The triceps brachii, or skull crushers, is an exercise that athletes and strength trainees commonly perform to increase the size and power of the muscle on the back of their upper arms. This exercise is a triceps isolation exercise that primarily targets the triceps.
There are many ways to do skull crushers, not just with an EZ bar. You can also use Olympic barbells and dumbbells.
When doing this exercise, many bodybuilders incorrectly lower the bar to their faces rather than behind their heads. If you descend with the bar too quickly, or if you drop the bar, you could crush your head, hence the name “SkullCrushers.”
It is recommended to lower the weight slowly and behind your head to avoid potential danger.
EZ bar skull crushers are the best exercise for building triceps. No other movement trains the long head of the triceps to the extent that skull crushers do.
This workout will help you achieve your goals of more giant arms, a stronger bench press, and incredible tricep power.
What muscles do skull crushers work?
The triceps brachii muscle has three heads: medial, lateral, and long. The skull crusher is an excellent exercise for developing your medial (long) and lateral leaders. The triceps are responsible for elbow extension, and the skull crusher exercise is designed to target this muscle group. This exercise will also target your long triceps head, which is an essential muscle for increasing the size of your triceps.
The skull crusher exercise is a great way to strengthen and build your triceps brachii muscle. Although the abdominal muscles are also used for core stabilization, they are not being worked hard.
The latissimus dorsi muscles are also active during the skull crusher because of the exercise’s shoulder extension component. Since the long head of the triceps is the muscle group performing most of the shoulder movement in this exercise, the lats aren’t the primary muscle group being targeted.
Benefits of the Dumbbell Skull Crusher
The dumbbell skull crusher effectively builds triceps strength, adds size to your arms, and helps develop your triceps for pressing movements. No matter your goals, you will likely find a good reason to work on your triceps.
Build More Triceps Muscle
The triceps muscles are used a lot when overhead pressing and benching. The triceps muscles will probably become weak and limit your ability to do more extensive exercises that utilize more strength. This means that if you only use presses to work on your triceps, you will not be able to grow them to their full potential.
If you want to increase your triceps strength, add more triceps isolation exercises to your routine. This will allow you to target your triceps more specifically while giving your shoulders a break from the stress of heavy pressing exercises. If you consistently train your triceps, you will see results in the form of increased muscle mass. This additional volume will not put a strain on your shoulders.
Improve Lockout Strength
It could be due to poor lockout strength if you are not seeing improvements in your bench or overhead presses. The triceps are essential for any pressing movement. You need them to get the last bit of power to extend your arms fully.
The skull crusher strengthens your triceps without adding stress to your shoulders and chest. You can use it to build strength when you are locked out. This will help improve your performance on heavy pressing movements like the bench press and overhead lifts.
Promote Elbow Health
Your elbows can get easily injured from everyday activities and weightlifting. If you already experience elbow pain, the skull crusher might be a painful exercise. Instead of using a curl bar or barbell, try using the dumbbell variation. This will allow you to adjust your arms according to your limb length and needs, which might help reduce discomfort. If the move hurts you in any way, it is not suitable for you.
People who don’t feel pain or discomfort from the movement can help improve their elbow health by doing dumbbell skull crushers. Your connective tissues will strengthen, enabling them to handle heavy usage and overuse. Training with higher reps can help increase blood flow to muscles and connective tissues.
How to Do the Dumbbell Skull Crusher
You will need a pair of dumbbells to perform the dumbbell skull crusher. You can use a training bench or do this exercise on the floor. Using a Dumbell instead of an EZ curl or Bar allows for more range in positioning your stoke for each arm.
Step 1 — Get Into Position
Grab a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand. Lie down on your back on a bench. Press the weights above you so that your arms are perpendicular to your body, your arms are pointed towards the ceiling, and the Dumbells are over your face.
This is how you recruit more triceps fibers throughout the entire movement. If you want to engage your triceps more in the whole activity, start with your arms slightly back (closer to your face) rather than at a perfect 90-degree angle with the ground.
Step 2 — Lower the Weights
Keeping your elbows up and pointed towards the ceiling, bend them to lower your dumbbells to the sides of your face or the outer edges of your forehead. The only joint that should move is your elbows. Lower the weights as low as you can go. The farther you lower yourself, the more you stretch your triceps.
As you bend your elbows, keep them back. Do not let them get closer to your chest.
Step 3 — Extend the Weights Upwards
Extend your elbows. Push your hands upwards to the start position. Hold your arms at a 90-degree angle to your body, rather than letting them fall to your sides, to avoid turning the move into a chest press.
The coach’s tip is not to bring the dumbbells back over your shoulders. Instead of keeping your elbows close to your body, extend them thoroughly with your hands over your face. This will ensure that your triceps are always under tension.
Skull Crusher Mistakes
If you want to avoid injury and gain muscle mass at the most efficient rate, steer clear of these five skull crusher workout mistakes.
1. Lower the bar to your head.
Keep the bar above your head and body at all times.
You could injure yourself if you bring the bar too close to your face when lifting weights.
Lowering the weight bar too close to your face when doing triceps exercises limits how much you can move and causes lower muscle activation and growth levels.
2. Not controlling the descent.
If you don’t let the bar touch your head and control the descent, you won’t hurt your head, but you may still get elbow pain.
Aggressively dropping the bar during the negative portion of the repetition in an attempt to lift heavier weights does two things:
- It robs your triceps of tension because the triceps are no longer doing the lowering phase.
- It shifts that force onto your elbow joints and connective tissue structures.
Negative reps, where you take three times as long to lower the weight as you do to lift it, are key to building bigger triceps.
3. Flaring Your Elbows
If you flare your elbows too much while doing skull crushers, it puts extra stress on your elbows and can cause problems with your wrists. This is because the tension is not just on your triceps but also on your joints.
Keep your elbows in line with your body as you lower and raise the bar. If you find it challenging to keep your elbow rigid, you should reduce the resistance.
Working out with dumbbells can also help keep your elbows straight since you need to hold them with a neutral grip.
4. Performing Partial Reps
Partial reps lead to partial gains.
Extend your arms fully when performing skull crushers to get the best results. Even if it means you can’t lift as much weight, it’s better to protect your triceps and elbows from injury. However, limiting the range of motion is also done for other types of training.
5. Using the Wrong Rep Range
As long as you are doing sufficient training and working until your muscles fail, it does not matter how many repetitions per set you do. You will still see significant gains.
Dumbbell Skull Crusher Sets and Reps
The triceps are trained indirectly with heavy loads. You will need to adjust the amount of weight and repetitions you do if you want to see specific changes in your body from doing skull crushers.
To Build Strength
The best way to get stronger at dumbbell skull crushers is to lift heavier weights in the 5-10 rep range for 3-6 sets.
It is essential to be careful when doing exercises that only move one joint because putting too much strain on the muscle can damage the tendons, ligaments, and joints. Complex exercises are a better way to build overall strength. Even though it takes effort, you can develop strength and muscle mass in your triceps by doing some heavy lifting with slow, controlled movements. However, the weight should still make sense within the scope of doing a single joint maneuver while isolating a smaller muscle group.
To Build Muscle
To build muscle, use dumbbells to do the skull crusher exercise in the eight to 15 rep range for three to six sets. Use weights that are moderate in size, and try to come close to failing with your settings.
If you are already lifting heavy weights, you can do fewer reps with lighter weights to increase muscle endurance.
Who Should Do the Dumbbell Skull Crusher
This exercise is a great way to target the triceps muscles. The dumbbell skull crushers can offer benefits to various groups of weightlifters.
Competitive athletes need to be able to use their pressing strength effectively. All strength athletes need strong triceps and shoulders to execute heavy lifts safely.
If you want to increase your triceps muscle mass, add some triceps isolation exercises to your routine. These exercises will also help to improve your elbow extension strength and joint stability. Combining all these factors leads to much stronger overhead lifts and bigger maxes.
Dumbbell skull crushers are not just for competitive lifters. Gymgoers who work out regularly can use this move to increase the size of their arms, the strength of their triceps, and the amount of muscle mass. Almost all beginners train a few times at most each week, but it is vital to concentrate on compound movements to develop muscle quickly and efficiently. If you improve your skills at these exercises, you can also try exercises that target individual muscles, like skull crushers. This can help enhance weaker muscles or focus on areas that need more development.
Dumbbell Skull Crusher Variations
If you want to change your routine, try varying your exercise angles or using different equipment. This can help you target other muscles and get even more benefits from an already great movement. If you want to improve your triceps training, try using dumbbells of different weights for your skull crushers.
Incline Bench Dumbbell Skull Crushers
The incline bench dumbbell skull crusher is a variation of the traditional skull crusher exercise. Instead of lying flat on a bench, you will be positioned at an incline.
The incline increases your range of motion. This exercise routine effectively builds muscle by putting extra tension on the triceps, which causes the power to stretch.
Dumbbell Floor Skull Crushers
You can perform the dumbbell skull crusher perched on the edge of a bench or lying on the floor. Although most people think increasing the range of motion is only possible by expanding the style and range of movement, partial range of motion moves can also help improve strength.
If you want to lift more weight and have more control, you should reduce the range of motion. The reduced action capacity may be beneficial if you experience discomfort in your elbows when performing skull crushers.
One way to make this exercise easier is to use one dumbbell instead of two. Take hold of the dumbbell in each hand, with your palms towards each other. This way, it will act as a small barbell with a neutral grip, so your elbows will naturally stay closer to your body.
Dumbbell Skull Crushers with Bands
To perform the dumbbell skull crusher with resistance bands, take a single band and hold it in your hand (one hand has each end). Then hold one end low with your arm fixed straight with your fist just behind your buttocks and start the top position with your elbow point straight at the ceiling while standing. Initiate the movement from the bottom of the stroke on your working arm.
The dumbbell skull crusher is an exercise that helps you build stronger triceps by isolating them, as well as increasing muscle mass and reinforcing the elbow extension needed for pressing movements.
Adding direct tricep isolation exercises like the dumbbell skull crusher to your training routine can help improve muscle growth and performance.