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All You Need To Know About Incline Skull Crushers

I truly believe in the power of compound movements when it comes to enhancing the triple S of your triceps: shape, size, and strength. However, it’s undeniable that isolation exercises have their unique appeal. With isolation exercises, you can immediately feel the targeted muscle working.

Enter, the lying tricep extension, also known as skull crushers. If you’re on a quest to develop bigger and stronger triceps, skull crushers should be your exercise of choice. Now, don’t be put off by the name – you won’t be crushing your skull! In fact, the skull crusher is one of the best exercises for sculpting your triceps.

They’re a free weight resistance exercise that’s become a staple in many popular bodybuilding routines. Plus, adding an inclined angle to this exercise can completely change the muscle activation pattern. In this article, I’m excited to introduce you to incline skull crushers.

So, keep reading to uncover everything you’ll ever need to know about this amazing triceps builder!

What Are Incline Skull Crushers?

If you’re keen on chiseling some serious definition into your triceps, then incline skull crushers are definitely worth a shot!

And I can already hear you wondering about the “incline” part in incline skull crushers. Well, the good news is, you don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes descendant to figure out the name of this exercise; it’s all about lowering the weight towards your skull while lying on an inclined bench.

When you elevate your upper torso higher than your hips, you create a fantastic angle that squarely targets the triceps brachii muscle.

To perform this exercise, you can use an EZ curl bar, a straight barbell, or a pair of dumbbells. As you lower the weight towards your head, you’ll be working the elbow extension and flexion biomechanics to build strength and size in your triceps.

Incline Skull Crushers Muscles Worked

When it comes to building strong and defined arms, incline skull crushers are an excellent exercise choice. The primary muscle worked during this movement is the triceps brachii, which is responsible for elbow extension and makes up the majority of your upper arm’s mass.

Man demonstrating how to do dumbbell Incline Skull Crushers

By isolating and targeting this muscle, you can effectively strengthen and grow your triceps. But that’s not all – incline skull crushers also engage a number of secondary muscles, including the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and biceps brachii.

These muscles work together to provide stability and support during the exercise, as well as help to create a well-rounded, balanced physique.

How To Do Incline Skull Crushers

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this exercise with proper form:

  1. Set up an incline bench to around a 30-45 degree angle and select a barbell you want to use.
  2. Sit on the bench and place the barbell across your thighs.
  3. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, with your hands slightly closer than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Lay back on the bench and hold the barbell straight up in the air with your arms fully extended.
  5. Bend your arms slightly to take up the tension in your triceps – this is your starting position.
  6. Keeping your elbows completely fixed in place, slowly lower the bar down towards your forehead, maintaining a controlled movement.
  7. Pause when the bar is almost touching your forehead, and then slowly extend your arms back up to the starting position, again with controlled movement.
  8. Avoid locking your arms and then repeat for desired reps.

Remember to keep your core engaged and maintain proper form throughout the exercise.

Pro Tips For Doing Incline Skull Crushers

Here are some tips to keep in mind when performing incline skull crushers:

  • Maintain proper form by keeping your elbows close to your sides throughout the exercise. Avoid letting them flare out to the sides, which can decrease the effectiveness of the workout.
  • Control the movement and avoid rushing through the exercise. Focus on squeezing your triceps at the top of each rep for maximum engagement.
  • To target the triceps effectively, set the bench at a 30-degree angle. Avoid going beyond 45 degrees, as this will shift the focus away from the triceps and onto the anterior deltoid muscle.
  • Avoid positioning your body at an extreme angle, as this can compromise the intended muscle group and activate shoulder muscles instead.

Incline Skull Crushers Benefits

Incline skull crushers are an excellent addition to any triceps workout routine, and they offer a range of benefits that go beyond just building muscle. Here are some of the top benefits of incline skull crushers:

Firstly, incline skull crushers work the tricep muscle through a deep range of motion, which helps to promote muscle growth and development. Additionally, this exercise is gentle on the elbows, making it a great option for those who experience pain or discomfort during other tricep exercises.

All You Need To Know About Incline Skull Crushers

From my own experience, I’ve found that incline skull crushers can do wonders for safeguarding your elbow joints while you’re tackling other exercises. This extra triceps strength can give a real boost to your lifting abilities and act as a solid layer of defense against potential injuries.

Moreover, including incline skull crushers in your workout routine can also improve your performance in complex movements like the bench press, and can also help to add mass to the triceps.

Finally, strengthening your triceps through incline skull crushers can also enhance your functional fitness, making it easier to perform everyday tasks and movements outside of the gym.

In a nutshell, incline skull crushers are a fantastic and versatile exercise that can bring about significant improvements in tricep strength and overall fitness for anyone willing to give them a go.


Incline skull crushers are a versatile and effective exercise for building and strengthening the triceps, as well as improving complex movements such as the bench press. By following proper form and technique, and incorporating pro tips such as keeping the elbows in and using a slow and controlled rep timing, you can maximize the benefits of this exercise while minimizing the risk of injury.

It is important to note that incorrect form during incline skull crushers can lead to elbow pain, making it a potential side effect of this workout. Individuals who have previously suffered from elbow injuries, such as tennis elbow, should avoid this exercise altogether.

If you experience any discomfort or pain in your elbow during the workout, it is recommended to stop immediately and seek professional advice to avoid further injury.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gym-goer, adding incline skull crushers to your workout routine can help you achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall functional fitness.


Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant. He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves. Rahul has a master's degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.

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