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Daniel Mesa

Barbell Skull Crusher: How To & Benefits

barbell skull crusher

The Barbell Skull Crusher, or barbell triceps extension, is the key to unleashing your triceps’ maximum potential. While this is a well-known and successful technique, common misunderstandings about how to use it cast a shadow over its reputation. Get ready to rewrite your arm training plan as we review the details of the barbell skull crusher and change how you think about building your triceps.

In addition to strengthening your triceps, the barbell skull crusher helps you gain muscle mass and strength all over your body. This workout has many more advantages than improving your arms’ appearance, such as increasing your bench press and overhead press. When done correctly, the barbell skull crusher takes your triceps through a range of motion that stimulates muscle growth potential and offers a challenge your triceps won’t face from any other exercise.

How To Do Barbell Skull Crushers

To master the Barbell Skull Crusher, follow these steps:


Lie flat on a bench and grab the dumbbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Lowering Phase

Keep your upper arms still and your elbows pointing up as you lower the barbell toward your face.

Extension Phase

Extend your elbows and lift the load back to the starting position without locking out your arms. This is the extension phase.


Do the number of reps you want, paying attention to controlled movement and good form.

Our Tips For Skull Crushers

Tip 1: Controlled Movement

Approach Skull Crushers with intentional control, maintaining a steady cadence during both the lowering and lifting stages. By avoiding sudden jerks or rushes, you allow your triceps to operate properly without undue effort while also lowering your risk of injury.

Tip 2: Elbow Position

Maintain stable and aligned elbows during the movement. As you stretch and flex your arms, keep them pointed upward. This position optimally works your triceps muscles while reducing unneeded stress on your joints, allowing for a safer and more effective workout.

Tip 3: Grip Strength

A solid grip on the barbell is required to maintain control and stability during the Skull Crusher movement. A firm grip improves your overall technique by keeping the focus on your triceps rather than diverting energy to keep the weight steady. A strong grip also reduces the possibility of unexpected slides, ensuring a confident and injury-free workout.

Common Skull Crusher Mistakes To Avoid

Mistake 1: Overarching the Back

When performing Barbell Skull Crushers, you must keep your form steady. Keep your lower back in touch with the bench so you don’t make the common mistake of arching your back. Because of this, you won’t put unnecessary pressure on your spine by arching too much. Triceps engagement is improved, and the workout is made safer and more efficient when the body is in a neutral or slightly arched back position.

Mistake 2: Using Momentum

When performing Skull Crushers, it is important to avoid the frequent mistake of relying on momentum to help you lift the weight. Lift the weight without using momentum; instead, lift it by flexing and extending your triceps. You can unlock the full potential of your triceps muscles and achieve better, more focused results if you can fight the impulse to build momentum.

Mistake 3: Incorrect Elbow Position

Keeping your elbows in the right spot is essential for getting the most out of Skull Crushers. Don’t make the common error of letting your arms hang at your sides. Instead, maintain your arms at your sides and your elbows pointing up. In order to attain your arm-training goals, you need to ensure that your triceps are properly engaged, and this alignment will help you do just that.

What Muscles Do Skull Crushers Work? 

Triceps Brachii (Long Head)

This muscle travels down the back of your upper arm, starting from the scapula and joining to the ulna bone’s olecranon process. The long head of the triceps is important for stretching the forearm and stabilizing the elbow joint as the major focus of the Barbell Skull Crusher.

Triceps Lateral Head

Located on the outside of the upper arm, the lateral head contributes to the width and definition of the triceps. It aids in elbow extension and provides essential support during compound motions such as the bench press.

Triceps Medial Head

Located beneath the long and lateral heads, the medial head adds depth and fullness to the triceps. It helps with general arm strength and forearm extension.

Anconeus Muscle

While not the major focus, the anconeus muscle, positioned on the posterior side of the elbow, aids in the stabilization of the elbow joint during movements such as the Barbell Skull Crusher.

Brachialis Muscle

Although not directly targeted by the exercise, the brachialis muscle, which is positioned beneath the biceps, is important in elbow flexion. Brachialis strength can help with total arm strength and growth.

Skull Crusher Benefits

Benefit 1: Total Triceps Activation

The Barbell Skull Crusher is a formidable exercise that hits your triceps from every angle. This exercise targets the triceps’ long, lateral, and medial head, allowing for a complete and balanced workout. That’s great news since it implies your triceps get a well-rounded workout in every possible direction. Skull Crushers are an important part of any arm-training program because of the full triceps activation they provide, which is beneficial whether your goal is strength or aesthetics.

Benefit 2: Functional Upper Body Strength

Strong biceps aren’t just for looks; they’re a key part of making your upper body strength more useful. The triceps are used a lot when pushing and pressing, which are important everyday moves like pushing doors open, lifting things, and even doing sports like throwing a ball. If you add Barbell Skull Crushers to your routine, your ability in these functional movements will likely improve. Strengthening your triceps gives you the power to do everyday chores and sports, making your life easier and more fun.

Benefit 3: Arm Aesthetics

While strength is obviously vital, aesthetics frequently play a role in persuading people to participate in exercise programs. Using Barbell Skull Crushers to build well-defined triceps leads to an aesthetically beautiful arm shape that complements your entire body. Sculpted triceps give your arms a sense of balance and proportion, giving you the confidence to wear sleeveless or show off your arm muscles. 

Whether you want to obtain a beach-ready physique or simply feel more confident in your looks, the arm aesthetics achieved by Skull Crushers can be a key source of encouragement on your fitness journey.

Alternatives To Skullcrushers

Exercise Option 1: Close-Grip Bench Press

The Close-Grip Bench Press is a powerful combination exercise that works the chest, shoulders, and triceps all at once. By putting your hands closer together on the barbell, you put more stress on the triceps muscles. This exercise helps your biceps grow and makes your upper body stronger as a whole. 

As you press the weight up, your triceps work to extend your arms, and your chest and shoulders work to keep the movement stable. By adding the Close-Grip Bench Press to your workout routine, you can improve your ability to do pushing moves and build a strong, well-balanced upper body.

Exercise Option 2: Dips

Dips are a traditional bodyweight exercise that targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders. By lowering and raising your body between parallel bars, you work the triceps muscles, which allow you to stretch your elbows while also engaging the chest and shoulders for stability. 

Dips improve your performance in activities that require pushing or pulling by providing a functional upper-body strength boost. They can also improve the appearance of your arms and chest by encouraging muscular development. Dips help you develop well-rounded upper body strength and endurance by incorporating them into your workout program.

Exercise Option 3: Triceps Pushdowns

Triceps Pushdowns are a good choice for isolating and working the triceps muscles because they are done on a cable machine and are an isolated exercise. You can work the triceps by extending your elbows against resistance by attaching a rope or bar to the wire. This exercise lets you focus on your triceps alone, which makes it a great way to end your arm workout. 

Triceps Pushdowns are a great way to shape and define the triceps while also helping to build them. By adding Triceps Pushdowns to your routine, you can strengthen your triceps and get well-defined arms in a controlled and focused way.

Bottom Line On The Barbell Skull Crusher

Adding Barbell Skull Crushers to your routine is a great way to build strong biceps and increase the strength in your arms. You’ll get better results if you improve your skills, keep increasing the weights you lift, and don’t give up. Armed with this new knowledge and the desire to master this exercise, you can embark on a journey that will change you, leading to stronger, better-shaped arms and a new sense of confidence in your abilities.


Are Skull Crushers Suitable for Beginners?

Yes, beginners can perform Skull Crushers, but it’s essential to start with lighter weights and focus on proper form.

Can I Use an EZ Curl Bar for Skull Crushers?

Yes, using an EZ curl bar can provide a more comfortable grip for some individuals while still effectively targeting the triceps.

How Often Should I Include Skull Crushers in My Routine?

Including Skull Crushers in your routine 1-2 times per week is recommended, allowing sufficient recovery time for your triceps.


  1. Rauch, J & U, et. al. (2017). Title: Auto-regulated exercise selection training regimen produces small increases in lean body mass and maximal strength adaptations in strength-trained individuals. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 34. 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002272.
  1. Kholinne, E., Zulkarnain, R. F., Sun, Y. C., Lim, S., Chun, J. M., & Jeon, I. H. (2018). The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta orthopaedica et traumatologica turcica, 52(3), 201–205.