Skull Crushers

Skull Crushers: Techniques, Tips, Variations and Common Mistakes

Skull crushers, also known as lying triceps extensions, may sound intimidating, but they are a fantastic exercise for building triceps strength and definition. This exercise involves lowering a barbell or dumbbell towards your forehead, hence the dramatic name. Despite its intimidating name, when done correctly, skull crushers are safe and highly effective for developing your triceps.

What Are Skull Crushers?

Skull crushers are arm exercises in which you lie on your back and lower your weight towards your head, then raise it back up. This move mainly works the muscles at the back of your upper arm, which are important for straightening your arm and helping with certain arm and shoulder movements.

How To Perform Skull Crushers Correctly

Executing skull crushers with the correct form is vital for safety and effectiveness. Here’s how to do them:

  1. You’ll need a flat bench and a barbell or dumbbell. Sit on the bench with the barbell resting on your thighs.
  2. Hold the barbell with a shoulder-width grip, palms facing down. Keep your wrists straight.
  3. Recline on the bench, bringing the barbell to a position over your collarbone.
  4. Bend your elbows and lower the weight towards your forehead controlled. Keep your elbows pointing forward and your shoulders stable.
  5. When you take a short break, straighten your arms to lift the weight back up. Make sure to keep your upper arms still while you do this.
  6. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Skull Crushers

Benefits Of Skull Crushers

Skull crushers are beneficial for several reasons:

  • Builds Triceps Mass: By isolating the triceps, skull crushers help to add muscle mass and definition to the back of your arms.
  • Improves Upper Body Strength: This exercise improves the overall upper body strength, essential for various functional movements.
  • Enhances Bench Press Performance: Strong triceps are crucial for pushing movements, making skull crushers beneficial for improving your bench press.
  • Versatile Exercise: Skull crushers can be performed with different equipment, such as barbells, dumbbells, or resistance bands, offering variety in your workouts.
  • Supports Shoulder Stability: Maintaining stable shoulders throughout the workout helps to strengthen your muscles around the shoulder joint, enhancing stability.
  • Increases Arm Strength for Throwing: Strengthening your triceps can improve your performance in throwing sports by increasing the force production of the throwing muscles.

Variations Of Skull Crushers

To keep your skull crusher workouts interesting and target your muscles in different ways, consider these skull crusher variations:

Triceps Extensions On The Floor

No bench? No problem! You can still work those triceps by exercising on the floor or using our yoga mat. Just be cautious when lowering the weight behind your head to avoid it touching the ground. If you have an exercise step at home, that can be a handy substitute for a bench.

Using A Barbell For Skull Crushers

Barbells offer another option for this exercise, which some people prefer over dumbbells. Strengthening your wrists beforehand might make this variation more comfortable.

Inclined Triceps Extensions

An incline bench can change the angle, targeting different parts of your triceps. This variation adds diversity to your workout and can help build a more well-rounded triceps muscle.

Mistakes To Watch Out For

Be mindful of these common mistakes, which are as follows:

Weak Grip Issues

Ensure your grip is secure to prevent the weights from slipping and causing injury. If you’re worried about your grip strength, you might want to work on it before attempting this exercise.

Incorrect Weight Lowering

Avoid lowering the weights towards your face. Instead, aim to move them behind your head to stay safe. Be mindful not to hit the back of your head when bringing the weights back to the starting position.

Hand Positioning Mistakes

Your hands should be positioned about shoulder-width apart. This alignment helps minimize strain on your elbows. Adjust the grip to what feels comfortable, ensuring it doesn’t cause pain.

Moving Too Quickly

Perform the exercise slowly and with control. Quick, careless movements can lead to injury and reduce the exercise’s effectiveness. Focus on using the correct muscles without relying on body momentum.

Overloading With Weight

It’s better to use lighter weights and aim for more repetitions. This reduces the risk of putting too much stress on your elbows and helps maintain better form and control throughout the exercise.

Tips For Safe And Effective Skull Crushers

To get the most out of your skull crushers while minimizing the risk of injury, follow these tips:

  • Use Controlled Movements: Lower the weight slowly and with control to avoid injury.
  • Keep Elbows In: Ensure your elbows stay close to your head to target the triceps properly.
  • Maintain Shoulder Stability: Keep your shoulders stable and avoid letting them move during the exercise.
  • Start Light: Start with a lighter weight to master the form before increasing the load.
  • Consider a Spotter: A spotter can help ensure safety, especially when using heavier weights.
  • Keep Your Spine Neutral: Avoid arching your back by keeping your spine neutral.


Skull crushers are a great exercise for strengthening and defining your arms. Adding them to your workouts can help you enhance and improve in many activities. Just do them the right way to get the most out of them and avoid getting hurt. You can also change them up to keep your workouts fun and challenging. Enjoy getting stronger and more toned!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Muscles Worked In Skull Crusher?

The main muscle worked during skull crushers is the triceps brachii. The triceps have three heads: the long head, which originates from the scapula, and the medial and lateral heads, which arise from the upper arm bone. The function of the triceps is to extend the elbow and assist in shoulder extension, which is crucial for movements like pushing and throwing.

Should You Use Heavy Or Light Weights For Skull Crushers?

When starting with skull crushers, it’s wise to start with lighter weights to perfect your technique. You can gradually increase the weight once you’re comfortable with the movement. The goal is to use a weight that allows controlled, full-range motion without compromising your form.

Do Skull Crushers Also Work The Chest?

While skull crushers are primarily designed to strengthen your triceps, they also engage your chest muscles, especially when performed with elevated hips. This move can tone your core and lower body, making it a versatile exercise for overall muscle development.