Skullcrushers, aka lying triceps extensions, are a fabulous triceps-shaping move. Here are some tips on form and function.
Though it has an intimidating name, a skullcrusher is one of the best isolation moves around to work your triceps through their full range of motion against gravity, specifically targeting the long and medial heads of your triceps muscle.
- Straight bars can often cause elbow pain, especially if you have inflexible wrists. But a cambered bar offers different positions for your hands, which means more opportunities to find a comfortable range of motion that best matches your own physiology. Note: Some people will still feel discomfort in their elbows with a cambered bar. In these cases, use dumbbells with a hammer grip (facing inward), as shown here.
- Though the traditional way to start was to hold the barbell (or dumbbells) directly over your chest with your arms perpendicular to the floor, a new school of thought suggests angling your arms backward slightly so the bar is above your eyes or even your forehead might give you better results. These few degrees of incline mean your triceps are under constant tension throughout the entire move and never get a rest as they do when your arms are perpendicular. There’s no right or wrong way here, so try both versions and see which you prefer.
- Only your triceps should be working. Bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells toward your forehead (or slightly beyond if you’re doing the alternate version) and stop before you touch down. Your upper arms should be locked and steady throughout the move.
- Try doing skullcrushers on an incline or even a decline bench to change the angle of the move and work your muscles differently. Just be sure your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor (or nearly so) and your head is completely supported by the bench to maximize effectiveness and stay safe.
Do it better!
- Use a moderate weight. Because this is an isolation move, you’re better off going for high reps and lighter weight than straining your joints trying to push a ton of poundage.
- Move slowly and deliberately for the eccentric and concentric portions of the move, controlling the weight at all times. Hey, it didn’t get the name skullcrusher for nothing!