October 5, 2021

Skull Crusher; Great For Your Triceps—Here’s How to Do Them

Skull crusher can be a great exercise to target the triceps (tricep Brachii), the three-headed muscle that runs the upper back of each arms. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to increase strength or aesthetic, improve shoulder stability, and promote enhanced synergy among other upper body muscles. Give your triceps some love at the gym.

You can see why the name skull crusher was chosen, given the precarious place in which it is held. The skull crusher can be safely and effectively executed if done correctly.

Experts share their tips on how to crush a skull.


  • Laura Flynn Endres, a personal trainer, is the founder of Get Fit Done, an online fitness game for teams.
  • Dayna Douglas Hunt was a former Olympic strength and conditioning coach and athletic therapist.

How To Perform A Skull Crusher


A few pieces of equipment are required to crush skulls, such as dumbbells or barbells, and a bench. However, a floor mat can also be used.

Laura Flynn Endres, a personal trainer, explains how to properly perform a skull crusher.

  • Two dumbbells are sufficient to allow you to lie on your back, either on the floor or on a bench.
  • With your palms facing inward, extend your arms towards the ceiling.
  • To avoid overloading the shoulders, ensure your upper arms don’t move back and forth. Flex your elbows as you lower the dumbbells. Inhale here
  • Keep going until you reach the end of this phase.
  • Start to reverse the movement by straightening the arms and pushing dumbbells back to their starting position. Keep your elbows straight at the top.

Dayna Douglas Hunt, Olympic strength and conditioning coach and therapist, offers key tips for protecting your form. Keep your spine neutral throughout and, if you’re lying down on the mat, ensure your feet are flat and your knees bent. She also recommends that you keep your elbows straight and point them towards the sky in order to make your elbow and shoulder parallel. You want your shoulders and elbows to remain straight so your weight, wrist and elbow are all in line. Another option is to gradually lower your weight with control so you can feel the contraction at your back.

Pay attention to the elbows moving away from your body. If you are using a barbell, it is more important to lower the weight directly above your forehead than below your head. Don’t perform the movement too fast without proper muscle control.

What Muscles Are Worked

Skull crushers, as we have already explained, are a single-joint exercise that isolates the triceps. Flynn Endres says that skull crushers can also be used as a push exercise. They are suitable for working out in push-pull programs and can also be used to exercise opposing muscle groups, such as the biceps. The skull crusher is only possible if the core is properly executed. It stabilizes the body and prevents back arching.

Douglas Hunt says that skull crushers are not only a great addition to a push/pull routine, but also work well on compound days as an accessory movement or burnout movement.

Modifications and Variations

Before you begin to add weight, make sure that you are able to master the movements. To create tension, you can wrap a resistance band around the wrists. Flynn Andres recommends that you learn the movement and then switch to dumbbells to do 15 reps of control. At this point you can increase your weight. To ensure that both arms work together, hold one dumbbell in each hand and lower the shaft to the forehead. For those feeling shaky or uncomfortable, this makes it easier to hold the dumbbells securely.


  • To isolate your triceps, use an EZ curlbar. You can use one dumbbell. The bar will drop towards your forehead so be safe.
  • To alter the way your triceps work, you can use a cable rope instead of weights. To feel your muscles contract at this point, turn your palms to the side at the top.
  • You can relieve wrist pressure by switching to a reverse grip using an EZ bar. Perform the same movement with your hands facing up.
  • To increase the strength of your long head muscles, perform a incline bench exercise
  • You may be able to increase the movement of the exercise by adding overhead extensions. This will allow you to recruit more muscle.
  • Pushdowns of the tricep cable may be a good alternative to elbow pain, as they lower some pressure.

Who Should Avoid Skull Crusher

There are some contraindications that must be considered before you attempt a skull crusher. Flynn Endres explains that skull crushers, as the name implies, require some control to avoid crushing your skull. Therefore, I recommend that my clients start with light weights in order to ensure they can manage the eccentric (lowering). portion of the exercise. “If you feel unsteady, you can start with tricep exercises such as kickbacks with the band.” If you have strength differences between your arms, two dumbbells might not be the best option for this exercise.

Douglas Hunt warns that skull crushers can also cause a lot of stress and strain on the elbows. You’re also putting too much stress on your wrist, so pay attention if you feel pain in your wrists.

The Takeaway

Skull crushers, a single-joint exercise that isolates the triceps, are very popular in an upper-body push/pull or push/pull program. This exercise is best done on a bench, but it can also be done on a mat with dumbbells or a barrebell. For safety and precision, form is important. You should keep your spine neutral and bring your elbows towards the body. Skull crushers need to be built slowly before you add heavy weights. Skull crushers may also cause pain in the wrist and elbow. A modification or variation to this exercise might be safer.