What’s The Best Move For Super-Defined Triceps: Bench Dip Or Inverted Shoulder Press?

The answer might surprise you.


Rachael Schultz |

Targeting your triceps—that large muscle on the back of your upper arms—is key to getting a sculpted look. Plus, it builds the kind of strength that lets you hoist yourself out the side of a pool or throw a baseball farther for your kid.

Bench dips are one of the most classic moves to target your tris, and they’ll definitely set the muscle on fire. But when given the choice between dips and an inverted shoulder press, the latter is actually a better move overall, says New York-based trainer Chris Ryan.

“Bench dips target all three heads of the triceps, but they put a good amount of strain on the deltoid and shoulder if you go too deep,” he explains. Meanwhile, the inverted shoulder press targets your whole upper body, and the more toned your shoulders and chest look, the better your triceps will pop.

You can also make the move harder by changing the angle of your upside down V—the more inverted you get, the more you’ll load the shoulders and triceps, Ryan adds. Other bonuses: “I like this movement a lot since it incorporates your body weight and works on balance and proprioception so you will learn how to move your body better overall. Furthermore, it includes a good amount of mobility work in the low back, glutes, and hamstrings making it a great strength move to do on the road after a long travel day,” Ryan adds.

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  It really comes down to what kind of workout you’re doing today. If you’re doing serious split days (focusing on certain muscle groups) and looking for an isolation exercise to just hit your tris, opt for the bench dip—but keep your shoulders at or above the elbows when you’re at the bottom of the dip to avoid shoulder strain, Ryan says. If you’re aiming for moves that work more than one muscle at once—if it’s, say, a total- or upper-body day, or you’re trying to maximize your burn per minute—the inverted shoulder press will deliver and sculpt your triceps.

Here’s how to try both these moves for yourself:

Bench Dip

How to: Sit on an exercise bench or stacked risers, hands next to your thighs, fingers forward. Place your feet on the floor, knees bent to 90 degrees. Keeping your arms straight, hover your butt off the edge of the bench. Bend your arms and lower your butt, stopping when your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Your shoulders shouldn’t drop below your elbows. Push yourself back up to starting position. That’s one rep.

Inverted Shoulder Press

How to: Assume a pushup position, but move your feet forward and raise your hips so your torso is nearly perpendicular to the floor. Your hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders and arms should be straight. Bend your elbows to lower your body until your head nearly touches the floor. Pause, then return to starting position by pushing your arms straight. That’s one rep.

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