Skull Crushers or lying triceps extension are among the most effective exercises to build your triceps. You can do it using a Barbell, dumbbell, EZ bar, low Cable Machine, or just your body weight. This workout will move your triceps through a full range of motion while providing early phase loading to maximize the stimulation of all three individual heads of the triceps.

The only downside of skull crushers is that they can be hard on your joints. Worst case scenario, you may experience elbow pain or tricep tendonitis! In addition, the more that you do this workout, the faster your muscles will adapt. Because of this, it will lose its potency, and your muscle growth may stop. So, to avoid these issues, try doing skull crusher alternatives!

Skull Crusher Alternatives (Our 10 Recommendations)

Before you start sweating, you need to understand the basic triceps anatomy. Why? Because if you know this, it will be easier for you to find a tricep exercise that will give you the results you’re expecting. 

The triceps (triceps brachii) is found on the back of your upper arm. It has three heads with three separate sites of origin intersecting at a common insertion point on the ulna. The three heads are the long head, medial head, and lateral head. While all three work together as a single unit, the amount of force each one generates depends on the upper arm’s position. 

Since it’s designed that way, it’s possible to target specific areas of your triceps, and your fitness routine should have a variety of exercises to ensure that you are activating all three heads. So, engaging most of the fibers in your triceps is a must for skull crusher alternatives!

1. Close Grip Bench Press

Similar to dips, bench press exercises are identified as a chest workout. However, if you bring your hands in and use a narrow grip, they transform into a powerful tricep workout! 

To avoid any shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain, while you perform a close grip bench press, don’t move your hands too close together that your thumbs are nearly touching. Instead, keep your hands roughly shoulder-width apart or slightly less.

How to do it

  • Lie down on the bench with your feet flat on the ground. Reach for the bar with an overhand, slightly nearer than a shoulder-width grip. Keep your arms vertical and parallel to each other. Ask a spotter to check this for you.
  • Tighten your abs, pull your shoulders down and back, and raise the bar off the support.
  • Without moving your feet, bend your arms, and bring the bar down to your sternum. Then, pull your elbows into your sides and press the bar down lightly. Make sure that it does not bounce!
  • Drive the bar back to arm’s length and repeat.
  • Do as may close grip bench press as necessary.

2. Tricep Kickbacks

Most people do this skull crusher alternative with too much weight. Because of this, they end up upswing rather than lifting the weight up, taking the stress off the target muscles. However, if you do Tricep Kickbacks in the proper form, you can have excellent arm development! It requires both elbow extension and shoulder extension, creating an incredibly intense triceps contraction.

How to do it

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward and keep your knees bent slightly.
  • Tighten your core and presever a straight spine as you hinge forward in your waist. Bring your torso almost parallel to the ground.
  • Keep your upper arm close to your body and your head in line with your spine. Also, tuck your chin slightly.
  • As you breathe out, tighten your triceps muscle by straightening your elbows.
  • Keep your upper arm still, only utilizing your forearm during the motion.
  • Pause for a moment and breath in to return the weights back to the starting position.
  • Perform two to three sets of around ten to fifteen reps.

3. Diamond Push-Ups

This next workout proves that you don’t need to always use strength training equipment to develop muscle mass in your triceps. This modified push-up is such a good exercise, giving the back of your upper arms an effective activation. Diamond push-ups are named this way because you position your hands too close, forming a diamond shape.

Just take extra precautions since diamond push-ups can load a lot of stress in your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. 

How to do it

  • Start by getting into a Push-Up Position with your glutes slightly raised.
  • Then, place your hand together, forming a diamond with your index fingers and thumbs.
  • Tuck your elbow slightly in.
  • Lower yourself down until your chest is almost touching your hands as you inhale.
  • Push yourself up using your triceps muscles while exhaling.
  • Do as many reps as you prefer.

4. Cable Skull Crushers

This exercise is a single-arm motion that enables you to work your triceps muscles unilaterally. With cable skull crushes, you can increase your strength and muscle gain. To perform this workout, you just need a single pulley cable machine. 

You can do this exercise while laying down on a flat bench and using both your arms or while standing and engaging one arm at a time.

How to do it

  • Set the pulley of the Cable Machine to its highest setting. Hold the handle with your right hand and lift it up at your head level while keeping your elbow bent.
  • Stand in front of the machine at about three feet with a staggered stance.
  • Stretch out your right arm to full extension.
  • Reverse and repeat on the other side. 
  • Perform three sets of twelve reps.

5. Bench Rolling Triceps Extension

This substitute to skull crushers is a multi-joint movement that enables you to stretch out your triceps all the way back and past your head. This movement will maximally extend the long head of the triceps. You’ll need a dumbbell and a flat bench to do bench rolling triceps extension.

How to do it

  • Lie down on the Bench with a pair of dumbbells in both your hands. Grasp them over your chest at a full arm extension while tucking your elbows in at the side of your head.
  • Bend your elbows to bring the dumbbell down from the sides of your head.
  • Then, roll your arms back to lower your elbows down to the dies of your head and the dumbbells below the bench level.
  • Perform three sets of twelve reps.

6. Rope Pushdowns

This alternative to skull crushers enables you to put your arms in a neutral position to activate your triceps from a unique angle. In this cable tricep pushdowns variation, you’ll need a cable pushdown machine and a rope attachment. Other forms of this exercise is a straight bar pushdown, single-arm pushdown, and V-bar pushdown.

How to do it

  • Secure a rope attachment to a single pulley cable machine. Stand at about two feet in front of it. Then, face the machine and hold the rope with a neutral grip.
  • Place your hands at chest level with your elbows in position at your sides.
  • Push down to a complete arm extension
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Perform four sets of fifteen to sixteen reps, increasing the weight for each set.

7. Reverse Dip

Reverse Dip, also known as bench dip, is a far easier workout than parallel bar dips. It’s a bodyweight exercise that engages your muscles through a full range of motion. Just make sure that you don’t descend too far, or you may hurt your shoulders. 

You can make this great exercise more challenging by raising your feet on another bench or placing a weight plate (moderate weight only) across your hip. 

How to do it

  • Position yourself in front of a sturdy bench. Place your hands on the bench behind you at a shoulder level distance. Then, put your feet out, so your body is at around a 45-degree angle from the ground.
  • Do a tricep dip by bending your elbows to lower your body to the floor.
  • From the bottom, push through your triceps to go back to the starting position. Ensure that you don’t pulse with your body to create momentum.
  • Perform three sets of twelve to fifteen reps.

8. Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extensions (French Press)

This Overhead Tricep Extension is a vertical skull crusher. However, since your upper arm is next to your ears, this workout requires great upper-body mobility. Overhead tricep extensions build muscles and strength in all three heads of the triceps. Just make sure that you perform it correctly and take precautions, so this isolation exercise will be safe and effective.

How to do it

  • Grab the dumbbell with both hands while sitting on a bench.
  • After, press the dumbbell overhead to get into the start position.
  • Keep your upper arms still and bend only your forearms in line with the floor until the dumbbell is behind your head.
  • Extend your forearm back up by flexing your triceps. However, don’t lock your elbows. 
  • Finish the ideal number of reps and repeat the number of sets you prefer.

9. Tate Press

Not many people are doing this alternative for skull crushers, but there is no denying the effectiveness of this unique triceps workout. This compound movement is excellent in strengthening and building muscle in the upper arms. Just be careful since this unusual workout puts a lot of stress on your elbow joints, so don’t go heavy immediately. 

How to do it

  • Sit on the end of the bench and put both dumbbells on your thighs.
  • Kick one dumbbell up as you start to lie down on the bench. Then kick the other dumbbell back until the they are placed on each side of your head.
  • Plant your feet flat on the ground.
  • Press the dumbbells up into the start position with your arms extended and your hands in a pronated stance.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells and internally rotate your shoulders until the end of the dumbbells is an inch above your chest.
  • Reverse the motion carefully until your arms are extended. However, don’t lock out once you reach the top.
  • Repeat as many as you can.

10. Bodyweight Kneeling Triceps Extensions

This skull crusher substitute is perfect if you’re looking for less intense triceps workouts. Although it’s a bodyweight isolation exercise that is usually hard, kneeling triceps extensions are easily customizable to fit your fitness level. 

How to do it

  • Start by positioning yourself on your hand and knees on the ground. Move onto your forearm to support your weight with your hands on the floor.
  • Place your forearms out and forward. Lean onto them with your torso.
  • Lift your torso up until you’re on your hands and knees while breathing out and keeping your arms almost straight and your knees slightly bent. 
  • Go back to the starting position as you breathe in.
  • Repeat as many reps as you can.


Skull crusher is one of the best triceps exercises to build different muscle groups in your triceps. Given that you are not experiencing any pain in your elbows, there’s no reason for you to stop doing them in your workouts. However, if you need a change since your elbow joints can’t take the stress anymore, you can do these alternatives instead.

Out of the ten, the best skull crusher alternatives that you should not miss out on are the close grip bench press and bench dips. Not only do they target the same muscle groups, but they also have the same effect as skull crushers.

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