Tricep Pushdowns vs Dips: A Triceps Showdown


Tricep Pushdowns vs Dips

Tricep Pushdowns and Dips are two popular exercises that target the triceps. Both exercises are effective for building strength and size in the triceps, but they differ in their equipment requirements and movement patterns.

The question is, which one should you be doing in your workouts?

In this article, I will compare Tricep Pushdowns and Dips in terms of their benefits, difficulty level, and variations. By understanding the similarities and differences between these two exercises, you can choose the one that best fits your training goals and preferences.


Cable Triceps Pushdowns


Triceps Pushdown

Equipment Needed

  • Cable Machine
  • Cable Attachment of your choice (V-Bar, Straight Bar, Rope, etc)

Muscles Worked

Triceps Pushdowns work all three heads of the Triceps muscle as well as the Anconeus (the muscle that wraps down across the elbow)

  • Triceps Brachii lateral head
  • Triceps brachii long head
  • Triceps brachii medial head
  • Anconeus

Pro Tip: Using a Rope will emphasize the lateral head of the triceps and using an underhand grip on a straight bar will emphasize the medial head of the triceps.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Step up a cable machine by sliding the pin all the way to the top of the beam.
  • Attach the rack attachment of your choice.
  • Grab the attachment and pull the attachment down until your elbows are next to your sides (arms should still be bent).
  • Now, extend the arms down by flexing the triceps and driving the attachment toward the floor.
  • Squeeze the triceps at full extension for one second and then slowly allow the attachment to raise back to the starting position.
  • Keep elbows tucked into the sides throughout the movement.

Coaching Points

Do not swing and use momentum at the top of the movement in an attempt to use more weight. Stay in control of the weight at all times and use proper form.

If using a heavy weight, you can lean slightly forward at the waist to give yourself more stability and to help keep yourself anchored to the floor.

Don’t have a cable machine? Here are 10 Triceps Pushdown alternatives that don’t need a machine.

Benefits of Triceps Pushdowns

Tricep Pushdowns allow for a greater range of motion compared to some other tricep exercises, such as Dips or Close Grip Bench Press. This can lead to a more thorough muscle contraction and ultimately better muscle growth.

Cable Tricep Pushdowns can provide a ton of variety with all the different cable attachments that can be used (V Bar, Straight Bar, Rope, etc)


Dips


Dips Alternatives

Equipment Needed

  • Squat Rack
  • Dip Attachment
  • A Dip Station can be used as well if you have access to one.

Muscles Worked

  • Chest
  • Shoulders (Anterior Delt)
  • Triceps

Step By Step Instructions

  • Attach your dip rack to your rack. This process will vary based on your rack and dip attachment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
  • Set your dip rack just above waist height. This will allow enough room for your feet not to hit the ground while doing reps, but not so high you feel you have to jump up into your first rep.
  • Starting position is hands on bars, arms extended, knees slightly bent and feet crossed (crossing feet is optional but does help with unwanted swinging in my experience.
  • Descend down by bending the elbows and slightly leaning forward.
  • Lower yourself under control until the triceps become parallel with the ground and then drive yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Dips is poor range of motion. If someone is struggling to be able to do reps, the easiest solution is to simply not lower yourself into a full rep, but this is incorrect. If a lifter cannot perform a full rep they should switch to one of the variations listed below.

The other issue I see my athletes run into is unwanted swinging front to back while doing reps. Stay under control, keep a consistent rep path, bend the knees and cross the feet. These are all solutions that I have seen help eliminate swinging while doing Dips.

Don’t have a Dip Attachment or Dip Station? Here are 10 of my favorite alternatives for Dips.

Benefits of Dips

There are several benefits to incorporating dips into your workout routine:

  1. Increased upper body strength: Dips require a significant amount of strength in the triceps, shoulders, and chest, and performing them regularly can help you build muscle and improve overall upper body strength.
  2. Enhanced functional strength: Dips require you to support your own body weight, which can help improve your functional strength and stability.
  3. Greater range of motion: Dips allow for a greater range of motion than many other upper body exercises, which can help improve your mobility and flexibility.
  4. Versatility: Dips can be performed with a variety of equipment, including bars, rings, and even parallel bars, giving you plenty of options for mixing up your workouts.

Overall, dips are a valuable exercise that can help you build strength, improve muscle definition, and enhance functional strength and mobility.

Tricep Pushdowns vs Dips: Which is Better?

Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at the two exercises and discuss which may be better for specific lifting goals.

Better For Developing Size and Strength: Dips

Not only are Dips better than Tricep Pushdowns for building strength, but it is one of the best exercises for improving upper-body strength – period. It’s why it’s one of my favorite exercises for football players.

Dips biggest advantage over Tricep Pushdowns is that it’s a compound exercise versus Triceps Pushdowns which is an isolation exercise. Dips involve the chest and shoulders along with the triceps. Because of this, the amount of weight that can be pressed is much greater which leads to increased strength and muscle mass.

Better For Beginners: Tricep Pushdowns

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’re a beginner and you can do Dips, then by all means, do Dips!

Having said that, many beginners do not have the necessary strength to be able to do Dips. While modifications can be made to help, it does make the exercise more complex.

On the other hand, Tricep Pushdowns are much more accessible for beginners. They can be less intimidating and beginners can start at light weights and then gradually increase weight as strength increases.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Tricep Pushdowns vs Dips. The truth is, there is no reason (assuming you have the available equipment) you shouldn’t have both exercises in your training program.

Both are great exercises for developing upper body strength and hypertrophy. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Tricep Pushdowns and Dips in your training plan.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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