Focus on Form: Tricep Dips

You know that time in class…finishing our warm-up, we flip over to begin our upper body work with our famous (infamous?) tricep dips. A classic, we heart tricep dips because they are one of those bodyweight exercises that simply never get easier!

Their primary purpose is to strengthen, tone and sculpt our triceps (back of our arms, above the elbow – an ever-tricky area to reach!) but this move offers some serious “bonus work”. When done properly, the opportunity is there to also engage the shoulders, abdomen, thighs, glutes and hamstrings as they work to stabilize your body through each movement…ca-ching!


This is an easy move to “cheat” on, whether intentional or not, and therefore well-deserving to be featured on our new “Focus on Form” weekly series. Many clients cite this part of class as their biggest weakness; always remember to start wherever you are today, taking whichever modifications necessary, and think simply of your progress rather than what anyone else in the room is doing. With weekly practice and a focus on your form, you WILL get there!

Here are a few “action points” to keep in mind when performing this in class:

  • ensure elbows are moving in a line straight behind you (even thinking of moving them “towards each other”), rather than bowing out to the side
  • constantly think of keeping your weight in your hands and fight not to let your seat move closer to your heels…this takes the benefit away from the arms and neutralizes the action (and isn’t a beneficial modification…see below!)
  • work to straighten arms to the top – but do not lock into elbows
  • keep chest lifted, shoulders out of ears and your shoulder blades together
  • we’ll always offer a challenge, typically a variation with one leg off the ground, but only take these challenges if you are able to maintain your most perfect form – as with essentially every other part of class, you will always get much more benefit skipping the challenges if they compromise your form!
  • as with everywhere else in class, use your breathe! with every lift, thinking of taking an exhale, both to pull your naval down (maintaining proper abdominal form) and to keep sending oxygen to your muscles giving you energy to do one more dip than last time!

Here are a few modifications you can take, while you work up your strength:

  • wrist issues? wrap your hands around 8 lb weights so that you are able to keep your wrists an extension of your forearm, rather than bearing the pressure of the 90 degree angle formed with your hands flat on the ground (alternately, you could have your hands in fists and press your knuckles into the ground)
  • keep your seat on the ground and shift your weight deeply and dramatically back into your hands – follow along with your instructors movements, deeply bending your elbows. your triceps will still be engaged and you will start to build your strength, working your way up to lifting your seat off the ground!

As always, if you ever have questions about any of the exercises we are performing, ask your instructor after class! Each of our instructors is passionate about helping each client get the most out of class – and what that is will be different for every person. Some of the best “light bulbs” go off during one-on-one conversations after class, so ask away 🙂


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