With the most evil sounding name of any exercise, The SKULLCRUSHER (aka: Lying Tricep Extentions) is a full range of motion exercise ideal for targeting all three heads of the triceps. Combined in a superset with the CLOSE GRIP PRESS, these two exercises will create a hellish burn in your triceps like no other single exercise.
The SKULLCRUSHER is a single-joint isolation exercise that works all three heads of the triceps, targeting them for maximum growth. On their own they are a great choice for strengthening and growing the triceps because they use a full range of motion, engaging the entire Tricep from the elbow to the lats (latissimus dorsi).
The CLOSE GRIP PRESS is one of the best exercises for developing mass in the Triceps. As a multi-joint compound exercise, Close Grip Presses also utilize a full range of motion and engage more muscle groups for functional strength (beneficial for Bench and Overhead Presses).
A superset is when two exercises are performed back to back with no rest in between. The Skullcrusher / Close Grip Press is a great superset combination because it combines the benefits of a single-joint isolation exercise (isolates and exhausts target muscles for growth) with the benefits of a multi-joint compound exercise (more muscle recruitment, functional strength).
When doing this superset it is important to do Skullcrushers first. Skullcrushers isolate the Triceps, forcing them alone to move the weight. This will work the triceps to near exhaustion in the first half of the superset.
The Close Grip Press is a compound exercise, which uses several muscle groups: triceps, shoulders, pecs. On their own, Close grip Presses should be done with heavier weight. When done immediately after Skullcrushers, the triceps will be weakened, so using the same weight for both exercises will be more than enough to completely annihilate your triceps.
Always try to do an equal amount of reps for each exercise, performing one exercise after the other with zero rest in between. Aim for exhaustion and failure at the end of each set. When done, hand the barbell off to your spotter, or lower the weight over your head to the floor.
Executing The SKULLCRUSHER
- Use a flat bench and ez-curl barbell.
- Lying back on the bench, hold the barbell with a close overhand grip, extending your arms so that they are perpendicular to the floor.
- Bending at the elbows, slowly lower the weight to a few inches above your forehead, keeping your upper arms stationary and your elbows pointed up. Avoid letting your elbow flare out, keep them as close in as possible so that all the emphasis is on your triceps.
- Push back up to starting position.
- Do NOT lock out at the top of each rep. Stop just shy of full extension at the top to keep constant tension on your triceps.
There are many variations of Skullcrushers using different ranges of motion, incline or decline bench, dumbbells or barbell, pronated grip (overhand) or supinated grip (palms facing each other/dumbbell). Variations affect level of difficulty and which heads of the triceps will be targeted.
Executing the CLOSE GRIP PRESS
- With arms extended over your chest, slowly lower the bar to just below the pecs. Keep elbows close to the torso as you lower the weight.
- Pause at the bottom then press back up.
- Keep reps slow and under control and use a full range of motion. Don’t pump the weight or go too fast.
Using a flat bench is ideal for the Close Grip Press, and using an ez-curl bar will put less strain on the wrists. For these reasons I recommend sticking with the flat bench and ez-curl bar for this superset.
The Skullcrusher / Close Grip Press superset offers the best of both worlds between isolation and compound exercises. Beginners especially will see great results from this superset. Fit these into your arms day workout or use them as a follow up to the Bench Press. See also Triceps Dips. This superset makes for a good alternative to Dips.
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If you like the music in the embedded video, the song is the appropriately titled “Exhausted” by the band Woe. Here is the full track, which makes for a great lifting tune.