Skull Crusher: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Mistakes

The Skull Crusher, also known as French Press, is a popular exercise among fitness enthusiasts, is renowned for its effectiveness in targeting the extensor muscles of the forearm on the arm, namely the triceps brachii and anconeus. This article will delve into the mechanics of this exercise, its benefits, potential drawbacks, and common mistakes to avoid.

Understanding the Skull Crusher

The Skull Crusher is an isolation exercise, meaning it targets a specific muscle or muscle group. Its primary focus is on the triceps, which are located at the back of the upper arm. However, the long head of the triceps also plays a role in shoulder extension and adduction movements, and helps maintain the humerus' position within the glenoid cavity.

This exercise is typically performed using an EZ shaped barbell, dumbbells, or a low cable. However, this article will focus on the version performed with the EZ shaped barbell.

Executing the Skull Crusher

Here's a step-by-step guide to performing the skull crusher:

  1. Position yourself on a flat or inclined bench at an angle of 15-30°.
  2. Grasp the EZ shaped barbell at about shoulder width or slightly less, ensuring your forearms work slightly pronated.
  3. Sit down, supporting the barbell with your arms at sternum height, similar to a military press.
  4. Lie down with the barbell on your chest, placing your feet on the ground or flexing your thighs at 90°, leaving your legs suspended.
  5. Perform a press to bring the barbell overhead. Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor.
  6. Keep your scapulae neutral or slightly adducted.
  7. Inhale and begin a controlled descent of the forearm, flexing the elbow, until the barbell touches your forehead. Ensure that your humeri remain still, not internally rotating or moving away from the vertical.
  8. Extend your forearms, repeating the same movement, until you reach almost total verticality. It's advisable to stop a moment before reaching the top to maintain muscle tension.
Execution of the Skull Crusher

Benefits of the Skull Crusher

The skull crusher, an effective exercise targeting the triceps, offers numerous benefits, including enhanced arm strength, improved muscle definition, and better performance in various upper body lifts.

Despite being an isolation exercise the skull crusher still allows you to express considerable levels of strength. This capability to handle considerable loads also aids in improving overall pushing strength, beneficial for compound exercises like the bench press and overhead press.

In addition is a very versatile exercise that can be adapted through various modifications, making it suitable for a wide range of fitness levels and accessible with minimal equipment.

A bodybuilder with huge triceps

Potential Drawbacks of the Skull Crusher

Despite its benefits, the skull crusher is not without its drawbacks, including the potential for elbow and shoulder strain due to the stress it places on these joints. This is due to the significant overloads used in this exercise, which can place considerable stress on both the elbow and shoulder joints.

Another potential shortcoming is that the effectiveness heavily depends on maintaining precise technique, which can be challenging for beginners and those with pre-existing joint issues.

Additionally, the exercise's reliance on specific equipment and its focus on isolating the triceps means it lacks the compound benefits of engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

A guy with aching elbow

Common Mistakes in the Skull Crusher

While performing the skull crusher, it's essential to avoid the following common mistakes:

  1. Positioning the humerus too far back or too forward, which prevents it from being perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Opening your elbows, which allows other large muscles to intervene.
  3. Not achieving the full range of motion in maximum eccentricity.
  4. Breathing improperly.

In conclusion, the skull crusher is an effective exercise for targeting the triceps, but it must be performed correctly to avoid injury and achieve the desired results.

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