Barbell Skull Crusher vs EZ Bar

Barbell Skull Crushers vs EZ Bar (Pros & Cons)

Skull Crushers are a popular strength training exercise that primarily targets the triceps. They are most commonly performed with either a barbell or an EZ curl bar, both of which are effective variations for building upper body strength and hypertrophy.

However, many lifters wonder which version of the exercise is superior: Skull Crushers with a barbell or with an EZ curl bar?

In this article, I will explore the differences between these two versions of the exercise and the pros and cons of each. In just a few minutes, you should have a good understanding of which variation of Skull Crushers you should be including in your workouts.

Barbell vs EZ Curl Bar

First and foremost, there isn’t really any difference in how the triceps are worked. Neither variation is “better” than the other for that purpose.

What it really comes down to for most lifters is – which is more comfortable.

Many lifters, myself included, find that doing Skull Crushers with a straight bar is extremely uncomfortable, borderline painful, on either their wrists or elbows. However, I can do Skull Crushers with a cambered bar and that slight difference in the grip angle completely takes away the pain I experience in my wrists with a straight bar.

On the other hand, I’ve worked with athletes with whom the exact opposite was true. They could do Skull Crushers with a straight bar just fine, but couldn’t find a grip angle that didn’t bother their elbows with an EZ Curl Bar.

Ultimately, my suggestion would be to try both variations and see which one you like better.

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Skull Crushers aren’t just limited to being done with bars either.

My personal favorite is Skull Crushers using dumbbells. With Dumbbell Skull Crushers, I can rotate my hands all the way in toward one another which takes the pressure off my wrists. I also get to work each arm independently which helps prevent any muscular imbalances in my triceps.

So, if you find that both versions of Skull Crushers with a bar bother your elbows, then you may want to give dumbbells a shot.

Other Alternatives

The moral of the story here is that there are always multiple exercises that can provide similar benefits in the weight room. If you have an exercise that is painful to do, stop doing it! Then, figure out why the exercise is causing you pain. Is it a former injury that needs to be rehabbed, is it a technique issue or something else entirely?

In the meantime, find an alternative exercise that you can do pain-free.

For example, here are 12 Barbell Skull Crusher alternatives that you could try in their place. All use different pieces of equipment and have varying levels of difficulty. What they all do have in common though is that they’ll target, work and grow your triceps.

Skull Crusher Technique

Since we’re on the topic, I thought it could be helpful to go ahead and drop in some detailed technique instructions and a few coaching tips.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a bar with an overhand grip, lie flat on a bench with head down, chin up. If you don’t have a bench, you can simply lay on the floor.
  • Press the bar to arm’s length above the shoulder.
  • Lower the bar until it almost touches the top of the forehead, bending arms at the elbows, keeping upper arm vertical and elbows in.
  • Drive the bar back up to the starting position and repeat.

Coaching Points

Keep the elbows high throughout. When Barbell Skull Crushers start to become difficult, the natural tendency of the lifter is to drop the elbows. Keep the elbows high and tight (try not to let them flare out to the side either).

Final Thoughts

There are really two main takeaways here.

One – from a strength and muscle mass development standpoint, there is no real discernable difference between Barbell and EZ Curl Bar Skullcrushers.

Two – find the movement that you can do comfortably and effectively. Whether that’s with a barbell, EZ curl bar, dumbbells or a different exercise altogether, there is no reason to ever do an exercise in the gym that causes pain.

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