The elevated bodyweight skullcrusher is one of the best anytime-anywhere exercises to attack your triceps, a challenging move that can build arm size and strength with no equipment at all.
The key with the move: Not rushing it. And there’s a way to learn that and challenge your triceps even more, an upgraded elevated bodyweight skullcrusher from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Meet the Halfway Pause Elevated Skullcrusher, and get ready for serious triceps growth. “This move piles on more body control, a lot of eccentric contraction focus, and more time-under-tension,” says Samuel. “Adding those characteristics helps push your triceps growth into the stratosphere.”
The best part: You don’t need any equipment at all, making this a perfect backbone to any at-home triceps workout. All you need is a bench, chair, table, or other raised surface. It doesn’t need to be that high either, says Samuel. “An Ottoman is perfect for this,” he says. “The lower to the ground, the more challenge we create. But if you’re just learning, you can use this move to improve your movement quality on bodyweight skullcrushers by using something higher, like a counter top.”
The halfway-pause elevated skullcrusher forces a slow, controlled eccentric contraction as you lower your torso to the ground, partly because you have to pause midway through the rep. That pause also serves another purpose, says Samuel. “You’re learning body awareness,” he says. “You’ll understand what it feels like to have your arms parallel to the ground, triceps and core supporting all that weight. Then you’ll understand you can go deeper.”
You’ll work on getting that stretch with your triceps, then have to power out of the move with a strong triceps contraction. “You’re really isolating your triceps here,” says Samuel.
You need to execute with clean form, though, which means you wind up getting more of a total-body workout than you may think. Your core lights up as you work to maintain a straight line from feet through shoulders. And you wind up squeezing your elbows together hard, too, turning on your lats. “Like every bodyweight move, there’s a total-body component that your body will thank you for,” says Samuel.
The best part: You can do this move at-home, right now, easily. That makes it perfect for a workout, or for your spare time, too. “And we all have a lot of that,” says Samuel, “right now.”
- Find a bench, Ottoman, chair, or table top. Place your hands at the edge of your item, about shoulder-width apart, and get in pushup position, core and glutes tight. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle with your torso. Point the pits of your elbows forward, turning on your lats.
- Keeping core and glutes tight, bend at the elbows only (and slightly at the shoulders), lower your torso toward the ground. Stop when your forearms are parallel with the ground. Pause.
- Continue bending your elbows a bit more, aiming to get your head near your object. “The range of motion here will be different for everyone and will improve with time,” says Samuel. “You’re challenging your triceps a ton and may not be able to go super-deep your first time.”
- Once you’re as deep as possible, straighten your elbows, pressing back up to the top of a pushup position.
- That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10.
The Halfway Pause Elevated Skullcrusher works well in almost any situation. It can be the backbone of your triceps workout, whether you’re using weights or just training at home, or it can be a piece of an arm blast, working well in a biceps-triceps superset. Or, Samuel says, you can use it several times throughout the day. “This is a nice exercise where just a few reps goes a long way,” he says, “so I’d love to see you get up and bang out a few sets of it throughout your day.”
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.
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