This Simple Skullcrusher Tweak Builds Monster Arms

The skullcrusher is a legendary, tried-and-true triceps exercise, one that’s meant to pack muscle onto the backs of your arms, giving them a strong, complete look. It’s a move that generally allows your triceps to work in near-complete isolation.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work, but, very often, it gets easy to cheat on the move — and to cheat yourself out of the tight ab positioning that helps make the skullcrusher really work. But you can’t do any of that cheating in this skullcrusher variation from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., which includes a pair of simple tweaks that drive your triceps to work in near-complete isolation.


“We’re forcing you to own every aspect of the skullcrusher,” says Samuel. “The triceps drives elbow extension, and here, you get to do that with no assistance elsewhere. Then on top of that, you have to own the elbow extension.”

It starts with the hollow body position. “Very often, people arch their backs slightly during skullcrushers,” says Samuel. You can’t do that in the hollow body position, he says, because the position inherently forces you to operate with abs tight, closing your ribcage.

“You’re also working at a precise arm angle,” says Samuel, “one that makes the straight-arm position of the skullcrusher a position of work.” It gives your core a workout too, by virtue of the hollow body position. And because of the pattern of reps you’re doing, your abs must constantly adjust and flex in different ways to maintain the hollow body position.

“There’s some anti-rotational effect when you do each single-arm rep,” says Samuel. “But then that’s offset with the two-arm reps.”

All you’ll need to do the mixed-style hollow body skullcrusher is a pair of dumbbells, so you can do this one anywhere, even at home. Don’t have a pair of dumbbells? Check out this pair from Bowflex.

Use this skullcrusher variation as a workout finisher that slams both triceps and abs. It fits well after a bench press routine, or as the last move in a triceps routine.

For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.

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