What Are Skull Crushers?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 16 February 2020
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Skull crushers, sometimes referred to as a french press, are a form of exercise that works to strengthen the triceps. There are a few variations of this exercise, but most people primarily perform it laying down. The name was chosen based on the activities involved in skull crushers, which involves lowering weights towards the skull. Some people prefer to call them lying tricep extensions, which best describes the actual motion.

Before starting skull crushers, there are a few pieces of equipment usually required. A weight bench is the most ideal for laying on because it is built for exercise and allows for movement of the arms and legs. Weights should be chosen taking into account the expertise and weight of the person intending to perform the exercises. Weight bars or light barbells are the best choice for beginners, and the weight of the item can be increased over time. Most people prefer the weight bar because it allows him or her to distribute the weight equally.


It is usually best to perform stretches and warm-up exercises before beginning skull crushers in order to loosen the muscles. Once all of the equipment is in place and warm-ups are complete, both the back and head should be laid flat on the weight bench. Weights should be added at this time and should be lifted directly above the chest. From this position, the arms should curl toward the head, allowing the elbow to bend. At this point, the forearm and elbow should continue in a bending motion in order complete a set of skull crushers.

Feet should be firmly placed on the floor for support but never on the weight bench. The number of repetitions of this exercise will depend on the individual and if it does not feel strenuous, the weight or number of repetitions can always be increased. Those who feel shaky or uncomfortable should not attempt to continue with this exercise. Skull crushers can be dangerous because there is a possibility that one might drop the weight on his or her head.

There are alternative exercises that can replace this format for those who are not comfortable with the exercise. Some tricep extension workouts require the person to stand with a light rubber weight in each hand and extend his or her arms over the head. The motion of skull crushers is mimicked by bending the arms at the elbow and lifting the weights over the head.


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