EZ-Bar Lying Triceps Extension
EZ-bar lying triceps extensions, also known as skull crushers (because you bring the bar close to your head), are a strength exercise used in many different forms of weight lifting. This is a basic, heavy isolation exercise (within limits) for all three heads of the triceps. We advise you to perform this great triceps exercise by using an EZ bar in order to reduce strain on your wrists. The zigzag design of the EZ bar provides a natural grip without any significant change in muscle effort.
Exercise Instructions for EZ-Bar Lying Triceps Extension
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Lie faceup on a bench with your head, back, and buttocks in contact with the bench and your feet flat on the floor. Take an E-Z curl bar or straight bar with a narrower (hands approximately 15 cm apart), palms down (overhand) grip and hold it straight above you. To be even more precise, your arms should be completely straight but angled slightly back toward your head, rather then fully vertical (this is not shown on the image). This angle makes the exercise harder for your triceps (since they’re starting in a pre-stretched position) and easier on your elbows.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Keeping your upper arms completely stationary all the time and bending only at the elbows, lower the bar to your forehead. Pause, then push the weight back to the starting position, keeping your upper arms in the same position throughout the movement. Keep your elbows in during the entire range of motion. When you complete the set, allow the spotter to take the bar from your hands.
Lying Triceps Extension Key Points – Tips &Tricks
- Your upper arms remain perpendicular (or slightly angled) to the torso in a vertical position throughout the movement.
- Look for your upper arms to be completely stationary (motionless) during the entire range of motion – from start to finish.
- Look for your wrists to remain solid throughout the movement.
- Keep your elbows in – don’t let them to flare outward to the sides as you lower the bar.
- The barbell curves in a line arc, from perpendicular to the position in which your forearms are just past parallel to the floor.
- Avoid extending your shoulders towards the ceiling or elevating your shoulders towards your ears. Also avoid an excessive arch in your back.
- Be sure to lower the bar towards your forehead – not to the level of your nose; this helps to ease the strain on your wrists.
- Common mistakes: moving the elbows to get help from the chest and back muscles, not positioning the elbows vertically or far enough back to counteract the effect of gravity, and opening your elbows too wide to get help from the shoulder and/or chest muscles
- A wide grip emphasizes the inner triceps (long head), whereas a narrow grip targets the outer triceps (lateral head).
EZ-bar lying triceps extension targets your triceps brachii. Your upper back and rear shoulders (posterior deltoids) come into play, too, since they keep your shoulders stable as you perform the movement.
- Main muscles: triceps
- Secondary muscles: anconeus
- Antagonists: biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis
- Dumbbell lying triceps extension. Perform the exercise with a dumbbell in each hand; thumbs point toward your face (neutral grip);
- Wide grip lying triceps extension. Grasp the bar with a grip that’s beyond shoulder width. This shifts the emphasis from triceps lateral head to the long and medial head.
- Reverse grip lying triceps extension. You can also perform the exercise while using a reverse (supinated) grip on the bar to emphasize the outer (lateral) head of the triceps.
- To further emphasize the long head, move your elbows back so your upper arms are at 45-degree angle to the floor throughout; at the bottom of each rep, touch the bar to the top of your head.
- Cable lying triceps extension. Position a weight bench so that one end is about a foot from a multistation weight machine with a bar-handle low pulley cable. Follow the same exercise instruction given above.
- Lying extension using specially designed triceps bar. The triceps bar provides a more comfortable neutral grip, with the radius and ulna positioned correctly. The muscle involvement is almost identical, although some studies have suggested that the lateral head works a little harder.
You can perform triceps extension in a seated position or while standing upright if lying position doesn’t suit you.
Furthermore, there are numerous alternatives that can be done on various forms of equipment, such as dumbbells, cables and machines.
- triceps dips
- close (narrow) grip barbell bench press
- cable triceps pushdown
- dumbbell triceps kickback
EZ-bar lying triceps extension should be practiced with good control because overhead lifts can be dangerous if the weight slips. It is not called the skull crusher for nothing. Therefore, begin this triceps exercise by using lighter weights and a spotter. Also, keep your movement under close control and slow the descent of the bar as it nears your head.
There is no other exercise we can think of for any body part that is as well known for causing elbow pain as skull crushers are. Most of the people doing skull crushers are already smart enough to be doing them with an E-Z curl bar. But yet, it still hurts their elbows (and maybe their wrists as well). If this describes you, then we highly recommend using dumbbells instead. When you grab them with a neutral/hammer grip you’ll probably feel a significant improvement in wrist comfort, and it will probably feel a lot better on your elbows as well.