Do Dips Work Shoulders? (& What Parts)

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The name tricep dips may imply differently but this exercise works other muscles too. Find out if this includes shoulder muscles and if so, what parts.

Dips do indeed work the main shoulder muscles called the deltoids. More specifically, dips work the front part/muscle head of the deltoids a nice amount.

The more you tilt your upper body forward during dips, the more you will work this part of the shoulder muscles.

Besides that, this exercise still works the tricep and chest muscles a lot too.

Functions of the shoulder muscles

The deltoids are the main shoulder muscles. These are responsible for moving your arms in a variety of directions.

Something important to note is that the deltoids have three parts aka muscle heads. These different parts will each have arm movements where they are the most active.

In the context of dips, the most important function of the front also known as anterior deltoids is that they help you raise your arms forward/upward. This is also known as shoulder flexion.

Secondly, there are the middle deltoids, also known as side/lateral deltoids. These are responsible for moving your arms sideways/upward. Also known as arm abduction.

Thirdly, the rear/posterior deltoids are mainly responsible for moving your arms backward in a horizontal position aka horizontal arm abduction.

Additionally, they help arm extension which means bringing your arms downward/backward.

What part of the shoulders do dips work?

With these descriptions, you could take a look at someone doing the dip exercise to see what part of the shoulders they work.

That being said, to make things easier, dips will work the front part of the shoulders in combination with the other muscles this exercise works.

The other parts of the deltoids won’t really have to do much because the movements they are responsible for simply don’t really happen.

Something important to note is that you can change how much you tilt your upper body forward during this exercise. This will also influence in what ratio you work your muscles.

More specifically, the more you tilt your upper body forward during dips, the more you will work your front deltoids. The opposite is also the case, the more upright you keep your body, the less you will work your shoulders.

Lastly, in a dip variation like a bench or chair dip, you will generally work your front deltoids harder than in the regular version of the movement.

Do dips work rear shoulders?

Dips will not really work the rear shoulders.

In this exercise, gravity basically does all the work in the movements the rear deltoids are responsible for. The main challenge from dips comes from resistance this downward force with other muscles.

Are dips better for the chest or shoulders?

The dip exercise also works your chest muscles, especially the lower part a good amount too.

Unfortunately, it is hard to tell whether dips will be better for your chest or your shoulder muscles. Both will have to work a good amount and to my knowledge, there are currently no EMG activation studies to offer an answer.

One thing that is possible to note is that generally the farther you hold your hands away from the other, the more you will work your chest muscles with dips.

Are dips for triceps or shoulders?

The tricep muscles at the back of your upper arms are responsible for stretching your arms.

Dips will generally work these tricep muscles more than the front shoulders but they often still work your deltoids a nice amount.

The more you lean forward, the more your work the shoulder muscles compared to the triceps. If you keep your body upright during dips, you will mainly work your triceps.

How to work your shoulder muscles more

You may like that dips work your front deltoids a nice amount.

Strength training beginners and possibly intermediates can even see nice amounts of muscle mass and strength increases in this area.

However, as your muscles adapt to the pressure you put them under over time, the same number of bodyweight dips may stop being enough to see results.

At this point, you can start doing weighted dips to see more and faster muscle gains. Some equipment options for this include ankle weights, a weighted vest, and clamping a weight like a dumbbell between your legs.

On the other hand, if bodyweight dips are currently too hard to do the optimal number of repetitions and sets, you can also start with assisted dips.

Two equipment options for assisted dips include an assisted dip machine and resistance bands.

Dip alternatives to work your front deltoids

It is also possible that you like working your front deltoids but don’t like the dip exercise itself. In that case, you can consider some of the following alternatives:

  • Close grip pushups
  • Front raises
  • Close grip shoulder presses
  • Arnold presses

Similar to dips, you need to challenge your front deltoids with enough resistance to see results. In the cases of the exercises above, you will likely need resistance bands, free weights, or a cable machine to make this happen.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.