Build Big Triceps by Doing Skull Crushers


Skull crushers have a scary name but, as long as they’re performed correctly, they’re a great exercise for building big, strong triceps. They’re basically lying triceps extensions completed with a bar (straight bar, EZ curl bar or dumbbells).

It’s important to control the movement during the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (pressing) phases to maximize muscle growth. Build Insane Triceps by Doing Skull Crushers – Laz Tymoff

The Basics

Despite the exercise’s name, skull crushers are not known to cause elbow pain as long as the tempo of the movement is controlled and the weight is lowered with a full stretch. However, like many isolation exercises, it’s easy to get carried away with the weight and push past a healthy range. This can stress the elbow joint and cause injury if not carefully managed.

Whether using a dumbbell in each hand or a barbell, start by laying flat on your back (or on the bench) and positioning the weight above you. EZ bars make the movement a little easier on the wrists, but you can also use regular barbells or even cables.

Grasp the bar or dumbbells with a narrow grip and position them above your head. Begin the movement by lowering the weight toward your forehead (hence the name, skull crusher). Keep the barbell close to your forehead and actively flex your elbows to prevent flaring out, which deactivates the triceps.


There’s a reason that skull crushers are so popular in hypertrophy programs. They build triceps muscle strength and help to enhance overhead movements such as the bench press, barbell squat and even the dumbbell and kettlebell press. Stronger triceps can help you lock out your presses, improve the quality of your snatch and balance your shoulders.

To get the most out of skull crushers, it’s important to keep the barbell close to your face and not letting it move away from your head. This helps ensure maximum triceps engagement, but it’s also easier to control the movement. Lowering the weight too quickly reduces time under tension and puts you at risk for injury, so be sure to take your time and control the eccentric (lowering) phase.

For lifters who prefer not to use a barbell, bodyweight skull crushers can be a great option. This exercise can be done lying on a bench or even on the floor in push-up position.


Skull crushers can be a great addition to any arm workout. They can be used as a finisher after working the push muscles on chest and shoulder days, or they can be done as part of a biceps superset with a barbell or EZ bar triceps extension on arm day.

To get the most benefit from skull crushers, make sure to move the weight slowly through the movement. This increases the amount of time your triceps are under tension and helps prevent any injuries that may occur, such as arching in the back or flaring of the elbows.

Another tip is to focus on hinging at the elbows rather than the shoulders. This will help to isolate the triceps even further. And finally, if you want to increase the challenge, try lowering the weight behind your head to add a new dynamic to the movement. This will really hit the triceps hard. If you have trouble doing this, try using a spotter.

Final Words

Despite their dubious name, skull crushers (also known as lying tricep extensions) are awesome for your triceps. When done correctly, you can place a lot of tension on your triceps using moderate to heavy weights which is the recipe for incredible muscle growth.

A common mistake when doing skull crushers is shortening the range of motion or jerking the weight to finish the rep, which puts unnecessary stress on your elbow and shoulder joints. The best way to prevent this is by focusing on your form and using light dumbbells until you’re confident enough to start loading up the barbell.

Another great variation to try is adding cable skullcrushers to your workout. This will add some variety and also provide a constant tension on your triceps to avoid the muscles getting tired out before you reach your muscle failure point. It’s as simple as attaching a straight bar or rope to a low pulley and positioning a flat gym bench in line with the station.

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