Skull Crushers

Barbell Skull Crushers (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

Barbell Skull Crushers are a great triceps exercise that can be done with nothing more than a bar and a few weight plates.

Here’s how to do Skull Crushers, what muscles the exercise works and a few alternatives if you’re unable to do them.

How To Do Barbell Skull Crushers

Equipment Needed

  • Bar* (Can be a barbell or a Curl Bar)
  • Bench (Preferrable but they can be done on the floor as well)

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 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).

*You can use a straight barbell or an EZ Curl Bar although most lifters prefer a Curl Bar because of the angle it allows the wrist to turn.

Benefits of Skull Crushers

Skull Crushers are one of the best triceps exercises for improving strength and building muscle mass.

Muscles Worked

Skull Crushers primarily work all three heads of the Triceps Brachii – the lateral head, long head and the medial head.

Skull Crusher Alternatives

If you’re not able to do Skull Crushers (or maybe you just want to change your workout up a bit), here are a few alternatives. If you’d even more options, check out my 10 favorite Barbell Skull Crusher Alternatives.

DB Skull Crushers

The most natural alternative for Skull Crushers is Dumbbell Skull Crushers. With dumbbells, turn your palms in (facing each other) and then lower the dumbbells down to just beside the ears.

If you don’t have a bar, but you have dumbbells, this would be my first recommendation.


Dips (1)

If you have access to a dip rack attachment or a dip station, Dips are one of the best exercises you can do to build triceps strength.

Band Triceps Pushdowns

Don’t have a bar, but have a band? Hang the band off a rack or pull-up bar and do Band Triceps Pushdowns instead.

More Links and Info

If you’d like step-by-step instructions for more biceps and triceps exercises, check out the Arm Farm section of the Exercise Library.

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