The Dumbbell Skull Crusher is a great movement for the triceps, and easier than other tricep exercises to load with lots of weight! When trying to build the arms, restricting ourselves to tricep push down variations because they’re easy is a sure fire way to limit progress (as is quad extensions as the bulk of your leg workouts).

This skull crusher blasts the long and lateral heads of the tricep, and you can superset it to close grip barbell press to really nail the whole muscle group. You can even then switch to bench dips if your mobility is good enough, using the 6-12-25 workout protocol.


How to Perform Dumbbell Skull Crushers:

  • Feet pulled in towards the body and flat on the floor (same body position as the Bench Press), arch the lower back slightly and squeeze the shoulder blades together.
  • Select a hammer grip on the dumbbells and keep the wrists neutral throughout. You may wish to use wrist straps to aid this on heavier sets.
  • Start and finish position of each rep; arms fully extended with a slight lean towards the head – the hands should grip the dumbbells in line with the mouth.
  • Smooth eccentric (downward) phase, before reversing the plane of motion back to the peak by consciously shortening/tensing the triceps.
  • Think of this as a pull movement (even though it will likely be included in push workouts) – making a conscious effort not to let the elbows flare out and or to press the dumbbells back up.
  • Pause briefly at the peak to ensure you’re balanced, and complete for the designated number of reps.


Key Points:

  • You can perform these on an incline to focus more on the long head of the triceps.
  • Aim to keep the speed consistent throughout the rep, and to pause at the peak and base of each repetition. This will prevent you using momentum, pushing the weight (using the chest/shoulders) and allow more consistent range of motion to be achieved.
  • You can perform skull crushers on the floor. I do this as it allows a safer pick up and put down of the weight on heavier sets. Longer dumbbells – such as bowflex or other adjustable sets – will need you to avoid the head consciously by going either side of the skull at the base of each rep. They may also affect the range of motion you can achieve.
  • Keeping the hands in line with the chin/mouth rather than above the shoulders at the peak of each rep will reduce elbow pain many people associate with this lift. It reduces the pressure around the ‘funny bone’ area, whilst increasing the time under tension experienced by the target muscle groups.


Skull crushers should be included in your workout routine if your goals are to build bigger, stronger or simply more shapely arms. We include the in our Flagship Transformation Guides, but have an Exercise Substitution Section in all of these in case you need alternative options.



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