What Do Backward Dips Work?

Dips come in a number of variations and names, including triceps dips, chest dips, chair dips, bench dips and reverse dips, depending on how they are performed. Reverse dips, also called backward dips, performed with your arms behind you and your legs in front, target the triceps brachii, using a wide variety of upper body muscles to help you perform the movements.

Types of Dips

Dips are calisthenics exercises that use your body weight to work your upper body as you raise and lower yourself between two chairs, benches or bars, or against a bench, couch, chair or other object behind you. Dips come in two basic varieties: vertically, with your arms straight and your body perpendicular to the floor in the raised position; and at a 45- or 90-degree angle to the floor, with arms positioned behind you. Both types of dips work the same muscles if the vertical dips are performed between shoulder-width bars, chairs or benches. Vertical dips performed between wider bars target your chest muscles. Some dips are more difficult to perform than others based on whether your feet are on the floor or if you use assistance or weights while performing the dips.

Muscle Use

The target muscles during reverse dips are the triceps, located on the backs of your upper arms. This makes dips a helpful exercise if your goal is toning. Muscles that assist you during the exercise include those located on your shoulders, chest, back and neck. Your biceps, located on the front of your upper arms, and trapezius, located in the middle of your back, help stabilize your body as you perform the exercises.

Performing Reverse Dips

Stand with your back to a stable bench, couch or chair and place your hands on the object behind you. Move your feet forward until your legs are straight and at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Slowly raise and lower yourself, pausing between each uplift and downlift, if your goal is maximal muscle building. Perform your reps quickly if your goal is muscular endurance or you wish to raise your heart rate during a cardio workout. Bend your knees, bringing your heels halfway to your butt, to make the exercise easier.


To make reverse dips more difficult, elevate your feet on a box, bench, chair or other object about legs’ length in front of you. Raise and lower yourself between the two objects, lowering your butt as far as you can, pausing, then raising yourself, for more muscle building. Raise and lower yourself quickly for endurance and cardio sets. Add a weight belt to increase muscle use if your goal is muscle building.