The nuts and bolts of what you need to know…
- By making slight modifications to our position, we can make the lying triceps extension a more complete movement
- Where we position our elbows relative to our body determines which head(s) of the triceps are exposed to the most tension
Skullcrushers, nose breakers, lying triceps extensions, or whatever you want to call them, are one of the few single-joint “bread and butter” exercises designed to build big, strong triceps—and with good reason.
This exercise allows for relatively large loads to be used, and places each head of the triceps under near-maximal stress in a way in which few other exercises can. But the movement itself is far from complete, as it doesn’t allow the triceps to be maximally lengthened or shortened—at least not in the traditional manner in which it’s performed.
Skullcrushers are typically performed lying on your back on a flat bench with your arms extended, supporting the weight above your shoulders. The movement is initiated by flexing at the elbow and lowering the bar towards the head.
However, when executed in this manner, only the lateral and medial heads of the triceps are optimally stretched. Given that the long head of the triceps also operates as a shoulder extensor, it does not receive optimal lengthening unless the shoulder is fully flexed (meaning that your arms are over your head).
To create a more “complete” movement, allow the shoulders to flex during the descent and lower the bar behind the head, placing the long head under a greater stretch, therefore creating a more complete variation of the skullcrusher—although it can’t really be referred to that when performed in this manner, since the path of the bar does not intersect with the skull.
Let’s now take a look at a few ways this exercise can be used, so that you can decide the best way to use it for yourself to achieve maximum results.
But before we do, be sure to watch the following video for some great triceps building tips.
A Good Mechanical Drop Set to Try
Because of the orientation of the movement itself, the long head never really remains in a stretched position, but this can be countered by performing two different variations of the exercise, starting with the more challenging way and progressing to the less challenging way as you fatigue.
To do this, begin by placing your shoulders in a fully flexed position (arms overhead) and keep them there as your elbows flex and extend. This will feel significantly harder as the triceps will be placed under maximal tension when the elbows are fully extended (as opposed to virtually no tension when you’re supporting the weight above your shoulders with a traditional lying triceps extension).
As you fatigue, switch to the traditional lying triceps extension. This position allows for the triceps to disengage at the top of the movement, and the intermittent rest between reps should allow you to perform more reps.
To take it one step further, you could transition to a close-grip bench press and further exhaust the triceps—albeit with assistance from the pecs and delts.
The Bottom Line
These tips should add some variety to the way in which you perform one of the all-time great triceps exercises, and add newfound growth to the back of your arms!