Standing skull crushers, even though you’re not bringing the bar to your skull, are a fantastic exercise for strengthening the triceps, particularly the long head.
This is because, unlike the other two heads, the long head of the triceps has a dual function: shoulder extension and elbow extension.
So by lifting the weight behind your head rather than to your forehead, you’re naturally putting the long head—which makes up about two-thirds of your triceps mass—under a greater stretch.
Standing skull crusher exercise details
- Main Muscles: Triceps muscle
- Exercise Type: Strength
- Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
- Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Equipment Needed: Bar, weights
How to do standing skull crushers
- Grab an EZ bar with an overhand grip just inside shoulder-width.
- Press the bar over your head.
- Bend your elbows to lower the bar behind your head.
- Keep going until you feel an intense stretch in your triceps.
- Reverse the movement by extending your elbows until they’re fully locked out.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.
Variation: Dumbbell standing skullcrushers
If you want to encourage your triceps to grow in proportion by ensuring that both of your arms receive equal work, then standing DB skull crushers are your best bet.
Although you can’t lift as much weight as you can on the barbell and EZ bar versions—especially when you’re lifting two separate weights—standing dumbbell skull crushers are superior for sculpting symmetrical triceps.
The dumbbell variation also puts less pressure on your wrists because you can lift the weights with a neutral grip.
In fact, the only real downside is that, past a certain point, it’s harder to gain strength on the dumbbell standing skull crusher because the weight increments can be as much as 5 lbs or 10 lbs per side.
You can also do dumbbell skull crushers on the floor if you don’t have access to a weight bench of any kind.
The standing skullcrusher is a great mass-builder for the triceps because it trains the all-important long head and, when you use a bar, allows for small, incremental weight increases so that you can gain strength regularly.
Since this exercise can be quite harsh on your elbows when you lift heavy weights, it’s recommended to stick to sets of 10-20 reps so that you don’t strain your joints.
You can, of course, also perform skullcrushers in a seated position to reduce the core stability requirement of the exercise, which may make it easier to focus on training your triceps.