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How To Do Dumbbell Skull Crushers, The Ultimate Triceps Burner

Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
woman doing skull crusher exercise

When you think about arm workouts, you might imagine bicep curls or bench presses, but if you want to specifically target your triceps (the back of the upper arm) there's one move, in particular, you'll definitely want to remember: skull crushers. This simple exercise only requires one dumbbell, and it's as effective as it is quick.

Here's how to do it, as demonstrated by personal trainer and holistic nutritionist BB Arrington, CPT, plus tips, modifications, and benefits.

How to do dumbbell skull crushers:

skull crushers

Image by mbg creative

  1. Lie on your back with feet planted on the floor.
  2. Grab your dumbbell from both sides and extend your arms to the ceiling.
  3. Bending from the elbow, lower the weight to your forehead. 
  4. Extend the arm back to the ceiling to complete the rep.
  5. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
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Tips & modifications:

  • Your upper arms should remain perpendicular to the floor the entire time for proper form and to prevent shoulder injuries. Hold them still and move only from the elbow.
  • To make this move easier, you can decrease the weight of your dumbbell.
  • To make it more challenging, increase the weight.
  • Be sure to keep your low back pressing into the mat and engage your core to prevent arching in the low back.
  • Hug your elbows in, keeping them (and your wrists) shoulder-distance apart. You can use a strap around the upper arms here to assist with that.

What are the benefits?

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Skull crushers specifically isolate the triceps, making this a go-to move if that's an area you're looking to strengthen. As Arrington notes, "Strong biceps and triceps make pulling and extending movements easier."

In addition to getting those triceps burning, this move only requires a single dumbbell (though you could use any sort of prop of similar size and weight if you don't have one) making it accessible and easy to do pretty much wherever, whether you're at home or at the gym.

The bottom line is, if you want to give your triceps some extra attention on arm day, this is definitely an exercise worth trying.

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