Skull Crushers and Beyond

The Triceps of Lee Priest with Tom Platz

 Skull Crushers and Beyond

There’s never been an exercise with a cooler name than the”skull crusher”. This movement is also known as the lying triceps extension, but why call it that when you can bellow like a Viking and proclaim that it’s your right to crush skulls? You should probably perform them just for that reason alone, but by coincidence they are one of the best exercises for building massive triceps.

If you haven’t guessed already, the skull crusher is a longtime favorite in my arm workout. However, I believe even a great movement like this can be made better by pairing it with the perfect finisher right afterward. The Vikings knew this; it’s why they followed their pillaging rampages by burning what remained of the village to the ground. The unique movement I pair with skull crushers will incinerate the muscle fibers of your underarm.

Consider yourself warned. Now either run for the hills, or read on and forge horseshoes worthy of a Clydesdale.

The skull crusher is an isolation movement, which many people take to mean that it’s not a mass-builder. I say that all depends on how you perform it. With a few tweaks, you can make this into a power move and move some serious weight.

But first the basic version: You can perform skull crushers with a barbell, two dumbbells, or the EZ curl bar. I like to use a curl bar because it’s easier on my wrists than a straight bar and I can power up more weight. I take a narrow grip using the first angles on the bar. I lay back on the bench until my head is right at the edge. This high position helps when I’ve increased the weight to the point where I prefer to reach back and lift the bar off the floor to perform a pullover followed by a close grip bench press to get the bar in the starting position. This exercise can put a lot of stress on the elbows so I make sure I warm up with a light weight for 20 reps and I slowly add weight for the next three sets until I hit my first working set. As a straight isolation move you’d keep your elbows pointing straight up and about eight inches apart. But I perform this move as a mass builder so I let my elbows drift out to a comfortable position. I also use a full grip because a thumbless grip will keep your elbows tight and when using a heavy weight you risk turning this move into an actual Skull Crusher. As the bar descends I let my wrists curl up so my thumbs always point towards the ceiling. I always lower the bar in a slow controlled manor until it touches my forehead. I then explode the bar upward to a lockout position. If you can work up to 45 lb plates it raises the curl bar higher off the floor and makes it easier to reach behind your head. Sometimes I’ll bring the bar down to my chin for a greater stretch in my triceps. I also like to mix it up and I’ll sometimes execute this move on a decline bench.

Give skull crushers a try, in this specific manor, and you’ll understand why I call it a mass builder. You’ll also quickly increase your power in all other pressing movements.

The Finishing Move

After my triceps are spent from heavy skull crushers I’ll usually perform this finishing move. I don’t even know if it has a name but I know it wouldn’t be as cool as Skull Crusher.

I remove the heavy weight from my curl bar and replace it with something really lame. I’m talking about a ten pound plate on each side. Lay back on a flat bench until your head starts to hang off the end. Take a narrow grip on the bar, at the first angles, and let the bar hang straight down as if you were going to perform a pullover. This is an isolation move so I use a thumbless grip and I try to keep my elbows about eight inches apart. Hold your upper arms in place, parallel to the floor. Now raise the bar until your arms are entirely straight out and in line with your body. Lockout your elbows and pause the bar at full extension. At this point you’ll realize why you’re using such a lame amount of weight. I perform as many reps as I can, in this strict form, and then I start to raise my elbows to continue the set. I continue to slowly raise my elbows, with each rep, until my elbows are pointing straight up and I’m now doing strict skull crushers. I do three sets of these and my triceps are completely smoked.

Try this heavy duty mass move followed by this obscure finishing movement and turn your triceps into horseshoes worthy of a Clydesdale.

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