How to Do Skull Crushers Correctly for Bigger Triceps

Skull crushers are a core triceps movement for any strength or bodybuilding routine. And they’re a great way to add size and shape to your arms.

But if you don’t do them correctly, your triceps won’t grow. Worse yet, you could damage your joints!

That’s why I’m going to show you how to do skull crushers the right way. So you can get the most out of your workouts.

Skull Crushers

What Are Skull Crushers?

Skull crushers are a tricep exercise where you lay on a bench and lower the bar to your forehead or just over your head. The close proximity of the weight to your head is how this exercise got its name.

But don’t worry, when done properly, there is no risk of causing any damage to your skull! Or any other body parts for that matter.

Skull Crushers Muscles Worked

Lowering the bar to your forehead primarily works the medial and lateral heads of the triceps. These are the muscles on the inside and outside of the back of your arm.

While lowering the bar over your head works primarily the long head of the triceps. This is the upper part of the triceps that inserts under your rear delt.

skull crushers muscles worked

How To Do Skull Crushers

Start with your feet flat on the floor and lean back with your upper body lying flat on the bench. At first, your arms will be perpendicular to the floor.

Before you begin, tilt your arms a few degrees back towards your head. This keeps tension on your triceps through the whole range of motion.

Next, lower the weight by bending your elbows. Once the bar reaches the top of your head, extend your elbows back up to the starting position.

During the exercise, keep your upper arms at the same angle and your elbows in. This reduces momentum and isolates the triceps.

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Skull Crushers Form

  • Keep feet flat on floor and back flat on bench
  • Tilt extended arms back towards head
  • Bend at the elbows without moving upper arms
  • Don’t flare elbows out
  • Don’t pull with upper arms

Variations of Skull Crusher Exercise

There are several different ways you can do lying tricep extensions.

Barbell Skull Crushers

This variation is performed with a standard straight bar. Keeping your hands in a more pronated position.

While there’s nothing wrong with using a barbell, it can be more uncomfortable on your wrists.

EZ Bar Skull Crushers

An EZ bar is generally shorter and lighter than a barbell. And it has bends in it that make it easier to grip.

Where you place your hands affects the muscles used. For example, a close grip works a little more of the lateral head. While a wider grip works more of the medial head.

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Using dumbbells allows you to isolate each arm independently. This is great for working more of the stabilizer muscles.

In addition, DB skull crushers prevent your dominant arm from taking over. So both arms get an equal workout.

Incline Skull Crushers

Finally, this variation is performed with an upward angle on the bench. The angle creates more tension on the triceps at the bottom of the movement.

You can also do this on a decline angle, which reduces the stretch at the bottom. Some people report this is easier on their elbows.


Now that you know the proper way to do skull crushers, I recommend you include them in most of your arm workouts. Or you can add them to a push day or total body routine.

Once you get the form and technique down, it’s safe to increase the weight. Skull crushers are a great exercise for building your triceps strength and size.

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