5 Tricks to Avoid Elbow Pain Doing Skull Crushers In the Gym

Skull crushers are one of the most common and popular tricep exercises that you will see performed in the gym.

elbow pain skullcrushers

But here is what you must understand…

This movement can be one of the worst exercises and movements when it comes to placing unwanted stress on your elbows.

Most individuals who include this exercise in their routine for more than a year or two, will most likely end up with nagging elbow pain.

But …

There are some very simple precautions you can take to decrease your chances of developing elbow when doing the skull crusher exercise for triceps.

Jump quickly to the tips:

  1. Don`t go too heavy
  2. Always choose form and technique over weight
  3. Cycle skullcrushers exercise throughout your routine
  4. Try using dumbbells instead of ex-curl bar
  5. Roll your shoulders back at the bottom of the movement

While this exercise is very popular in the gym and for the development of that envied horseshoe tricep, they are simply not a must when it comes to building huge, horseshoe shaped triceps.

It is true that they are a good exercise for pushing a lot of blood into all three heads of your triceps but the true reality is that there are way more tricep variation exercises that can target your triceps just as effectively.


Without risking elbow pain and discomfort.

So if you are currently experiencing elbow pain in the gym, especially on tricep day, the simplest solution is to find a different tricep extension variation that does not give you pain at your elbow.

If you are also experiencing elbow pain from doing push ups, be sure to check out my post that gives some great tips on what exactly it is you are doing wrong and how to fix it fast!

For example, tricep pushdowns, overhead extensions and cable kickbacks are all perfectly safe choices.

The key is to change the angle of attack when you perform each of these exercises.

This will allow your tricep muscles to get the best pump and most stimulation from each of the exercises.

It is true that the majority of your tricep growth will come as a result of your basic compound pressing exercises for your chest and shoulders.

Later when you have time, be sure to check out this great article from our friends over at aworkoutroutine.com which has some small nuggets of gold on how to avoid pain in your elbow when doing skull crushers.

So let`s get the tips …

So for whatever reason, you really must include the skullcrusher exercise as part of your tricep routine …


You are currently not experiencing any elbow pain at the moment, here are the top 5 tips to stay safe and avoid elbow pain when doing skullcrushers:

  1. Do not go too heavy or perform low reps.
avoid heavy skull crushers

Instead select a weight where you are in complete control of the bar and not the bar in control of you.

You should be moving the weight and not the weight moving you.
Select a rep range of 8-12.

Always remember that skullcrushers are not a power exercise.

If you start using excessive amounts of weight where you are bouncing the weight up and down, you are simply asking for trouble and injury will not be far off.

  1. Make sure your form and technique is PERFECT.
good form technique

So along with using a controlled rep speed and keeping your elbows tucked in, rather than flared out to the side.

Aim to lower the weight slightly behind the top of your head rather than your forehead or nose.

This will keep the most tension on your triceps while at the same time taking some of the stress off your elbows.

  1. Cycle this exercise in and out of your routine.
cycle through routine

There is absolutely no reason why you need to be doing this exercise every time you do triceps.

Remember that your muscles have memory and the best thing you can
do to shock your muscles is to change up your routine and add in different movements.

I recommend totally changing your routine every 12 weeks. This will allow for maximum gains and you will not get bored with your routine.

Plus this will allow any nagging injuries to heal and recover as you perform new and more exciting/challenging exercises that are elbow friendly.

Got elbow pain also from doing pull ups? Go here for top 5 reasons why this always happens to you.

  1. Try using dumbbells instead of the ez-curl bar.
skullcrushers dumbbells

Grab a pair of dumbbells and perform your skullcrushers using a neutral grip with your palms facing each other.

This will allows your elbows to move a little more freely rather than in a fixed position when you use the ez-curl bar.

Using dumbbells places less stress on your wrists and elbows.

Many people get a better pump when using dumbbells for the simple fact that each arm can move independently ensuring that one arm cannot cheat or overcompensate for the other.

  1. Roll your shoulders back at the bottom of the movement instead of just pressing the dumbbells straight up and down using pure tricep extension.
roll shoulders back

Doing skullcrushers this way will de-load your elbows at the bottom of the movement in order to take some the stress away.

So if you are looking to keep the skullcrusher exercise as part of your tricep routine without making your elbow pain worse or simple just want to avoid getting injured in the first place.

Keep these 5 tips in mind.

Here`s the thing …

If you are suffering with elbow pain to the point where you cannot complete a workout then …

There is a good chance that you have already damaged some the connective tissues at your elbow.

Elbow injuries are quite common in the gym.

And …

The most common is tennis elbow.

And don`t let the name mislead you.

You don`t get it just from playing tennis.

Pain that is concentrated on the outer part of the elbow just about the small, pointy bone at your elbow.

Fitness buffs and gym rats are at high risk for developing tennis elbow.

For the simple fact, that constant gripping and squeezing of the barbells and dumbbells causes excessive strain on your forearm extensors which can cause small tears in your extensor tendon which attaches at your elbow.

And it doesn`t matter if you lift heavy or not.

It can affect anyone and at any age.

But here is some good news!

Even if you have tennis elbow, you can still hit the gym hard while you recover.

There are basically 5 simple steps you need to implement and follow post workout to ensure your elbow pain does not get any worse.

Check out this easy-to-follow, 5 step tutorial video that you can get started with right now – from the chair or couch you are sitting on reading this article.

Good luck!

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