Dumbbell Skull Crushers: The 2022 Guide

Switching to dumbbells can be a good idea if you have difficulty performing the skull crusher using a straight or an EZ barbell. Dumbbells can also be used to help you get started if your skull isn’t broken yet. How do you properly perform the dumbbell skull crush? And how can you incorporate this exercise into your training program? Continue reading to learn more!

What Are the Muscles of the Dumbbell Skull Crusher?

The dumbbell skull crush is an isolation exercise that targets the triceps muscles. Skull crusher can hit all triceps heads along their length, from the elbows to your lats. Modifying the exercise slightly can help target specific triceps head targets. The skull crusher is not only good for your triceps but also for your core, chest, shoulders, and forearms.

Dumbbell Skull Crushers Benefits

The skull crusher is prized for its ability specifically to target the triceps muscles. Skull crushers can be a great exercise to add to your arsenal if you feel you have a lack of lockout strength or mass in the triceps. The dumbbell skull crusher, like the traditional bar skull crusher, can also be used to train your triceps. The dumbbell skull crusher offers a few advantages over its bar counterpart.

Barbells – whether you’re talking about a straight Olympic or triceps bars, or an EZ, – lock your hands in a fixed place. This can cause pain and discomfort in your wrists and elbows. You may not be able to comfortably use bar skull crushers if you have limited mobility. This problem is solved by dumbbells. Dumbbells can be held in any way you like, and you don’t need to twist your wrists to keep a firm grip.

Comfort is why dumbbell skull crushers are my preferred choice over barbell skull crushers. The stress that the bar puts on my wrists, especially when lifting heavy weights, is not good for me. I can lift safely and comfortably with dumbbells.

Greater Range of Motion

The dumbbell skull crusher offers more comfort than just added comfort. Dumbbell skull crushers can reduce weight by up to 50% compared to barbells. This could increase your chances of gaining weight. If you want to go as deep and flexible as possible, you will need to choose lighter dumbbells. The increased ROM will allow you to hit your triceps harder and provide better gains.

Treatment of Muscle Imbalances

The skull crusher allows you to treat imbalances between your triceps muscles. If one arm is stronger than the other with a bar, the stronger muscle will do most of the work. Your weaker triceps will not work and the imbalance could become more severe as your stronger triceps continue to consume loads.

Worst of all, you might not feel the difference with a barbell if your muscles are imbalanced. Dumbbell skull crushing allows you to detect and treat any imbalance. You will notice a difference in the fatigue rate of one arm to the other. You can then adjust your weight and reps to ensure your triceps get worked evenly.

How to Do the Dumbbell Skull Crusher

It is very easy to master the dumbbell skull crusher. This exercise is easy to master if you don’t have excess weight. Here’s how you can perform skull-crushing step-by-step:

1. Place the dumbbells on a flat surface and hold them in your hands. Ask a friend to help you position the dumbbells if they are too heavy.
2. The dumbbells should be pressed upon fully extended, but not locked, arms.
3. Lower the dumbbells so that your upper arms are parallel to the ground at 90 degrees. As you lower the dumbbells, inhale. Keep your elbows straight and in line with your wrists.
4. Lifters can go as low or as high as they want. Typically, they lower the weight until the back of their arms feels a little more relaxed.
5. As you lift the dumbbells, exhale.

Correct Form to Perform a Dumbbell Skull Crusher

Simple exercises like skull crusher can be done wrong. Here are the top four mistakes that I see in a skull crusher, both with dumbbells or a barbell. Your upper arms should never move and should always be perpendicular to the ground. You will not only be engaging your triceps, but also your chest and shoulders if you don’t keep your arms in a straight line.

This is a defeat for the skull crusher. During the exercise, keep your upper arms still. You can move a little, but not too much. Throughout the whole range of motion, your elbows should be in line with your wrists. You don’t want your elbows to flare out. This can cause the load to leak into your shoulders and chest.

The third most common error is to rush the movement, especially when you are going down. It is important to lower your weight slowly and carefully. You should consider switching to lighter dumbbells if you are unable to control your weight.

You should also keep your core tight so you can control your weight and make sure you are working your triceps. You will engage other muscles if you move and twist around. This will make it difficult to perform skull crushers in textbook form.

Dumbbell Skull Crusher Variations and Alternatives

These are some variations and alternatives to dumbbell skull crushers if they don’t work for you.

1. One-arm dumbbell skull crusher

If you have difficulty maintaining a 90-degree angle in your upper arms, one-arm dumbbell skull-crushing is a great option. One-arm skull-crushing is done the same as two arms. However, you can hold your elbow with your free hand to maintain the position of your elbow and upper arm.

2. Decline bench dumbbell skull crusher

Skull crushing is usually done on a flat surface, but what if you do the exercise with a drop? You would put more strain on the lateral head, which is the part of your arm that is outside of your back.

For skull crushers, a slight fall is sufficient – don’t go too low. Regular skull crushers are fine if your triceps lateral heads don’t need extra attention. If you are looking to increase the muscle’s mass and width, you might consider declining bench skull crushers.

3. Incline bench dumbbell skull crusher

Inline skull crushers attack the long head of your triceps. It is located on the inside of your back. If you are looking to increase the muscle’s size, the long head is the most important of all three triceps heads. You don’t want to make the bench’s slope too dramatic. However, you can experiment with different angles to find the one that works best for you.

4. 45-degree skull crusher for dumbbells

This skull crusher is a variation of the classic skull crusher. Your upper arms are angled toward your head to meet at a 45-degree angle with your ground.  This variation can be used with dumbbells or a bar. You’ll be able to lower your weight beyond the forehead if you use a bar.

The 45-degree skull crushers are unique in that there is no resting place at the top. It makes this variation more difficult, but it’s great for getting your triceps pumping. Give your 45-degree skull-crushing a try!

5. EZ bar skull crushers

If you are looking to lift a significant weight, EZ bar skull crushers will be your best choice. Although dumbbells can be convenient, you cannot get as heavy as you want with them (unless you have super-heavy dumbbells).

The EZ bar is much more comfortable than a straight one and offers the same benefits. A straight bar could be used to perform skull crushers. However, I do not recommend it as the straight bar can twist your wrists like nothing else.

The proper form of EZ bar skull-crushing machines is the same as dumbbell skull-crushing machines. You will need to choose a grip width that is comfortable for your wrists, and that allows you to maintain your elbows and wrists in alignment throughout the whole range of motion.

6. Cable Skull Crusher

A cable skull crusher uses a cable machine to crush dumbbells or bars. You can lie down with your head towards the machine and grab the handle at the bottom. Then, perform the exercise the same way as the dumbbell, bar, or bar version. Cable skull crushers have an interesting feature: the load is placed behind your head and not under your body.

This is due to the line. A load of dumbbells and barbells is always down due to gravity. This means that cable skull crushers won’t allow you to rest at the top and also place a greater or less constant load upon your triceps through their entire range of motion.

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