Skull crushers have a scary name, but they are not at all dangerous. Behind the scary name is in fact one of the most efficient triceps exercise ever, so here is what you should know about skull crushers.
How to Perform Dumbell Skull Crushers
The skull crusher is performed lying down on your back. You hold the weight - usually a dumbbell - over you in a way like you would hold your bar over your head doing a benchpress. You hold your weight in the up position, then you lower it over your face bending your arm at the elbow.
You have probably noticed that when we mentioned the type of weight that you can use during skull crushers, we listed dumbbells, but not EZ bars and straight bars, even though most biceps and triceps exercises can be done using bars as well. The reason is that you should never do skull crushers with a straight bar or with an EZ bar. Straight bars and curl bars are not suitable for this kind of exercise because the grip position on bars puts too much stress on the elbows during the lowering movement, working your joints more than your muscles.
What Muscles are Worked
Skull crushers are known to be among the most efficient triceps exercises ever invented. They activate the entire triceps group from the largest, flat dorso-lateral muscle on the torso called the latissimus dorsi and all the way to the elbow. Skull crushers are isolation exercises, meaning that they work only one joint,making them very efficient during rehabilitation programs that involve training one side of the body.
Alternative Exercises to Skull Crushers
Skull crushers are super-efficient and they build spectacular triceps muscles very quickly. However, some bodybuilders may find the exercise awkward or they might want to make their workout sessions more varied by alternating skull crushers with other exercises of similar efficiency. The good news is that there are many triceps exercises that you can try if you want to take a break from doing skull crushers to allow your elbows to relax a bit or you are looking for more variety–here are just a few:
- Close-grip bench presses–best done holding your hand 8-10 inches apart to avoid excess stress, with bench presses you will feel your muscles grow with each set;
- Dips–usually done on a parallel bar, dips use the weight of your own body to activate your triceps muscles and to work your entire upper body, including your back and your abdomen as well;
- Behind head extensions–these exercises work your triceps in a way similar to skull crushers, but they are done in a seated or in a standing position, with the weight held with both hands and lowered behind the head;
- Rope pushdowns–done with a rope attached to the upper pulley, this exercise is perfect for the long-head triceps.
Try these workouts as well, and you'll see they are very effective too.