Banish bingo wings: learn how to do a tricep dip

A tricep dip is one of the fastest ways to tone and tighten the arms. We show you how.

The triceps are small but mighty muscles. Located on the underside of the upper arms, they get their name because they have three heads – or three separate points where they attach to the bones in the upper arm and shoulder.  

Almost all upper body movement uses the triceps in some way, so it’s worth keeping them strong. They often work in synergy with the biceps, on the upper side of the arm. As one muscle group pushes, the other pulls.  

As we age, we lose muscle mass, and this can make it look as though the underside of the arm is sagging – the dreaded bingo wings. However, strength training will preserve that muscle mass, effectively toning and tightening that area 

Woman pinching her tricepsCredit: Shutterstock / Nick Alias

There are many exercises you can do to work the triceps, from those that work the specific muscle group, which can be found in our list of best arm exercises, to more general upper body exercises, including chest exercises. The tricep dip might look complicated but it’s a fantastic way to work the triceps with no equipment and, broken down and learnt correctly, it’s easy to do.  


Exercise: Tricep dip 

Areas worked: Triceps, core, biceps, shoulders 

Equipment needed: None 

The benefits of tricep dips

Tricep dips are great for many reasons. Here are just a few:  

  • They work a whole muscle group effectively without any weight. 
  • No equipment is needed – perfect for home workouts.  
  • They strengthen the core (stomach and lower back muscles) at the same time. 
  • They also strengthen the shoulders.  
  • They work the triceps through the whole range of motion – they extend and contract fully, meaning they are working to their capacity.  
  • They tone the “bingo wings”– an area a lot of us worry about as we age.  

What a perfect tricep dip should look like

A perfect tricep dip will look different for everyone. It will depend on your ability when starting, the mobility in your shoulders, and your ability to hold your own body weight. That said, there are some fundamentals we should look for when doing tricep dips.  

  • A strong starting position – hands next to the hips, with the shoulder blades squeezed.  
  • Heels neither too close nor too far away from the body – too close and you’ll struggle to move, too far away and it’ll be too hard to lift your body. 
  • At the top of the movement, a tight core and hips lifted as high as you can.  
  • Glutes (bum muscles) squeezed tight at the top. 
  • Shoulders kept down away from the ears (remember, shoulders and ears aren’t friends).  

Doing a tricep dip

Woman doing a tricep dipCredit: Saga Exceptional
  1. Begin the movement by sitting on the floor, legs extended in front of you.  
  2. Place your hands next to your hips, fingers pointing towards the toes, arms close to the sides of the body.  
  3. Your elbows should be pointing behind you.  
  4. Bend your knees, placing your feet flat on the floor.  
  5. Inhale and tighten your core – think about pulling your stomach towards your spine.  
  6. Push into your hands and heels, then drive your body upwards.  
  7. Depending on your level of ability, when you are at the top you will either look like a table (body flat between shoulders and knees) or a chair (body sloping from shoulders to hips, then a straight line to the knees). 
  8. Bending the elbows only (don’t use your legs to help you), lower your bum to the floor, then drive back up.  
  9. Repeat as many times as you’d like (I’d recommend six to eight repetitions at a time). 

Things to look out for

Tricep dips take some getting used to, and when you first try them it’s common to have to make some tweaks to get them right. But that’s OK! We can’t always get everything right straight away, and that’s why we keep practising. Here are some common mistakes I see as a personal trainer, and things you can do to fix them.  

  • Rounding of the shoulders – this can happen if your hands are too far forward, so make sure you’re lining them up correctly. For most people, the hands will need to be by the hips.  
  • Pain in the neck and shoulders – this might be because your hands are too far back, so try changing their placement first. If you’re a beginner, it might just be because you’re not quite strong enough to hold your own bodyweight with such a small muscle group. But you will be! Follow the notes below to make the movement easier, and just do two or three at a time until your strength builds.  
  • Balancing on the heels – your toes might come up in the movement, and that’s OK, but make sure you start and end the movement with your feet flat. The more points of contact you can have with the floor, the stronger you will be.  
  • Rounding the lower back – if you find that tricep dips are hurting your lower back, it’s probably because you need to tighten your core more. The best way to do this is by squeezing your glutes (bum muscles) as hard as you can. I like to tell clients to “bite the sandwich”!  
Woman stretching her tricepsCredit: Shutterstock / JLco Julia Amaral

How to make tricep dips easier

If a regular tricep dip is too difficult at first, don’t worry. One of the benefits of strength training is that you get better with practice – but you must start somewhere. So, persevere and try the modifications listed below to make tricep dips easier until you’re stronger. 

  • Bring your heels in closer – not so close that you can’t move, but moving your feet a little closer reduces the range of motion and can help with the lifting element.  
  • Elevate the hands – some people find that raising their hands onto a small step helps. I use the aerobic step listed below.

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  • Elevate the body – you can use a chair to make tricep dips easier, just make sure it’s on a solid surface and ideally pressed against something solid so it won’t tip. Grip the edge tightly, then lower and lift the body using the steps above. You control how low you dip – keep it as short as you need to.  
  • Hand position – some people have weaknesses in the wrists or conditions such as arthritis that make the hand position painful. If this is the case, gripping the edge of the chair might change the hand position enough to make it more bearable. 
  • Consider using push up stands – Again, if you find the hand position uncomfortable on the wrist joints, you could try using push up stands (also useful for – you guessed it – learning how to do a push up). They will allow your wrists to stay in a neutral position during the movement, as you grip them instead of the floor. 

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How to do advanced tricep dips

If you’re an experienced exerciser and confident doing a regular tricep dip, try one of these variations for an added challenge.

Man doing a tricep dip using a chairCredit: Shutterstock / stockfour
  • Use a chair – as well as making it easier, using a chair for tricep dips can also make it harder. Since you can control the range of motion, you can dip much lower than you can from the floor, meaning you’ll work your back, shoulders and triceps more to lift yourself back up again.  
  • Single leg tricep dip – as you dip, keep one leg off the floor, toes pointing towards the ceiling. Do a certain number of reps, then switch sides. This is a personal favourite of mine as your core gets a real workout too.  
  • Single leg tricep dip with a toe tap – the same as above, but at the top of the movement, take the opposite hand off the floor and tap the toe. Make sure you’re confident in the basic tricep dip first!  

How to add tricep dips into your workout

Tricep dips can easily be added to any strength training workout, as they dont need any equipment, so you can do them in the gym, or at home as a series of bodyweight strength training exercises. The triceps are small muscles, so put dips towards the end of your workout. The reason behind doing this is simple the smaller muscles tire quicker, so if you exhaust the triceps with dips first and then try a dumbbell bench press, for example, youll struggle, as the triceps wont be able to aid in the lift as well.  

Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her


Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky is passionate about Kettlebell training, and runs a regular kettlebell club in the local community. Prior to this, she worked as a Fitness manager in a local gym. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain.

Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

Away from work, Becky unsurprisingly enjoys exercise, with a focus on lifting weights, kettlebells, and Olympic rings. She loves watching theatre, swimming, and reading a good book. She has three teenage children and enjoys spending time with them, preferably on a Cornish beach.

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