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The ultimate guide to 3 way skull crushers

Can your triceps handle the pump from 3 way skull crushers?
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 5th September 2021
A man performing 3 way skull crushers

3 way skull crushers are a great addition to any muscle-building skull crusher workout because they hammer your tricep muscles with loads of training volume.

Since you’re cranking out so many reps per set with 3 way skull crushers, you can achieve excellent results from just a few sets per workout because your triceps are getting put under so much more tension than usual.

So if you’re pressed for time but still want to blast your triceps, or if you want to finish off your tris after a hard and heavy workout, then three way skull crushers are a fantastic exercise for the job.

Related: Reverse grip skull crusherWide grip skull crushers

3 way skull crusher exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Triceps
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced
  • Equipment Needed: Bar, weights, bench

How to perform 3 way skull crushers

A man performing three way skull crushers for his triceps
  1. Grab an EZ bar with an overhand grip (just inside shoulder width) and lie back on a flat bench.
  2. Press the bar up so that it’s positioned over your face.
  3. Lower the bar to your chin in a controlled manner, and then press the weight back up by extending your elbows. Repeat this 8-12 times.
  4. Now lower the bar to your forehead under control and then push the bar back up by flexing your triceps. Repeat this 8-12 times.
  5. Complete the set by lowering the bar behind your head in a controlled manner and then extending your elbows to move it back up. Repeat this 8-12 times.
  6. Perform 2-3 rounds in total.

Benefits of 3 way skull crushers

One thing’s for sure; three way skull crushers are intense. Even though the lifting technique is pretty simple, your triceps are really going to feel the burn from this all-out arm assault.

Enhanced triceps endurance

Intense bodybuilder doing a skull crusher for his triceps

The triceps are well-known for their high proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers. As such, they grow particularly well from heavy, explosive, low rep lifting.

However, as well as they respond to the heavy alternating skull crushers and the like, the triceps still have some slow-twitch muscle fibers. So if you want to achieve complete triceps development, then you also need to do at least one exercise in a higher rep range to ensure that you’re stimulating all the muscle fibers.

3 way skull crushers will trigger both muscle hypertrophy and enhance your muscular endurance.

Having better endurance will increase your volume tolerance, which is the ability of your triceps to withstand the tension applied by your reps and sets. Since performing sufficient training volume is the conditio sine qua non for stimulating hypertrophy, anything that you can do to boost your volume tolerance will also increase your long-term muscle growth.

Massive arm pump

A man flexing his muscular triceps

The pump makes your arms look visibly bigger (if only temporarily) because it causes cell-swelling within the muscle. Seeing your arms getting pumped up during training is highly motivating and can encourage you to push yourself harder in order to get better results.

Yet, since high rep tricep training (which we now know is great for gaining muscle) always produces a better pump than low rep lifting, the pump doesn’t just lead to a transient increase in arm aesthetics; it results in real muscle growth as well.

Since skull crushers have an admittedly well-deserved reputation for causing elbow pain (especially when you lower the bar to your face rather than behind your head), it makes sense to stick to high reps when you’re doing skull crushers with pronation like we are here.

3 way skull crushers can lessen or even eradicate your elbow discomfort if you perform each phase for 8-12 reps, which would come out to 24-36 reps in total. This is because high repetitions simply put less torque through your elbow joints than low repetitions (since the resistance is lighter with high reps).

And they can help to lubricate your joints as well—that’s why you don’t lift heavy during warm-ups.

More tricep growth

A man showing the three heads of the triceps brachii muscle

3-way skull crushers train all 3 heads of the triceps.

But since you’re lowering the bar behind your head during the final phase of the round/set, you’re putting the long head, in particular, under a tremendous weighted stretch.

The long head has two functions: elbow extension, like the other two heads, but also shoulder extension.

So when you combine elbow movement with shoulder movement during 3 way skull crushers, you’re giving the critical long head (it makes up around two-thirds of your triceps size) the best possible hypertrophy stimulus since you’re training both of its functions simultaneously.

Read More: Single arm dumbbell skull crushers

Conclusion: How to get the most from 3 way skull crushers

First and foremost, you should use a relatively light weight when you perform 3 way skull crushers.

This is so that your triceps don’t give out too early during the set.

Since this exercise is very intense, you should begin with just 1-2 rounds initially (just one if you’re training to failure).

Remember, your triceps, as pieces of meat, just respond to tension. So even though you’re not performing many sets, you are still giving them plenty of stimulation to adapt, which is to say grow bigger.

James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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