STOP! Try This 5 Exercises to Tone your Triceps Instead of Bench Dips.

your turn

In the middle of a 12×12 square-foot bedroom, I put my purple yoga mat right next to my brown Ikea bed frame. After stretching my hamstrings, triceps, and thighs, I proceeded with a warm-up. It included 20 jumping jacks, 20 high knees, and 20 burpees.

Having only 30 minutes to finish a workout, I was determined to get the most out of it. When I was done with the warm-up, I pressed play on my Mac. A petite and extremely fit woman (six pack and all) yelled at me from the screen.

She told me to grab my pink sandbag, hold it in front of me, and do squats with it for 50 seconds. Next,  she ordered me to do spider push-ups for another 50.  Bench dips were next. I didn’t have an exercise bench, but the bed frame from Ikea worked just fine. The workout ended with some brutal ab circuit (you could try one too, here).

Twenty minutes later, soaked in sweat, I headed to the bathroom for a shower. Feeling accomplished and proud, I then went off to work.



Women commonly use bench dips to tone their arms. It’s a go-to exercise when you get stuck at home with the kids or because of a snowstorm (if you live in New England). It seems like an extremely efficient and simple-to-use exercise. I’ve done it, and you probably have too.

But please 




Because they’re fucking BAD for your shoulders. Period. If you don’t want to get a boo-boo on your shoulder (anything from a shoulder impingement to a rotator cuff injury) you really shouldn’t be doing them. Here’s why.


shoulder anatomy


Alrighty, it’s time for anatomy 101. Your arm bone is called the humerus. The humerus sits nicely in a socket of the glenoid fossa (part of the shoulder blade), like a golf ball on a pin.

The humerus is attached to the glenoid fossa of your shoulder blade (the scapula) via thin, leather-like belts — the coracohumeral and capsular ligaments. But these ligaments provide only secondary stability to the joint.

The primary shoulder stabilizers and support are the muscles and structures around it — the rotator cuff muscles (there are four), the glenoid labrum, and the long head of the biceps. The last one, in particular, keeps your humerus in place from the front (anteriorly.)

You see, every time you do bench dips, you force your humerus bone into a position where it’s pressing on the ligaments and stretching them — structures that were never meant to do so. If repeated multiple times, this action can cause anything from shoulder impingement to a rotator cuff injury.

shoulder boo boo

Look at my arm. This what can make a boo-boo on your shoulder

In addition, there are a bunch of much more effective and less painful exercises that can help build definition in your arms. And I’m going to show you these.

I’m not going to give you just one tricep exercise. To help you tone the back of your arms and add a variety of exercises to your routine, I will show you five exercises you’ve never done before!

Ready? Let’s go!


#1. Squeeze Skull Crushers.





  • Grab the dumbbells and get down on the floor
  • Squeeze the DBs together and perform a skull crusher, as shown in the video.
  • Continue squeezing DBs throughout the entire exercise.


1 – 4 rounds of 10 – 15 with moderate to light weights


  • You could do this exercise: as a warm-up for an upper-body/bench day
  • You can include it on your arm day


  • Do it at the end of the upper-body/bench day as a finisher.

#2. Half Kneeling Band/Cable French press.



  • Grab the band/cable handles and face away from the cable
  • Get down to a half kneeling position
  • Position your hips and rib cage so that they look at each other like lovebirds (aka all the time)
  • Press the band/cable out as I do in the video.


3 – 4 rounds of 10 – 15 with moderate weight/resistance


Do it at the end of the upper-body/bench day as a finisher or as a part of arm day.

#3. Plank French Press 


  • This is an advanced exercise. You could start (as I did in the video) by pushing the floor away in a sort of alternating way. And then, progress to pushing away and up with both arms at the same time.
  • Get in a forearm plank position, pulling the waistband of your yoga pants towards your nose and squeezing your bum-bum.
  • Press the floor away from you, coming up into a high plank.


2 – 4 rounds of 6-8 reps


Because this exercise also works your core like no other, you can include this one in your leg day too!


#4. Band Tricep Push Downs.





  • Place a cable or a resistance band at belly-button height.
  • Grab the band/cable handles with your elbows at a 90 degree angle.
  • Push the band/cable handles down and out, straightening your elbows.
  • Return to the starting position.



2 – 4 rounds of 15 -AMRAP with moderate to light weight/resistance


  • As a part of  upper-body/bench day
  • Do it at the end of the upper body/bench day as a finisher. If you choose this method, try to do sets of AMRAP.


#5. Up-Down Plank. 



  • Get in a forearm plank position, pulling the waistband of your yoga pants towards your nose and squeezing your bum-bum.



2 – 4 rounds of 6-8/side with moderate to light weight/resistance


Since it also works your core, you could to it either during an upper-body day, lower-body day, and/or whole-body day.

There you have it! 5 exercises to build definition in your arms instead of 1 that can hurt your shoulders!

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