Tricep skull crushers are a fantastic exercise for anyone trying to increase their triceps’ strength, power, and mass. This exercise is useful for literally every lifter and can be scaled and modified to fit a variety of triceps focused needs.
In this tricep skull crusher tips article, we’re going to provide our favorite pieces of advice for any lifter truly trying to optimize their tricep growth. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter, the tricep skull crusher deserves a spot in your program and should receive more attention.
Check out the video below from Coach Jake for visuals on how to optimize the tips provided within this skull crushers article.
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Tip 1: Limit Torso Extension
This skull crushers tip is for anyone that is constantly putting their thoracic spine (mid-back) into extension when performing tricep skull crushers.
When we bench, thoracic extension is normal and can be beneficial for performance from a strength point of view, however, we want to limit this when performing skull crushers. Why is this?
Well, let’s consider the goal at hand and our body’s anatomy. To shift as much focus as we can on the triceps, we want to make sure we’re providing them with an adequate stretch and leveraging their anatomical position to increase our potential for gains.
By throwing the thoracic into extension, we can actually limit some of the range of motion that our triceps can receive in the eccentric loading pattern. In addition, this torso positioning makes it increasingly more difficult to limit utilizing momentum during the concentric movement pattern and keeping the elbows fixed.
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Tip 2: Change Bench Angles
Skull crushers on a flat bench are fantastic, but by slightly changing the elevation of the bench we can increase the work we’re placing on the triceps’ heads.
For example, if we increase the incline of the bench slightly, we can promote a deeper eccentric stretch which can be useful for promoting time under tension focused goals.
If we decrease the bench angle, we can increase the work muscles like the serratus anterior are producing to stabilize the shoulder joint while the elbow moves through flexion and extension.
Tip 3: Promote Better Contractions
The traditional skull crushers’ full range of motion will usually move between 180 degrees and <30 degrees of elbow flexion. When moving through this range of motion, how often do you add pauses or focus on your contractions?
To increase the effort you’re putting into your skull crushers, we’d challenge you to start paying attention to two key points in this exercise.
- Bottom of the Crush: Focus on your elbow positioning and what the triceps are doing. Are the elbows fixed? Are the triceps’ heads doing the work or are you relaxing the weight on the elbow joint?
- Lockout: At lockout, take a second and actively squeeze your triceps as hard as you can. Where is the weight displaced? Are the elbows back slightly to promote more tension or are they stacked and limiting tricep stress?
Coaching Tip: Remember, try to keep the elbows in and tight and let the elbows shift back slightly to promote more tension throughout the entire range of motion. If the elbows are directly perpendicular to the floor, then you might be limiting the amount of stress you’re placing on the triceps at lockout!