Skull crushers are an effective mass-building exercise for the triceps, chest and anterior shoulders. They are usually done with a barbell but can also be performed with an EZ-bar or even just bodyweight. Unlike overhead triceps extensions, skull crushers require you to lie down and only hinge at the elbows which is great for isolating
Skull crushers are an effective mass-building exercise for the triceps, chest and anterior shoulders. They are usually done with a barbell but can also be performed with an EZ-bar or even just bodyweight.
Unlike overhead triceps extensions, skull crushers require you to lie down and only hinge at the elbows which is great for isolating your triceps. They can also be done on an incline to further target specific heads of the triceps. Build Insane Triceps by Doing Skull Crushers – Laz Tymoff
What is a Skull Crusher?
The skull crusher is an isolation exercise that targets the triceps. In order to perform it, lie down on a bench with a weight (it can be a barbell or dumbbells) in both hands. It’s best to start with a lower weight to help you focus on your form and avoid injury. Once you’ve mastered the movement, try to slowly increase the weight.
To truly isolate the triceps, you’ll want to keep your elbows tucked in and shoulder-width apart. “This helps to limit movement in the shoulders and upper arms, allowing you to truly target the triceps,” says Nike master trainer and Tonal coach Ash Wilking.
You can also incorporate position variations to help you hit the triceps from different angles. For instance, lying on a decline bench will target the lateral head of your triceps more than if you were to do skull crushers on a flat bench, says Pabon. This will be a great change of pace for anyone who wants to add some variety to their triceps workout.
Skull crushers are popular in hypertrophy-focused programs because of their ability to build massive triceps. They’re also great for enhancing your other pressing movements, such as the bench press and dumbbell lateral raise.
The movement itself isn’t too complicated, but there are some variations that you can try to spice up your skull crushers. You can use a regular barbell, EZ bar, or dumbbells to complete the exercise. It’s also important to keep in mind that the movement is a push and not a pull movement.
Using a dumbbell allows you to control the movement and reduce the risk of injury because the range of motion is shorter. It’s a great option for beginners.
Performing the exercise on a decline bench can engage the lateral head of your triceps (the outer side) a bit more, adds Pabon. You can also try bringing your elbows in slightly, as opposed to the standard shoulder-width apart positioning. This will help you avoid hitting your head at the bottom of the movement and maintain tricep tension throughout the eccentric portion.
Skull crushers are an effective exercise for increasing your bench press and triceps strength. For this reason, they are a popular move in both bodybuilding and powerlifting routines. In particular, powerlifters use skull crushers to help them lock out their presses, while bodybuilders often include them in a triceps superset with dips or close-grip bench presses.
To perform a skull crusher, hold your weight (this can be a barbell or dumbbells) and lie on a flat bench. Then, extend your arms over your head and lower the weight behind your forehead. It is important to focus on controlling the weight both during the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (pressing) phases of the movement.
Some people also perform skull crushers with a decline on the bench to reduce the involvement of their upper back, putting more emphasis on the lateral head of their triceps. This variation can be especially beneficial for those looking to reduce the stress on their elbows or for those recovering from a shoulder or arm injury.
Skull crushers may look precarious – especially with barbells – but they’re safe as long as you’re careful and follow the directions. “They’re an excellent movement for anyone who wants to target the triceps without stressing other joints, such as the back or wrists,” says Wilking.
The key to safety is controlling the movement — specifically, lowering the weight down toward your head. A lot of injuries occur when lifters lower the weight too fast, causing their shoulders to move forward, and the elbows to flare out a bit. This deactivates the triceps and can lead to injury, so it’s important to slow down, and be sure to use a spotter if you’re going heavy.
You should also avoid arching your back as you perform this movement, which can lead to a sore lower-back and biceps. To prevent this, perform skull crushers lying on a bench instead of standing overhead, and ensure your core, glutes and quads are engaged to stabilize your back and keep the barbell stable.