One key to building powerful, strong arms is the concept of overload. Essentially, at some point in your lifting journey, you need to challenge your arm muscles to move heavier and heavier weights to spark growth.
The problem: When you push heavy weights, your form on arm exercises often falls apart. This is especially true on triceps exercises, where it becomes very convenient to get “help” from other muscles. This short-circuits your attempts to go heavy, removing tension from your triceps instead of sparking the growth you actually want.
That’s where the Eccentric Skullcrusher to Close-Grip Double-Press, a move from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., comes in. By blending two exercises (a skullcrusher and a close-grip dumbbell press) together, you wind up with the best of both worlds. You also mix contractions, focusing on super-slow negatives during the skullcrusher phase of things, then pushing yourself to be explosive and powerful during the close-grip press portion of the move. “We get a great chance to overload our triceps here,” says Samuel, “but we do so with ultra-tight form.”
The two-part move works because of the loads you get to use. You’ll want a pair of dumbbells heavier than your max skullcrusher weight, yet lighter than what you’d use for a close-grip bench press. You can use that heavier weight on the skullcrusher because you never actually have to press the weight up. Instead, you focus on lowering super-slowly. “We’re actually building muscle and forcing an aggressive eccentric contraction when doing this,” says Samuel. “And we get to lay the groundwork for perfect form on the skullcrusher by thinking about keeping elbows tight and working to keep our whole frame rigid.”
You won’t be able to drive the weight back up with only your triceps, because you should be training heavy! So you’ll shift your elbows forward, then do back-to-back close-grip presses. “These wind up a little lighter than your normal close-grip press,” says Samuel, “but that’s an opportunity. Explosively drive the dumbbells upwards, chasing a powerful concentric contraction.”
The entire effort will spark growth in your triceps, and all you need is a pair of dumbbells.
- Lie on a bench, holding dumbbells directly over your shoulders, core tight.
- Shift your elbows backwards toward your head about two inches. Tighten your lats and abs. This is the start.
- Bending only at the elbows, slowly lower the weights toward your head. Aim to take 3 seconds to do this.
- Once the weights are at your shoulders, shift your elbows forward. Tighten your lats.
- Keeping your elbows close to your body, press the dumbbells upwards, straightening your arms. Do this twice.
- That’s 1 rep. Do 4 to 6 reps. Do 3 to 4 sets.
The Eccentric Skullcrusher to Double Press works well in a variety of situations. It’s an excellent lead exercise in a triceps workout, letting you start the session by working with a heavy weight, and it can also lead off an arm blast in similar fashion too. Do you need a triceps exercise on push day? This one is perfect.
The key, says Samuel, is to work with a challenging weight. “Don’t put this at the end of a triceps session,” he says, “because you’ll go so light that you can’t really take advantage of the movement. It has to be your first triceps exercise so you can push yourself with load.”
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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