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Chair dips can be done using a chair or a flat bench.
Most people associate dips of any sort with the triceps, and in fact, research sponsored by the American Council on Exercise found dips to be the third-most effective triceps exercise out of eight exercises tested. But your muscles rarely work in complete isolation from each other, especially when more than one joint is in motion.
Chair dips work primarily your triceps, but your lats also get in on the action.
Get Some Help
The primary mover for any exercise is the muscle that provides the most oomph to execute the motion. During triceps dips, that primary mover is - as you'd expect - the triceps. Because your latissimus dorsi assists with the movement at the shoulder joint, it's dubbed a synergist, or in plain English, a helper muscle. Other synergists during bench dips include your pecs (chest muscles), your shoulders, your rhomboids and your levator scapulae. Even your biceps get into the act by providing some stabilization.
Know the Basics
Bench dips are easier than full-body dips, which makes them a great way of building the strength to work up to those full-body dips. To do bench dips, sit down on a weight bench or sturdy chair, feet planted in front of you. Place both palms beside your hips on the bench, fingers facing forward and gripping the front of the bench. Take part of your weight on your hands as you walk your feet forward, scooting your hips forward off the bench. This is your starting position.
Keep your hips close to the bench as you bend your arms, lowering your body until your shoulders are level with your elbows or until you feel a very mild stretch in your shoulder. Straighten your arms to lift your body back up to the starting position, using pressure from your legs to assist the movement as needed.
If you have shoulder instability or reduced shoulder mobility, or if doing dips causes shoulder pain, this may not be the best triceps (or back) exercise for you. Talk to a medical or fitness professional before making it a part of your regular exercise program.
Increase the Challenge
If you're ready to move up to more challenging dips but don't have access to regular dip bars, try placing your feet on an elevated surface, with your knees bent to help you keep your hips close to the bench as your do your dips. This does two things: First, it reduces the help you get by pushing with your legs; and second, it turns your lap into the perfect cradle for a carefully held weight plate or dumbbell to add more resistance to the exercise.