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Doing the Triceps Extension "Skullcrusher"

Another Excellent Exercise for the Triceps Muscles

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Updated January 20, 2012

Extending the arms by flexing and extending the elbow joint in a rear or overhead motion while holding dumbbells or barbells or a weighted cable is called "triceps extension." This exercise develops the muscles at the back of the upper arms. The version in this description is the "skullcrusher" or overhead triceps extension while lying on a flat bench using a single dumbbell. It gets the name skullcrusher because some exercisers perform it incorrectly by lowering the weight directly toward the forehead. A barbell or two dumbbells can also be used.

For further guidance, please refer to the beginner's guide.

1. How to Do the Skullcrusher - Exercise Description

Overhead triceps exercise - starting position
Photo © Paul Rogers
  1. Choose a flat gym bench and lie face up with legs comfortably to each side on the floor or resting on the foot rest. Select a position that provides comfort and stability.
  2. Select a single dumbbell (or barbell) of suitable weight.
  3. Hold the dumbbell with both hands above your chest, straight up, and with the dumbbell shaft in a vertical position. This is the starting position.
  4. Remember to start with a breath and exhale on exertion. Move the weight down toward the rear of your head with a flexing of the elbows.
  5. Continue lowering the weight behind the head until the dumbbell head is about in line with the bench top, or even a little higher if this feels unwieldy.
  6. Reverse the movement until the weight is held above the chest and repeat the exercise.

2. How to Do the Triceps Skullcrusher - Points to Note

Overhead triceps exercise - execution
Photo © Paul Rogers
  1. You can place your feet on the bench with knees flexed if this suits your body shape.
  2. You should aim for 10 to 12 extensions for each of 3 sets or whatever you program indicates.
  3. You can clench the dumbbell with one hand over the other because most people will not fit two hands around a dumbbell shaft side by side.
  4. Make sure you have a firm grip because the skullcrusher will be traveling above the region of your head and face.
  5. Don't lower the weight to the region of the face or forehead. Ensure you pass the weight over the head. This exercise should be done slowly and carefully under good control.
  6. Take care not to impact the back of the head when raising the dumbbell from behind the head to return to the starting position.
Related Video
Learn how to Strengthen and Tone your Triceps Muscles
Exercises for Biceps and Triceps

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