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Skull Crusher Hack For Bigger Triceps!

More Weight & Zero Elbow Pain!

Posted by Scott_Herman - October 25th, 2017

Today I’m going to share with you one simple hack to build bigger arms, specifically bigger triceps, utilizing the skull crusher. If you want nice, thick triceps, this is one of the exercises to do. It’s actually a staple in my own workout routine!

But how did the skull crusher get its name? It’s really very simple – it’s because to perform the movement, you grab the barbell with about a shoulder width grip, and lay back on a bench. You then literally bring the barbell down to your skull, before pressing it back to the top.

Problems With Performing Skull Crushers Directly To Your Skull

Bringing the barbell down to your forehead can pose a couple of different issues.

Problem #1: Range of motion is limited to when the barbell touches your forehead.

Problem #2: If you drop the weight you will crush your face!

Problem #3: Excessive weight can cause elbow pain over time.

There have been a couple of different solutions to this problem. However, even when doing the solutions you’re still not maximizing the efficiency of the exercise. What you’ll see most people do is instead of bringing the barbell down to their forehead, they’ll move to the top of the bench, but won’t start by holding the weight above their upper chest. Instead, they’ll bring their arms back so the bar starts directly above their head. They’ll then lower the weight down and behind their head, before pressing it back up.

Problems With Performing Skull Crushers Behind Your Head

This is good in terms of getting pressure out of the elbows. However, from the very bottom of the movement, there is no tension in the triceps for the first few inches of the movement. Obviously you can do more reps this way, and you will fatigue the triceps this way, but the whole goal of any exercise that you’re doing, is you want to maximize the stretch of any movement.

This is because it’s in the stretch that you’re going to get the most muscle breakdown for re-growth. So the problem with the variation behind your head on a flat bench is that there is no tension while in that stretched position. It means you’re not maximizing the efficiency of the exercise.

How Can I Maximize This Exercise For Muscle Growth?

It’s very simple – you move the bench from flat to incline. Once you’re on an incline, a couple of different things are going to happen. First of all, you won’t have any elbow pain, because it’s impossible to hold your arms at 90 degrees and press to your skull. Instead it will force you to bring your arms up and over your head.

The other thing that happens when you bring your arms up and over your head for a tricep movement is it places more emphasis on the LONG HEAD of the triceps. If you want big beefy arms, especially from the side and back, you want that long head to be hit pretty hard. You also get a bit more lateral head engagement as well, because your arms are perpendicular to your body.

Incline Skull Crusher – Proper Form

For this variation, you don’t necessarily have to sit on the bottom of the bench. Instead, you want to slide up more to the top of the bench so that you can lean your head back if you have to. Once you’re in place, you’ll hold the bar above your head, and then come down and behind your head. Once at the bottom of the movement, you’ll quickly notice the triceps being fully engaged in the eccentric portion of the movement, that there is a really hardcore stretch on the triceps. Even just sitting in that bottom position will enable you to feel a really deep stretch through your arms.

You’ll then press the weight up from the bottom position, and repeat for reps. In this range of motion you’re maximizing the efficiency of the exercise, because you’re hitting the stretch with as much weight as possible. If you want to take it one step further, you can even apply my cheat & recover technique, and you don’t have to have a spotter to help you either.

What you can do is load up with as much weight as possible, then go slow to really focus on the eccentric. Once you get to the bottom of the movement, if you get stuck, you can actually bring the weight back over your head directly to your chest, and press it back up from there. You can complete 8 cheat reps like this, then lower the weight and do 8 recover reps with proper form on the way down and on the way up.


The skull crusher may have been an exercise that you kept out of your workout routine just because it was starting to bother your elbows. But if you do these two simple things (put the bench on an incline and possibly utilize my cheat & recover reps), you’re going to see a lot more growth in those arms, and you’re going to be really happy with your progress!

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should I do this instead of standard skull crusher? I am doing the 12 week split routine of yours. Would there be anything negative to using DB for this? I don't like waiting for certain weights or going lighter on a fixed bar because the weight I use is taken. So I just do DBs for the 3 sets of 2 burns. I will try to do this new way because my elbows hurt sometimes when doing this, especially if I do more than 80 lbs. 

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

@steven3239 definitely try this variation instead bro! Should take away that elbow pain and give you that deeper stretch for more muscle breakdown 😎 And yes using dumbbells is fine, good to see you are thinking ahead and not just blowing your rest periods out too long!