Bodyweight Skull Crushers 101 | The Best Bodyweight Tricep Exercise!

By
Mike Kenler
January 5, 2021

Bodyweight Skull Crushers

The traditional skull crusher exercise uses a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, or other weights to specifically target your triceps muscles. 

But what if you don’t have any equipment? 

In that case, try out the bodyweight skull crusher—one of the best bodyweight tricep exercises for people of all fitness levels. 

Muscles Worked By Bodyweight Skull Crushers

Primary Muscle Groups:

During weighted skull crushers, your triceps activate to prevent your skull from actually being crushed.

While your skull is in little danger during the bodyweight variation, your triceps are still doing almost all of the work.

The triceps muscle is comprised of three “heads:” the long, medial, and lateral head.

Although the bodyweight skull crusher works all three heads of the muscle, it especially targets the long and lateral heads of the triceps.

 

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The bodyweight skull crusher secondarily activates many other muscle groups. 

For example, your front and rear deltoids in your shoulders contract to stabilize your arms.

Your chest and back also activate to stabilize your torso. Your abs work as well to support your mid-section and your glutes and legs contract to stabilize your lower half.

Bodyweight Skull Crusher Benefits

1. Bigger And Stronger Triceps

The bodyweight skull crusher is an excellent exercise for directly targeting your triceps.

Without strong tricep muscles, it will be difficult to properly train your chest and shoulders.

Not only does building tricep strength improve your overall arm strength, but it will improve your performance in a variety of exercises at the gym. 

2. Low Stress On The Elbows

For some people, the traditional barbell or dumbbell skull crusher motion is uncomfortable for their elbows. These weighted exercises can place a ton of stress on your joints, especially when you are lifting heavy weight.

Unlike these exercises, the bodyweight skull crusher is light on your joints. This will allow you to build stronger triceps without dealing with any joint discomfort.

3. Convenience 

The bodyweight skull crusher is one of the best exercises due to its convenience factor. To workout, you don't need any expensive or heavy gym equipment.

All you need is your body and an open space. With that being said, let's learn the form of the bodyweight skull crusher.

How To Do Bodyweight Skull Crushers 

Equipment:

For this exercise, all you need is an open space.

Setup:

a) Set up in a plank position with your elbows slightly more forward than standard and your back straight.

b) Engage your core and retract your shoulder blades. Your head should be directly above your hands.

Action:

a) Contract your triceps to push your body off the ground and slightly back.

b) Squeeze your triceps hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps. 

Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps of the bodyweight skull crushers. 

Bodyweight Skull Crusher Mistakes

1. Using Momentum

If you find yourself shifting your weight into your arms and using your momentum to thrust back upwards, try slowing down the motion.

While you will have a natural rhythm to each rep, using momentum will take tension away from your triceps. 

Instead, try to pause after each rep and reset to emphasize your triceps and maximize your gains.

2. Using Your Abs And Hips

Another common bodyweight skull crusher mistake is using your abs to thrust your hips upwards during the motion. 

Again, this mistake removes tension from your triceps and turns the bodyweight skull crusher into an ab exercise. 

To correct this mistake, keep your lower body down and focus on isolating your triceps. 

3. Arching Or Rounding Your Back

The bodyweight skull crusher depends on upper body stability. If you arch your lower back or significantly round your upper back, you place excessive stress on your spine.

These back positions also make it more difficult to complete each rep efficiently. Instead, focus on keeping your back straight throughout the motion.

Bodyweight Skull Crusher Variations

1. Assisted Bodyweight Skull Crushers

If you find the standard bodyweight skull crusher too challenging, try dropping to your knees.

This assisted setup will eliminate any instability in your lower body and it also decreases the amount of weight you are pushing off the ground.

You can also do this modification explosively coming off the ground at the top of each rep. This can help you build the strength to transition to performing the bodyweight skull crusher with your knees up.


2. Dumbbell Skull Crushers

If you are looking to add a weighted load to your triceps, grab a pair of dumbbells and try out the floor dumbbell skull crusher. 

To begin, lie down on your back with your feet planted firmly onto the ground. Hold the dumbbells above your chest with your palms facing each other and engage your core.

With your elbows in a fixed position, hinge your elbows to slowly bring the dumbbells down just behind your ears. 

Contract your triceps to extend your arms back into the straight position at the top. Repeat! 

3. 1-Arm Skull Crushers

You can also use the skull crusher to train your arms individually to fix any potential muscle imbalances in your arms. 

Set up in the same position as the dumbbell skull crusher with one weight in your hand. Then, complete the 1-arm skull crusher with the same form as the dumbbell variation.

Keep your core engaged for stability during this exercise!

Bodyweight Skull Crusher Alternatives

If you enjoyed the bodyweight skull crusher, check out these other bodyweight triceps exercises to improve your upper body training:

1. Triangle Pushups

Set up in the triangle push up position with your index fingers and thumbs touching to form a triangle. Make sure your core is engaged and your back is straight.

Slowly lower your body until your chest nearly touches the ground. Then, contract your triceps to push back up to the starting position. Repeat! 

2. Tension Dips

Sit on the floor with your knees slightly bent. Place your hands on the ground and lift your buttocks off the ground. 

Without moving your hips, bend your arms to dip towards the ground. Then, contract your triceps to return to the starting position. Repeat!

3. Body Extension

With your legs extended and your body positioned on its side, place your weight on your forearm. 

Then, contract your right triceps to push your upper body off the ground until your arm is straight.

Then, return to the starting position and repeat. Feel free to switch sides.


Looking For More Triceps Workouts? 

Follow along to this 5-minute at home triceps workout!

Join The Invasion!

This Anabolic Aliens membership will grant you access to workout classes, rehab programs, diet plans, and more exclusive content to help you achieve sustainable success!

Favorite Product:

Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

JOIN THE INVASION

Get into the best shape of your life with 9 Alien Secrets to Long Term Fitness Success!

Just enter your name and email address and we will send you our FREE Ebook filled with close kept alien secrets!