Bar dips is a beastly exercise. It always has been and always will be. Some of the best exercises, classics really, like the pull-up or squat, are just so effective that they need to be in your rotation. In this case, you need to include this exercise because you can use bar dips for lower triceps and get a wicked stretch on the chest.
So why do you need bar dips for lower triceps? It really gets down to angles of resistance and the stretch position of different exercises. Bar dips is a bit unique for the angle your push from and the ability you have to get into a full stretch position while handling so much weight. The French Press, single arm dumbbell extensions, and lying triceps extension all provide the same level of stretch yet you can’t use the same amount of weight.
The Proper Bar Dip
Ideally your gym will have a pair of angled bars for dipping that start wide then become narrower. This allows people of all sizes to use them move effectively and allows focus to be either on the chest or triceps.
- For the chest – Let the elbows flair out wide and lean forward. This puts much more emphasis on the chest and shoulders. While the triceps are obviously engaged, you are using more of the chest, like in a flye movement, to help rise up.
- For the triceps – Keep the elbows tight and body as upright as possible. The focus and weight needs to be up and back and more on the triceps.
The key to getting the most out of this exercise and using bar dips for lower triceps is the range of motion. Most triceps exercises work all three heads; the long head, lateral head, and medial head. The medial, or lower triceps, is a little bit harder to engage because the range of motion is sometimes hampered.
Start from full lockout. The muscles should be flexed while supporting your weight. Then you lower slowly, in control. This negative movement is a key and will provide the important stretch. Go as low as you can, trying to bring the forearm as close to the biceps as possible. The deeper you get, the more the medial head will work on the contraction.
Now from this bottom position explode up back to the lockout position. Again, pause and hold for a second to get the blood into the muscle before slowly lowering. Only add weight via a dumbbell between the ankles or weight belt holding a plate after you can do sets of 15. Using too much weight usually makes people not stress the full range of motion. But that range of motion is what makes bar dips for lower triceps so effective.
If you feel the need to add weight, make sure to do a weightless set right after and crank out full range reps and hit all of those fibers. Triceps can be stubborn, but part of the problem is usually that people forget great form and proper function that is needed to engage the entire muscle.
Options For Assisted Dips
If you are unable to do a bar dip without help. There are two options. You can use a spotter or you can use resistance bands to facilitate your dips. I find using a spotter a bit inconsistent and suggest that using the correct size resistance band is the most consistent way to do dips. The video below demonstrates proper technique.