Incline Skull Crushers/ Lying Tricep Extension

In the world of strength training and bodybuilding, there are various exercises that target specific muscle groups. One such exercise that has gained popularity over the years is the incline skull crusher. This compound movement is renowned for its effectiveness in building triceps strength and size while engaging other upper body muscles. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of incline skull crushers, from what they are and how to perform them correctly to their benefits, variations, and more.

1. Introduction to Incline Skull Crushers

Incline skull crushers, also known as incline lying triceps extensions, are a resistance training exercise primarily focusing on the triceps muscles. The exercise involves lifting weights, typically a barbell or dumbbells, while lying on an incline bench. It is a fantastic way to target the long head of the triceps and develop overall arm strength.

2. What Are Incline Skull Crushers?

The term is a modified version of the traditional skull crushers, where the bench is set at an incline to increase the range of motion and target the triceps differently. They are called “skull crushers” because of the motion involved; if the weight were to fall, it could potentially land on your forehead. Don’t worry, though; this is highly unlikely if performed with proper form.

3. Benefits of Incline Skull Crushers

Incorporating incline skull crushers into your workout routine offers several benefits:

  • Enhanced triceps development
  • Improved upper body strength
  • Greater muscle engagement due to the incline angle
  • Reduced stress on the shoulder joints compared to other triceps exercises

4. Muscles Targeted

Incline skull crushers primarily target the triceps, especially the long head. Additionally, this exercise engages the chest and shoulders, making it a valuable compound movement for upper body development.

5. Equipment Needed

To perform incline skull crushers, you’ll need some essential equipment:

  • An incline bench
  • Barbell or dumbbells
  • Weight plates
  • A spotter (optional but recommended for safety)

6. Proper Form and Technique

To reap the full benefits of it and avoid injury, it’s crucial to use proper form and technique. Let’s break it down step by step.

Setting Up for the Exercise

  1. Adjust the Bench: Set the incline bench to an angle between 30 to 45 degrees. This angle ensures the triceps are the primary muscles worked.
  2. Position Yourself: Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor, ensuring your back and head are firmly pressed against the bench.
  3. Grip the Weight: If using a barbell, grip it slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. If using dumbbells, hold one in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).

Performing Incline Skull Crushers

  1. Lower the Weight: Begin with the weight extended over your chest. Slowly lower the barbell or dumbbells towards your forehead by bending your elbows.
  2. Control the Descent: Keep your upper arms stationary and your elbows pointed toward the ceiling. Lower the weight until it is close to your forehead.
  3. Extend Your Arms: Push the weight back up by extending your arms while maintaining control.
  4. Repeat: Perform the desired number of repetitions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Using Too Much Weight: Start with a manageable weight to ensure proper form.
  • Bouncing the Weight: Maintain a controlled, steady pace.
  • Overarching the Back: Keep your back and head against the bench.
  • Neglecting Warm-up Sets: Warm up to prevent injury.

7.Variations and Progressions:

Dumbbell Incline Skull Crushers:

Using dumbbells for incline skull crushers allows for greater freedom of movement in each arm, helping to isolate and engage the triceps more effectively. It also helps to balance strength imbalances between the left and right arms.

Barbell Incline Skull Crushers:

Utilizing a barbell for this exercise provides stability and control. It can be particularly beneficial for those who want to lift heavier weights, as the barbell can distribute the load evenly across both arms.

Smith Machine Incline Skull Crushers:

The Smith machine offers a guided range of motion, making it a suitable option for beginners or anyone looking to maintain strict form. It reduces the need for balance and stabilization, allowing you to focus solely on targeting the triceps.

8.Incorporating Incline Skull Crushers into Your Workout Routine:

Frequency and Sets:

To effectively incorporate incline skull crushers into your workout routine, determine how often you’ll perform them. Typically, 2-3 times a week is a good starting point. Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions per session. Adjust the weight to ensure that the last few reps of each set are challenging but still manageable with proper form.

Combining with Other Exercises:

It can be part of a well-rounded upper body workout. You can combine them with exercises like bench presses, push-ups, overhead triceps extensions, or other triceps and chest exercises. This can create a comprehensive routine that targets different aspects of your upper body strength and size.

When incorporating incline skull crushers or any other exercises into your workout routine, it’s important to consider your fitness goals and individual needs. Always prioritize proper form, start with an appropriate weight, and gradually progress to more challenging weights as your strength improves. Additionally, consult with a fitness professional or personal trainer if you’re unsure about the best way to structure your workout program.

9. Safety Considerations

Safety is paramount when performing any exercise. Ensure you take the following precautions:

  • Use a spotter, especially when lifting heavy weights.
  • Start with a proper warm-up to prevent muscle strains.
  • Listen to your body and stop if you experience pain.

10. Who Can Benefit from this Skull Crushers?

Incline skull crushers are suitable for both beginners and advanced fitness enthusiasts. They can benefit those looking to enhance triceps strength, overall upper body development, and muscle definition.

11. Nutritional Considerations for Muscle Growth

Nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting muscle growth. Pay attention to:

Protein Intake

Ensure you consume an adequate amount of protein to aid muscle repair and growth.

Recovery Nutrition

Optimize your post-workout nutrition to aid recovery and muscle repair.

12. Sample Workout Routine with Incline Skull Crushers:

Day 1: Chest and Triceps Workout

Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio or dynamic stretching.

  1. Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  2. Incline Skull Crushers: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  3. Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  4. Tricep Dips: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  5. Push-Ups: 2 sets to failure.

Cool down: Stretching for chest and triceps, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds.

Day 3: Rest or Active Recovery

Day 5: Upper Body Strength Workout

Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio or dynamic stretching.

  1. Overhead Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  2. Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  3. Incline Skull Crushers: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  4. Barbell Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  5. Bicep Curls: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Cool down: Stretching for shoulders, back, and arms, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds.

Day 7: Rest or Active Recovery

Repeat this 3-day workout cycle, making sure to gradually increase the weight or resistance as you become stronger.

13. Tips for Maximizing Your Results:

  • Progressive Overload: To build muscle and strength effectively, it’s essential to gradually increase the weight or resistance you use in your workouts. This challenges your muscles and encourages growth. Try adding a small amount of weight or doing an extra rep or two in each workout.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience pain or discomfort, especially in your joints, adjust your form or lower the weight. Overtraining can lead to injuries and hinder progress, so ensure you allow adequate rest and recovery between workouts.
  • Nutrition and Hydration: Proper nutrition is crucial for muscle recovery and growth. Consume a balanced diet that includes an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated before, during, and after your workouts to support your performance and recovery.
  • Rest and Recovery: Make sure to get enough sleep and allow your muscles to recover. Muscles grow during rest, so don’t underestimate the importance of rest days in your routine.
  • Form and Technique: Always prioritize proper form and technique over heavy weights. Using proper form not only prevents injuries but also ensures that you are targeting the intended muscle groups effectively.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key to seeing results. Stick to your workout routine and dietary plan over an extended period of time to achieve your fitness goals.

Remember that everyone’s fitness journey is unique, so it’s important to tailor your workout routine and lifestyle choices to your specific needs and goals. If possible, consider consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer to create a more personalized plan.

14. Incline Skull Crushers vs. Flat Bench Skull Crushers

Explore the differences between incline and flat bench skull crushers and when to use each variation.

Skull crushers, also known as lying triceps extensions, are a popular exercise for targeting the triceps muscles. They can be performed on an incline bench or a flat bench, and each variation offers slightly different benefits and challenges. Let’s compare incline skull crushers to flat bench skull crushers:

  1. Muscle Emphasis:
    • When performed on an incline bench, the focus shifts slightly from the long head of the triceps to the lateral head. This variation places more emphasis on the outer portion of the triceps, helping to create a fuller, well-rounded look.
    • Flat Bench Skull Crushers: On a flat bench, the exercise primarily targets the long head of the triceps, which contributes to overall triceps development.
  2. Range of Motion:
    • The incline angle allows for a slightly longer range of motion, which can help in stretching the triceps more during the eccentric (lowering) phase and contracting them more during the concentric (lifting) phase.
    • Flat Bench Skull Crushers: While still effective, the range of motion may be slightly limited compared to the incline version.
  3. Comfort and Safety:
    • Some individuals find that performing skull crushers on an incline bench is more comfortable for their shoulders and elbows. It can also be a safer option for those with existing shoulder issues.
    • Flat Bench Skull Crushers: The flat bench version is generally more accessible and may be a better choice for beginners. However, it can put more strain on the shoulders if proper form is not maintained.
  4. Equipment Availability:
    • You’ll need an adjustable bench set to an incline angle to perform this variation, which may not be available at all gyms.
    • Flat Bench Skull Crushers: You can perform flat bench skull crushers in almost any gym with a standard flat bench.
  5. Variation and Periodization:
    • Including both incline and flat bench skull crushers in your triceps workout routine can be a useful way to add variety and stimulate different areas of the triceps. Periodizing your training by alternating between these variations can help prevent plateaus and improve overall triceps development.

Ultimately, the choice between incline and flat bench skull crushers depends on your specific triceps development goals and personal preferences. Both variations are effective for building triceps strength and size, so you can incorporate them into your workout routine based on your individual needs and the equipment available to you. Remember to use proper form and start with a weight that allows you to perform the exercise safely and effectively.


Incline skull crushers are a valuable addition to your strength training regimen, offering a unique way to target and develop your triceps while engaging other upper body muscles. By following proper form, utilizing variations, and incorporating them wisely into your workout routine, you can achieve impressive results in terms of strength and muscle definition.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Are incline skull crushers suitable for beginners?
    • Yes, beginners can perform it, but it’s essential to start with a manageable weight and use proper form to avoid injury.
  2. How often should I include incline skull crushers in my workout routine?
    • The frequency of incline skull depends on your overall workout plan. Typically, 1-2 times per week is recommended.
  3. Can women benefit from incline skull crushers?
    • Absolutely, this is beneficial for both men and women looking to strengthen their triceps and improve upper body muscle definition.
  4. Do I need a spotter when doing it?
    • While it’s not mandatory, having a spotter is recommended, especially when lifting heavy weights to ensure safety.
  5. What should I eat before and after an incline skull crusher workout?
    • Consume a balanced meal with carbohydrates and protein a few hours before your workout. Afterward, focus on protein-rich foods to aid in muscle recovery and growth.

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