.

What are the Benefits of Dips?

1. Compound Upper Body Exercise

Dips are an excellent exercise for working out your upper body. They hit multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including your chest, triceps, shoulders, and upper back. You can build muscle mass in these areas and get stronger by doing dips.

2. Great for Functional Fitness

Dips are functional because they mimic everyday movements like pushing up from a seated position. This means that the movement pattern used in dips is similar to the movements we perform daily. This makes dips a valuable exercise for improving functional fitness.

3. Minimal Equipment Needed

One of the best things about dips is that they can be done with minimal equipment, like parallel bars or even the edge of a bench. This makes them one of the most convenient exercise to do at home or the gym.

How To Do Dips For Building Your Chest

Some people swear by dips as one of the best chest exercises out there, and there is real evidence to prove this. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin studied which specific exercises most activate the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles (your pecs).

With the barbell bench press as the benchmark (no pun intended) for maximum muscle activation, dips achieved around 70% of the same level of muscle activity in the pecs. This put them in the top 10 chest exercises examined in the study.

Of course, you can do dips in many different ways, but a specific form and style will help you focus on your chest muscles to the highest degree possible rather than emphasizing your triceps.

Here is how to do dips to work chest with proper form;

  1. Use parallel dip bars that have a more comprehensive grip option if possible.
  2. Place your hands nice and wide so that your elbows naturally flare to the sides (if your dip bar is relatively narrow, you can flare your elbows yourself).
  3. Position your feet slightly behind you so your upper body is leaning forwards.
  4. Push yourself up until your arms are almost straight but keep a slight bend – this allows you to maintain tension and prevents you from locking your joints.
  5. Lower yourself down with control until you feel a good stretch across your chest – don’t let your body weight do the work or sink too deep.
  6. You should take around 3 or 4 seconds to lower yourself and around 1 second to push yourself back up again.

Keeping your elbows close to your sides and positioning your feet below or in front of you will shift some weight away from your chest and onto your triceps.

Don’t be surprised if your arms get sore, even when trying to target your chest. Your triceps will always be primarily engaged when you’re doing dips. And there is no way of escaping this.

Note: Dips are primarily a triceps exercise – but it does work the chest.

3 Alternative Dips for Chest And Training Level

Although we’ve looked at how to focus on your chest with your dips, one of the best things about this exercise is that you can do many different dips depending on your fitness levels.

Chest dips can be tough on the chest and shoulder muscles, especially if you are a beginner. One exercise that you can do is Assisted dips.

Here are the top three dip variations depending on your fitness/strength level.

Assisted Dips or Dip Machine (Beginner)

If you’re finding it challenging to get enough reps in a while doing your dips or experiencing any pain or discomfort, you can try dips with assistance to build your strength and form.

Assisted dips can be done with a machine, using resistance bands attached to the bars, or with the help of a partner.

Assisted dips are still great for working your chest and are a much better option than pushing yourself too far too soon and ending up with a shoulder injury that puts you out of commission for a few weeks.

Ring Dips (Intermediate)

If you have the opposite problem and want to challenge yourself, ring dips are a great way to develop your control.

This variation gives your chest muscles much more to do, as you will be fighting against forward and sideways motion and vertical lifting and lowering.

Weighted Dips (Advanced)

Adding weight to dips forces your chest muscles to work harder to stabilize and lift the weight, which leads to greater muscle activation and growth.

It’s similar to adding weight to chest exercises like the bench press or flyes.

You will need a weight belt or dumbbell to do weighted dips between your legs.

Performing dips with a wider grip will also engage the chest muscles more.

Fundamental Exercises For Working The Chest

While dips are certainly up there for the best chest exercises in the game, they are far from the only thing you want to have in your routine.

A. L. Loenneke et al. (2012) found that push-ups and chest presses resulted in greater muscle activation in the chest muscles compared to the lateral and front raises.

Here are the best exercises that are proven to activate your pecs the most:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Dumbell Bench Press
  • Weighted Push Ups

Chest Exercises That Are Easy To Do At Home?

It’s not about getting into the gym and jumping on the machines. There are several ways to work on your chest at home – with limited equipment and even in a small space.

  • Dips: You don’t have to have a full-size apparatus to do your chest dips; you can find many creative ways to do the same thing with household equipment that can carry your weight in the correct position.
  • Push-Ups: Push-ups are an excellent chest exercise, and variations like suspended push-ups or stability ball push-ups can add even more emphasis to your pecs.
  • Bench Press/Flyes: You don’t need much fancy equipment to lift weights while lying on your back – you can even use filled bottles or jugs if you don’t have free weights to hand.


Can you build a chest with just dips?

Dips are an excellent exercise for targeting the chest muscles, but relying on them alone will not build a well-rounded chest. They are compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups, including the chest, triceps, shoulders, and upper back.

However, to see optimal chest development, it’s essential to include a variety of exercises in your workout routine, such as bench presses, flyes, and push-ups, that target the upper, middle, and lower regions of the chest.

Genetics also play a role in muscle development, so it may be necessary to include other exercises and progressive overload to challenge the muscle and promote growth continuously. Dips are a great addition to a chest workout but should not be the only exercise relied on.

Are dips better than push-ups for the chest?

Dips activate your muscles slightly more than push-ups but also focus on a slightly different area of the chest. Push-ups mainly work the upper chest, whereas dips can also incorporate more of the lower chest.

Chest Dips vs. Tricep Dips What’s the Difference?

Dips is a compound bodyweight exercise that simultaneously works on a large group of muscles. But the most common debate is what is better – chest dips or tricep dips.

Both chest and tricep dips use the dip station, but the main difference is which muscle group you target.

Chest dips are when you lean forward while doing the dip, and this targets your chest muscles. The chest muscles are the primary muscle group targeted during chest dips, while the triceps and shoulders are also activated as secondary muscle groups.

Tricep dips, on the other hand, are when you keep your body upright while doing the dip, and this mainly targets your tricep muscles. The triceps are the main muscle group targeted during tricep dips, while the chest and shoulders are also activated as secondary muscle groups.

So, the main difference between chest and tricep dips is the muscle group you’re trying to target. Chest dips are great for working out your chest, while tricep dips are great for working out your triceps.

Does not Locking Out your Elbows on a Dip Work Your Chest More?

Not locking out your elbows while performing either bodyweight or weighted dip should keep more time under tension. More time under tension may work your chest more due to increased tension on the chest stabilizers.

Final Note:

Research has shown that progressive overload, the gradual increase of stress placed on the muscles through weight, reps, or sets, is necessary for muscle growth.

Relying solely on dips may not provide enough progressive overload to promote muscle growth for everyone.

Having a variety of exercises in a workout routine is the most effective way to promote muscle growth. Adding dips to your chest workout can help, as Dips specifically target the major and minor pectoralis while stabilizing during the exercise, particularly when you are doing weighted dips.

Supporting Evidence

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Dan Smullen has a Bsc. in sport science & has over 9 years of experience in personal training. Apart from training and blogging, he is also a tech fanatic & loves his coffee.