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The Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension (Aka: Skull Crushers)

The lying dumbbell triceps extension exercise (often called “skull crushers”) is an exercise designed to help strengthen and develop the backs of the arm (triceps).  The great thing about the dumbbell triceps extension is that the movement directly targets the back of the arms (triceps muscle) using a very effective exercise.

This is great news for those of you who have problems toning and firming up the back of your arms. Give the dumbbell triceps extension a try for a month; I am sure you will be pleased with the results.

The lying dumbbell triceps extension - Starting position

The lying dumbbell triceps extension - Bottom part of the movement

Position for the lying dumbbell triceps extension exercise

You will need to place two dumbbells about 3 feet apart from each other from where you plan on lying down. Lie down on the floor with the in between the dumbbells with each dumbbell at the sides of your hips. Grab the dumbbells (with each hand) and press the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended in front of your chest.

Turn the dumbbells in so that your palms are facing each other. You will want to make sure that the backs of your shoulders are flush with the ground. Puff your chest out and retract your shoulder blades to the floor.

Execution of the lying dumbbell triceps extension

 Bend your arms at the elbow and slowly lower the weight until each dumbbell is near the top side of your head. Be careful not to hit your head with the dumbbells, they should be to the top and sides of your head. Pause for a second or two and using your triceps muscle (the backs of your arms) extent the weight back up.


Breathe in as you lower the dumbbells and breathe out as extend the dumbbells upward.

Important points for the lying dumbbell triceps extension

·         You only want to use your triceps (back of your arms) to move the weight. Do not use your shoulders or chest to press the weight up. Think of your arm as a hinge. Keep your arms straight and stationary and only bend at your elbows.  

·         Make sure the backs of your shoulders are flush against the floor and your chest is slightly puffed out.

·         Bend at the knees

·         Keep your head level and pick a spot on the ceiling to stare at as you perform the exercise. Keep your eyes on that spot and don’t be tempted to down.

·        Really squeeze the backs of your arms at the top portion of the movement

Video for the lying dumbbell triceps extension

You may also perform the lying dumbbell triceps extension with a single dumbbell. For some, it is easier to grip a single dumbbell or you may only have one dumbbell to work with. Give it a try and see which method works best for you. See the video below for the single dumbbell lying triceps extension.

The alternating dumbbell triceps extension (skull crusher) is a great variation that will allow you to focus and concentrate on each arm, independently See the video below for the alternating dumbbell triceps extension variation.

Related Exercises:

Triceps Dumbbell Kickback Exercise

Dumbbell Floor Press Exercise

The Knee Push Up Exercise

Over his 30 plus years of experience, Blake Bissaillion has worked with nationally ranked body builders, power lifters and fitness professionals. In this time he has picked up volumes of applied knowledge that he openly shares with his clients. Mr. Bissaillion’s objective is to help as many beginners to weight training and fitness to achieve their weight loss and fitness goals while getting into their best possible shape. Mr. Bissaillion owns and operates Belly Be Gone, a fitness company that offers fitness and nutritional guidance and products.

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