What Are Skull Crushers?

Skull crusher is an arm exercise that isolates triceps muscles. The exercise has various names such as lying tricep extension, push exercise, french press, french extension. Skull crushers can be done using a barbell. However, you can also use a kettlebell, dumbbells, EZ bar, cables, and more.

Interestingly, those suffering from an arm injury can do this triceps exercise. The exercise primarily works the triceps. Therefore, if you are suffering from a wrist injury, you can safely do this exercise without exerting any pressure on your wrist.

Remember that there are so many variations in skull crusher exercise.

How To Do Skull Crushers?

To do a skull crusher, you need a weight bench and a barbell or any weight of your choice. Below are the steps that you can follow to do the skull crusher properly.

  1. Make sure that the barbell is in the top position. Then lie on your back on top of the weight bench. Keep your feet planted on the floor and your knees should be bent.
  2. Then extend your arms above your chest to grab the barbell. Your arms should be shoulder width apart. And your hands should do an ‘over the bar grasp.’ Make sure that you are comfortable bringing the bar down.
  3. Squeeze the barbell and lower it towards your forehead. Keep your upper arms perpendicular to your body and avoid flaring out your elbows. Maintain your wrists straight throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower the bar past your forehead until it’s behind your head. You should stretch behind your arm.
  5. Then reverse the movement by lifting the bar until your arms are fully stretched.
  6. Repeat the movement from 1-5 as much as you can.

Skull Crushers Workout

This is isolation exercise that mainly works the triceps. It is ideal to exercise a particular muscle 2-4 times a week. Therefore, it is not advisable to focus on your triceps by doing this exercise only. You can do lying triceps extensions as well as other exercises that target your arm muscles.

It is ideally okay to do lying triceps extensions once a week if you are doing other exercises that work your arm muscles. There are different skull crusher variations. These variations allow trainers to hit their triceps at different angles.

Precaution Measures

As you do the skull crusher exercise, make sure that you avoid the following mistakes;

  1. Avoid doing this exercise if you have an elbow injury.
  2. Make sure that you have a spotter during the entire exercise if you are a beginner.
  3. Use lightweight gym equipment to avoid stressing elbows. And then do more reps to compensate for lightweight gym equipment. It makes it easier to control the bar while maintaining proper form.
  4. Keep your hand’s shoulder width apart to minimize stress around your elbows.
  5. Your grip is also important. Make sure that your grip is stronger to avoid the bar slipperily.
  6. Move the weight slowly to prevent accidental injuries.

Skull Crusher Exercises

Skull crushers are so amazing because of their many variations. Below are the different skull crusher workouts that you can do;

Dumbbell Skull Crusher

Dumbbell skull crusher or DB Skull Crushers is a famous skull crusher workout variation. In this case, the trainer will be using a pair of dumbbells. This exercise primarily works the triceps muscles like the traditional skull crusher. However, using dumbbells can be a challenge to some people.

It is difficult to control a pair of dumbbells while doing skull crusher exercises. The form is also similar to traditional skull crash. You can always copy the following steps when doing the exercise. You can do this exercise lying on a bench or the floor.

  1. Lie on the floor on your back and keep your feet planted on the floor throughout the exercise. Your feet can be hip-width apart.
  2. Grab dumbbells with your hands facing each other. And then drive them up until your arms are fully stretched above your chest.
  3. Hinge your elbows and lower the dumbbells slowly until they reach behind your ears.
  4. Then contract your triceps muscles and drive the dumbbells up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement to reach your preferable number of reps.
Dumbell Triceps Exercise
Image Credit – Bodybuilding.com

EZ Bar Skull Crusher

This exercise is another skull crusher variation. It strengthens the triceps muscles. And in terms of the form, it’s just the same as the traditional skull crusher workout outlined above. To do this exercise, you can use the instructions outlined under ‘How to do skull crushers?’ The difference is that you will be using an EZ bar.

EZ Bar Triceps Exercise With Barbell
Image Credit – Bodybuilding.com

Barbell Skull Crushers

This is the traditional skull crusher exercise. Many people refer to the ‘skull crusher’ as the barbell skull crash. This is because the skull crusher exercise is ideally done using a barbell.

The barbell skull crusher exercise can be done in various ways. For instance, it can be done while lying on a flat bench, inclined bench, and on the floor. The form in doing these various styles is just the same.

The exercise is good for strengthening and growing triceps. However, make sure that you start with lightweight and increase it as you progress.

Barbell Skull Crushers
Image Credit – BarBend

Incline Skull Crushers

The incline skull crusher is another skull crusher variation. You can use any weight of choice when doing this exercise. The form is the same as the traditional skull crusher exercise. 

Additionally, the exercise primarily targets the triceps. However, with this incline skull crusher exercise; you will be hitting the triceps at different angles due to the position of the bench.

Incline Skull Crushers
Image Credit – Bodybuilding.com

Standing Skull Crushers

This is another amazing skull crusher variation. Interestingly, you can use different types of weights to do this exercise. Like other variations, it is ideal for strengthening triceps muscles.

When doing the standing triceps exercise, you lift the weight to pass the forehead up to behind your head. As a result, this exercise primarily works the long head of the triceps. The long head gets more stretched when the bar (weight) gets behind your head.

Standing Skull Crushers
Image Credit – Critical Body

Tips To Do Skull Crusher Accurately

Skull crushers have multiple variations that have a lot of similarities. Below are the tips that can be of good help;

  1. Start with lightweight. This is good for training your arms and reducing elbow pain. Heavier weight might end up affecting elbows.
  2. Start with a few reps. Doing fewer reps at the beginning is good for training your elbows for future reps. You can increase reps as time goes on when your body is used to the training.
  3. Remember that it is a ‘skull crusher’ therefore don’t allow it to crush your skull. Control the bar or any weight that you will be using. Lower the bar slowly and grip it actively so that you are in full control.
  4. Don’t allow your elbows to flare. Your triceps won’t get the full impact of the exercise if you allow the elbows to flare. Flaring elbows take up the workload from the triceps.
  5. Having a spotter is a good idea. You might need a helping hand that will grab weight in between the sets or when you are done.
  6. Make sure that you extend elbows when moving weight up and down. Moving upper arms instead of elbows might put unnecessary pressure on your shoulders.

Benefits of skull crushers

Triceps Isolation

Skull crushers are an isolation exercise. An isolation exercise specifically works that particular muscle, unlike other exercises that work multiple muscles at once. They specifically work the triceps. As you move the weight, the impact has to be around the triceps.

Strengthens Triceps

The exercises are also good for making the triceps stronger. Having stronger triceps makes it easy to do other strength exercises and moves. It makes it easier to work other upper body muscles.

Protects Wrists

If you experience wrist pain during the skull crusher exercise, you should stop training. You will be doing the exercise the wrong way. When doing lying triceps extensions, the wrists don’t do any hard work. Wrists will be relaxed in a neutral position all the time.

Healthy Joints

Strengthening the triceps affects the elbows. Having stronger triceps keeps elbows safe from injuries.

Which Muscles Are Getting Strengthened With Skull Crushers?


Skull crusher is ideal for strengthening and growing tricep muscles. This also applies to the different lying triceps extensions variations. The triceps muscle is located on the upper arm. Triceps are made of three heads; the medial, lateral, and long head.

These muscles can be seen from the back. The triceps muscles are ideally for straightening the entire arm using the elbow joint. The different skull crushers variations are good at strengthening those three heads of the triceps.

Shoulder Muscles

You engage shoulder muscles as you lift the weight up and down. This triceps exercise is good for stabilizing your shoulder muscles such as rear deltoids as well as scapula. Therefore, the lying triceps extensions have an impact on various upper body muscles.

Who Should Do Skull Crushers?

Almost anyone who wants to focus on triceps can do a skull crusher. Below are the different disciplines who can benefit from Lying triceps extensions;


This is good for chiseling triceps muscles. It can be advantageous to bodybuilders who focus on triceps. It means that they can do this isolation exercise without bothering other upper body muscles such as the chest.


Having healthy and stronger arm muscles makes it easier to lift a weight. Weightlifters can take advantage of skull crushers and strengthen their arms. Remember that elbow extension depends on triceps strength. Muscle mass gained in these exercises can be useful to lockout lifts.


Lying triceps extensions strengthen arm muscles and also prevent injuries. The exercise improves elbow extension as well as protects it from injuries.

Final Thoughts

If you want to specifically focus on your triceps muscles; skull crushers are the ideal exercises. These exercises are good for growing and strengthening triceps muscles.

There are different Lying triceps extensions variations that you can consider. These include EZ bar skull crusher, standing skull crusher, dumbbell skull crusher, and many others. Make sure that you do other exercises to fully develop your arm muscles.

Anyone can do these exercises as long as you do them properly. You can always revisit the above guidelines to get instructions that you can follow when doing skull crushers.

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