Because of the triceps anatomy, where the long head crosses the shoulder joint, you need to perform movements like the skullcrusher exercise that enable combined elbow extension and shoulder flexion if you want to achieve optimal development.
Yet, due to their high proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers, you also need to train the triceps explosively and with heavy weights, hence why kickbacks alone will never grow your tris to their full potential.
As we mentioned in our close grip bench vs skull crusher article, heavy presses and skull crushers are two of the best exercises for building the triceps because they enable you to lift heavy over an extensive range of motion.
This guide shows you three ways to superset skull crushers with the close grip bench press so that you can blast your triceps by accumulating metabolites within the muscle.
Skull crusher to close grip bench press exercise details
- Main Muscles: Triceps
- Exercise Type: Strength
- Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
- Difficulty Level: Intermediate
- Equipment Needed: Bench, EZ bar, weights
How to do a skull crusher to close grip bench press
- Pick a weight that will enable you to perform 15-20 clean skull crushers.
- Lower the bar behind your head, then reverse the motion by extending your elbows (you can optionally lock them out).
- Repeat this until your triceps reach failure.
- Immediately transition into a narrow grip press, but avoid locking your elbows out. We’re trying to maximize metabolite accumulation here.
- Rep out until failure on the close grip bench press. This is one round.
- Repeat for a total of 2-3 rounds.
Skull crusher superset with close grip bench press: Variations
Depending on your training goal—metabolite accumulation or heavy eccentric overloading—you’ll want to choose one of the two main skull crusher and close grip press supersets for your workout because they both have very different applications.
You can, of course, do both of the pairings. Just don’t perform them in the same workout.
Skull crushers superset with close grip bench press
If you just want to pump up your triceps and stimulate hypertrophy via metabolic stress, then this superset is for you.
We know that low repetitions coupled with heavy lifting works wonders for the triceps due to their fast-twitch-fiber composition. But you can’t train your triceps as heavy as possible (certainly not with isolation exercises) during every session because your elbows will take a brutal beating.
To be sure, muscle tissue can recover very quickly, especially if you’re not creating massive amounts of muscle damage in a given session. However, joints, tendons, and ligaments all take longer to recover than muscle tissue, and they’re typically much easier to injure.
This is why you need to balance your triceps training with high rep metabolite work.
The best way to do this is via the skullcrusher and close grip bench press superset. Why? Because you get to put the long head of the triceps under an intense eccentric stretch and then train beyond the initial muscular failure by transitioning from tricep extensions into an easier exercise (i.e., a narrow press)
Narrow press to skull crusher
Reversing the order of the superset enables you to train your triceps with a heavier weight during the eccentric phase of the skull crusher.
Essentially, you start by performing a concentric close grip bench press to lockout. But rather than lowering the bar with your chest, triceps, and shoulders, as you would do in a bench press, you’re going to lower the bar with just your triceps.
Obviously, you can’t use your normal close grip bench press weight for this exercise because there’s no way that your triceps could handle it by themselves, even eccentrically, where muscles are estimated to be up to 50% stronger.
As for when to perform the exercise, you have two options: You can use this movement to maximally strengthen your triceps eccentrically at the beginning of your session. Alternatively, you can use it to finish them off with heavier eccentrics than they’d otherwise be able to handle alone at the end of a workout.
Start with around 40-50% of your working narrow press weight if you’re doing the exercise earlier on in your routine, and lift even lighter if you’re doing it at the end of your workout.
Skull crushers and close grip bench press tri-set
This tri-set is a spin on the traditional skull crusher to bench press superset.
You start by lowering the bar to your face. Then, once your triceps reach failure in this position, bring the bar behind your head in a sort of tricep-extension-pullover hybrid. After hitting failure here, it’s then time to transition into the final phase of the set, the narrow press, which you should perform explosively without locking out your elbows.
Before you start “enjoying” the lactic acid burn, there’s one important point to consider: Should you lock your elbows out or not?
Elbow extension, after all, is the primary function of the triceps, so why not lock your elbows out completely?
Usually, you should. Failing to achieve full elbow extension on a tricep exercise is akin to skipping the quad squeeze at the top of a leg extension. In other words, you’re performing partial reps.
Yet, when it comes to metabolite training, you don’t want to give the metabolites a chance to escape by resting at the top of the rep because that defeats the purpose of this training style.
The way around this dilemma is to lock your elbows out during the skull crusher phase of the exercise but not during the narrow press part.
Also, when I say lock your elbows out, I don’t mean that you should rest for two seconds at the top of the rep. You should instead perform a very brief lockout and then immediately lower the bar for your next rep. With the close grip bench part, just pump out your reps as fast as possible until your triceps reach failure.