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Chair And Bench Dips: How To Do, Risks,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing chair or bench dips, what will the effects be?

Chair or bench dips, depending on what objects you use, are an exercise where you use these parallel dip bar alternatives to lower and raise your upper body with the help of your arms.

Chair dips are typically done to grow and strengthen your tricep muscles. For other fitness goals, there are many better exercise options.

Even for growing your triceps there may be more effective alternatives with a lower injury risk like tricep pushups. Especially if you have weak shoulders, neck, or elbows, you may want to avoid chair dips.

Whether you should add chair dips or alternatives to your routine ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.

How to do a chair dip

While dips are considered a bodyweight exercise you still need exercise equipment to do the movement. In this case, you want a sturdy chair or a similar object for chair dips. To do a chair dip take the following steps:

  1. Stand in front of the chair with your back toward it.
  2. Place your hands at more or less shoulder-width apart on the chair with slightly less than stretched arms. Your feet should rest flat on the ground. How far from the chair depends on your desired intensity. You can start with a 90-degree angle in your knees.
  3. Bend your arms at your elbows either as far as comfortable or at a maximum until your shoulders are at elbow height. Make sure your elbows are straight backward, not flared outward .The rest of your body should go right in front of the chair. Keep your shoulders down and don’t hunch them.
  4. Raise yourself back up into starting position.

Keep your movements slow and controlled to make your triceps really work hard and to avoid bad technique.

There are a few attention points when doing chair dips. First of all, you want your elbows to go straight back. To achieve this it may be helpful to put your hands on the surface with fingers pointing outward.

Next make sure you keep your shoulders pushed down, away from your ears. Also make sure you push your shoulders back, don’t hunch them. Lastly, if you are going for multiple repetitions, don’t fully stretch out your elbows.

At first, chair dips may look straightforward but it is easy to do them wrong. This increases your injury risk.

How to do a chair dip

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that chair dips can be hard on body parts like your shoulders, elbow, and neck even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any shoulder pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that chair dips are not (yet) for you.

Chair dip variations

Chair dips with just your body weight and a 90-degree angle in your knees are the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few variations that can make the exercise easier or harder.

Some people are not ready yet for full chair dips. To work up to the full version you can consider only lower your upper body a small amount. If that is still too much you can consider some resistance band tricep exercises with low resistance.

Both of these will help you train similar muscles as chair dips but at a less challenging level.

On the other hand, regular bodyweight chair dips can become too easy. At this point, you may need to turn to other exercises or make chair dips harder to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.

Making chair dips harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up progress compared to doing the regular bodyweight variation over and over.

The first simple, no-equipment way to make chair dips harder is to move your feet farther away from the chair. Due to the laws of physics this makes the exercise harder.

The next step is putting your feet on an elevated object like another chair or bench. After that, you can do chair dips with extra resistance like a weighted vest.

If you still need a bigger challenge at this point you may want to give regular hanging tricep dips a try or its weighted variations.

Muscles worked with chair dips

Chair dips are mainly a tricep isolation exercise. If you bend your upper body forward you will also work out your lower chest muscles.

The way you build muscle in places like your triceps is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.

If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.

By adding extra resistance to exercises like chair dips with dip workout equipment you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time.

If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more core muscle gain.

Depending on your personal situation, workout plan, and training goals, chair dips may be a good or bad addition.

Chair dip benefits

While they can cause negative effects, adding chair dips to your routine can still offer you some helpful benefits. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Chair dips are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your core muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing chair dips likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss. Keep in mind that there are better exercise choices if weight loss is your goal.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like chair dips promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. Only simple equipment required: Almost anyone has some type of object that can be used safely to do chair dips. This makes it so you don’t have to invest in equipment or be in a specific location.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like chair dips can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. Slows down aging: Chair dips won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.

While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than chair dips, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Chair dips alternatives

While chair dips can be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your tricep muscles with lower injury risk. Some of these chair dip alternatives include:

  • Types of pushups (tricep, close-grip, diamond)
  • Tricep kickbacks
  • Close grip chest presses
  • Overhead tricep extensions
  • Tricep pull-apart

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.


There are people that will benefit from adding chair dips to their routine. That being said, there are also other no-equipment ways to train your triceps that involve a lower injury risk.

Chair dips can be hard on body parts like your shoulders, elbow, and neck even if you implement the right technique.

If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing chair dips is a workout you love, you could consider them. If not other exercises can offer more benefits with lower injury risk.

If you do decide to implement more chair dips make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.