Try Bodyweight Skull Crushers to Build Sleeve-Ripping Triceps

bodyweight skullcrushers for triceps

Bodyweight skull crushers require some serious triceps strength. 

Bodyweight training utilizes your bodyweight as resistance, eliminating the need for equipment. Bodyweight exercises are a convenient option for weightlifters to give their joints a break from weights while still allowing them to focus on building strength and muscle. In this exercise guide, we’ll delve into the benefits of bodyweight skull crushers and show you how to do them to explode your triceps

People usually do this routine with barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Resistance bands and the cable machine can also provide resistance when doing them. The bodyweight skull crusher works the same muscles as all the above but uses your bodyweight. In this guide, we look at the benefits of doing the skull crusher with no equipment and the proper way to perform it to maximize your gains. We also answer popular questions that athletes have about this exercise and share alternatives you can try out.

Bodyweight Skull Crushers Techniques and Muscles Worked

The bodyweight skull crusher brings resistance from an overhead position to your skull. Since the triceps are involved in the extension of your elbow and overhead throwing movements, these are the muscles this exercise works (1). It builds all three heads and specifically focuses on the long and lateral heads, plus your shoulders, chest, and abs.

Bodyweight skull crushers can take your gains to the next level. You can do this exercise in the gym using a Smith machine or squat rack to support and make the movement more manageable due to the incline. However, since we said no equipment, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do a bodyweight skull crusher on the floor.

  1. Get an exercise mat and get into a plank with your elbows forward. 
  2. Keeping your back straight, brace your core, and retract your shoulders. Keep your head directly above your hands. This is your starting position.
  3. Contracting your triceps, push your body off the floor and back slightly until your arms are almost locked. Squeeze your triceps at the top of your movement.
  4. Drop down slowly to return to the starting position and complete your rep. 
  5. Repeat for as many reps as you desire.

Benefits

The bodyweight skull crusher offers the same benefits as weighted skull crushers, which include strength and muscle growth. Below are some gains you can look forward to when doing them. 

Bigger Triceps

The bodyweight skull crusher is an exercise that targets your triceps and encourages muscle growth. They increase the strength of your triceps, which also builds your overall arm strength. Since the triceps make up two-thirds of your arms, you want to focus on the posterior muscles of your arms. 

Body Control

Bodyweight skull crushers, like all other bodyweight movements, demand spatial awareness throughout your range of motion. This leads to a better mind-muscle connection, which research shows leads to greater muscle growth in the triceps (2). You don’t get the same full-body awareness when doing weighted skull crushers.  

Convenience

To do this version of bodyweight skull crushers, you don’t need any equipment. This makes it easy to do on the go or anywhere as long as you have enough space for your body. So the next time all the free weights in the gym are in use, you could try this variation.

Joint Friendly

Weighted skull crushers can put a lot of stress on your joints. This can be problematic, especially for places like your elbows. Bodyweight skull crushers are more joint-friendly, mainly because the external load is nonexistent.

Carryover to Bench Press and Other Upper Body Exercises

Skull crushers build muscles and strength in your triceps. This can help you do better in upper body exercises like the bench press, which use your triceps muscles as a secondary muscle group. This 2020 research shows how targeting your triceps with routines like the bodyweight skullcrusher can lead to better form (3)

Bodyweight Skull Crusher Alternatives

Will you be adding the bodyweight skull crusher to your workout? We recommend you give them a try. The benefits and gains are numerous! But below are other bodyweight exercises that you could also add for variation.

Diamond Pushups

Diamond pushups mainly build your triceps. However, they also recruit the pecs, abs, and delts. In addition, lower body muscles like the quads, glutes, and hamstrings are engaged for support and to keep your body stable. 

Bench Dips

Bench dips are great for your triceps, as those are the muscles they primarily build. However, this exercise also targets your anterior delts and pecs. To do this routine, you only need a bench.

Ring Dips

Ring dips are great for triceps, anterior delts, and pecs. However, you require some level of expertise to do this exercise. Due to the stabilization that they need, they’re also great for your core muscles. 

FAQs

Are bodyweight skull crushers effective?

Bodyweight skull crushers are an effective way to train your triceps and increase your arm strength. They are also convenient and place less stress on your joints than the weighted variation. 

How to do skull crushers with your bodyweight?

Using your bodyweight, you can use a Smith machine, a squat rack, or an exercise mat on the floor to do skull crushers. Check the guide above for the version with exercise mats (the most challenging one). 

What muscles do bodyweight skull crushers work?

Bodyweight skull crushers mainly build the triceps and focus on the long and medial heads. However, your delts, pecs, and core also play a role and are affected by this routine. 

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References

  1. Kholinne, E., Zulkarnain, R. F., Sun, Y. C., Lim, S., Chun, J. M., & Jeon, I. H. (2018). The different role of each head of the triceps brachii muscle in elbow extension. Acta orthopaedica et traumatologica turcica, 52(3), 201–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aott.2018.02.005 
  2. Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Colado, J. C., & Andersen, L. L. (2016). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European journal of applied physiology, 116(3), 527–533. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3305-7 
  3. Stronska, K., Golas, A., Wilk, M., Zajac, A., Maszczyk, A., & Stastny, P. (2022). The effect of targeted resistance training on bench press performance and the alternation of prime mover muscle activation patterns. Sports biomechanics, 21(10), 1262–1276. https://doi.org/10.1080/14763141.2020.1752790
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.