skull crushers form

Although the triceps do receive a lot of stimulation during basic compound presses for the chest and shoulders, a direct tricep isolation exercise or two is a great way to fully round out the development of all three heads for maximum upper arm gains.

Skull crushers are one of the most common tricep extension movements that you’ll see being performed in the gym, and when executed correctly they certainly are an effective way to target the long head for improved tricep growth.

If you do include skull crushers as part of your overall tricep workout (whether it be with an EZ-bar or dumbbells), here’s one very simple form tweak you can use to ensure that you get the very most out of the exercise…

Simple Skull Crushers Form Tip

(You can either watch the video above for a live demonstration of the proper form or just read the description I’ve given below)

1) Instead of beginning the movement with your arms extended directly above you and perpendicular to the floor, lower them a few inches toward your head at a slight angle and use this as your starting position.

2) From there, instead of lowering the weight to your forehead, lower it just behind the top of your head instead.

3) Extend the weight back up and stop in that same “tilted” arm positon that you began in.

Why is tilting your arms back a better approach for proper skull crushers form?

dumbbell skull crushers

Well, aside from the fact that this variation reduces the stress on your elbows a bit, it also improves overall tricep stimulation by providing continuous tension throughout the entire range of motion.

When you fully extend your arms until they’re perpendicular to the floor like most people do, you end up with very little tension on the triceps in the top position since the force of gravity is simply pulling the weight straight down. This basically de-activates the triceps and gives them a rest at the top of every single rep.

By stopping a couple inches short of perpendicular, the triceps remain active from the very bottom of the movement all the way to the top since they must constantly work to prevent the weight from falling backwards.

Another way to accomplish basically the same thing is by performing your skull crushers using a cable machine instead of with freeweights.

Simply place the top of the bench about a foot away from the cable stand and then use a straight bar attachment or rope attachment and perform your skull crushers that way.

cable skull crushers

Using the cable machine, the resistance will be pulling your arms both down and back (rather than simply straight up and down) and this will also allow for constant tension throughout the entire movement as well.

However, setting up a bench next to the cable machine may not be practical depending on your gym layout or if you train at home, so this won’t be an option for everyone.

In any case, give this variation a try and you should feel a deeper activation in your triceps since they won’t be receiving those constant periods of rest like they do when you extend your arms all the way up to perpendicular.

The difference probably won’t be anything too dramatic, but every little bit adds up over the long term, and this skull crushers form variation is definitely the superior way to perform this exercise.

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