Arm Exercise: The Triceps Chair Dips

What are your Triceps?

Triceps (shaded in red) can often be the forgotten muscles of the arms, not surprising really because they are at the back and we can’t see them. The Triceps are a group of 3 muscles (Long head, Lateral head and Medial head) and they join through the shoulder and pass the elbow joint, allowing movement at both the shoulder and elbow.

By the way, I would like to point out that the Triceps are not responsible for ‘Bingo wings’ (the flabby bits on the underside when you raise your arm – .). A common misconception is that by training your Triceps you can rid yourself of ‘Bingo Wings’…….YOU CAN’T, that my friends is called ‘Spot Training’ and it doesn’t work (click here for more information on ‘Spot Training’). The only way to reduce these is to reduce your body fat by eating well and exercising all of your body.

What are your Triceps used for?

As I have already mention the Triceps are placed on the back of your arm, their main jobs are to straighten your arm at the elbow joint and to bring your arm backwards at the shoulder joint.

In our day to day activity we use these muscles to help us push things away from us (in conjunction with the Pectoral (chest) muscles – .) for example pushing open a door.

In the gym we again use the Triceps for pushing things and again they are best friends with your chest muscles. For example we use the Triceps in: press ups, bench press and more directly Triceps extensions, Triceps push downs and Triceps dips.


For this particular Triceps exercise you will need a sturdy chair/bench or platform, the height of which should be around normal chair height or about 2 feet (or close to half a metre) and preferably a mirror to check your technique. Make sure you place the chair on a non slip floor or failing that up against a wall so that it does not slip away from under you. If you use a chair make sure it has a hard seat and not a cushioned one.

Start by sitting on the chair; place your hands on the front of the chair under your thighs with your hands pointing forwards. Slowly push yourself away from the chair by walking forward a step with your feet while supporting your weight with your arms and legs.

In this position your feet should be flat on the ground, your knees should be at 90 degrees and your bottom should be in front of the chair and just off it, with your shoulders and hips in a vertical line.

From this position you must lower your bottom towards the ground by bending your elbows, all the time keeping your back completely vertical and not arching or bending it. Relax your legs so that they allow you to move downwards, supporting the movement but not in charge. When your elbows reach 90 degrees (which I am hoping will happen before your bottom touches the ground!), you are at the lowest point of the exercise.

Now you must push up using only your arms, making sure that you try your hardest to use your legs as little as possible. As soon as your arms are a few degrees from being completely straight (do not lock your elbows) you have reached the upper most part of the exercise and have completed one Triceps Dip repetition.

Throughout this exercise it is important that you breathe in a nice slow controlled manner. My advice is that you inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up, however the most important thing is that you breathe!

Personal Trainer Malta the triceps dips exercise

How to make this exercise harder

The exercise may not be challenging enough for some (you strong lot – .). For those of you who find this far too easy try doing the exact same technique, except with your legs straight out in front of you, your toes in the air and your heels on the ground. Make sure when you do progress to this level that you pay extra attention to keeping your lower back from bending, as this is far more likely to happen in this position. There is another, even harder way, however it requires more technique than I can mention here so I will write about that one another day.

The Do’s

Keep your back straight
Use a sturdy, hard-seated chair against the wall
Controlled slow breathing
Use your legs as little as possible
The Don’ts

Don’t use a chair on a slippery surface
Don’t lock your elbows
Don’t let your back bend, arch or curve
Don’t hold your breath
Don’t do this exercise if you cannot support your weight with your arms
Don’t do this exercise if you have a back, shoulder or arm injuries
Adding this to your workout

Arm exercises in general should be carried out towards the end of your work out; I personally would put this exercise after training your larger muscle groups e.g. legs, chest and back and before your stomach workout. As far as placing it within your arm workout, I would tend to place it at the start as it requires more strength and control than machine or free weights based exercises.

As far as repetitions go you should aim to be able to complete 15 repetitions with good technique, as it is a body weight exercise and therefore difficult to adjust the resistance. The amount of sets you do is really down to the style of training you are doing and the goals you are trying to achieve, so no easy answer here then.

Be careful…

As this exercise is body weight based you should have some amount of strength in your arms already. If you know that you are weak in the arms or at least comparatively weak compared to your body weight then really I would avoid this exercise until you build up some more strength by using other machine or free weight based arm exercises. You should also avoid this exercise if you have an arm injury of any sorts or have only just recovered from one. Also, interestingly, if you have a bad back I would also avoid this one due to the way this exercise pulls the back out of line if your technique is not spot on. Be safe and always check with your doctor if you are unsure.


This is a great triceps exercise and if you get the technique perfect you will see some real strength gains. Let me know how you get on with it and if you need any more information on the subject. Good luck and stay healthy!