Bodyweight Skull Crushers

Bodyweight Skull Crushers - The PROPER Way To Do Them

Bodyweight skull crushers are unique to the calisthenics community. They are an excellent full body exercise that builds superior strength and size in the triceps. But they do have their limitations.

Firstly, a lot of calisthenic sathletes do them wrong. Secondly, athletes don’t inprove the intensity of the exercise enough. This article will discuss:

  • The only way to perfrom bodyweight skullcrushers
  • How to increase the intensity without increasing the reps
  • And the best equipment to perfrom this exercise

Benefits of bodyweight skullcrushers

Most triceps exercises done in the gym are isolation exercises.

These exercises use cables/weights to work the distal part of the triceps. This is because the distal part of the triceps is responsible for elbow extension.

Most regular triceps exercises involve the extension of the elbow joint only. But the triceps have another function.

The triceps cross the elbow joint distally, while they cross the shoulder joint proximally. Therefore, the triceps have a proximal function as well. And that function is shoulder extension.

The bodyweight skull crusher, like all good triceps exercises involves elbow as well as shoulder extension! It a multi-joint exercise, which recruits more muscle mass in the process.

What’s even more interesting about the bodyweight skull crusher is the fact that it also requires intense stabilization from the quads, the glutes and the core as well as involvement of the lats and chest muscles. This makes it a full body exercise that far outperforms other simple triceps exercises.

Another benefit is the fact that if done correctly, this movement can be loaded to an extremely high degree, thus allowing for phenomenal growth of strength and size in the triceps.

And bigger triceps will carry over into all of your other pushing movements, like push ups and dips!

As a matter of fact, the triceps accounts for 60% of the size of the arms. Thus if you want bigger arms, make sure to work on your triceps. It will pay much bigger dividends than just focusing on the growth of your biceps.

But majority of the bodyweight skull crushers are performed incorrectly. So let’s see the right way to perform them!

How bodyweight skull crushers are usually performed

Now that we’ve see the unique benefits of bodyweight skull crushers, let’s look at the way that they’re usually done.

Unfortunately the bodyweight skull crusher is not done properly.

Most calisthenics athletes are trying to isolate the triceps with this movement via pure elbow extension. In fact, they try to reduce shoulder extension as much as possible. They do this by brining the bar/ ledge/ whatever they are hanging onto upto the skull and then extending the triceps by locking out the elbows.

As I said before, elbow extension mostly works the distal part of the tricep, but the proximal part of the triceps that cross the shoulder joint is being neglected. Performing the bodyweight skull crusher as a triceps isolation exercise is an utter waste of time and resources.

While this still involves the stabilization aspect of the body, it removes the feature that distinguishes this bodyweight skull crusher from other triceps exercises. That is the proximal function of the triceps that involves the long head of the tricep in shoulder extension.

This brings us to the proper way to perform the exercise.

The Only Way To perform bodyweight skull crushers

To perform bodyweight skull crushers the right way, get yourself a pair of gymnastics rings. Nothing beats the versatility of a good set of gymnastics rings when it comes to calisthenics.

To start the exercise, set the rings to about chest height and take a stance that is about shoulder width apart. Hold the inside of the rings such that your palms are facing each other. Angle your palms in such a way that your thumbs are facing each other.

Your fists should make a 45 degree angle if placed on a flat surface. Then, lean against the rings such that the elbows are locked out in extension and externally rotated.

Lift your chest up, squeeze your glutes, abs and quads, locking out the knees. Make sure not to dip your hips toward the ground and make sure you have a neutral spine. Your eyes must look down at the floor 10 feet in front of you.

Then, unlock your elbows. Allow your clenched fists to move behind the back of your head.

When your fists reach the back of your head, allow your shoulders to rotate backwards until your arms are in line with your ears. Make sure that your fists are just about touching your hair, this motion will stretch your triceps and lats.

When the rings are just behind the level of your head, allow the stretch to initiate the rep back up. To do this, bring the rings as close to your head as possible and lead up like you are throwing a huge rock out in front of you. Finish the rep on the way back to the starting position with the elbows by locking out the elbows at the start of the rep.

When bodyweight skull crushers are done this way, they recruit the maximum amount of triceps mass over a longer range of motion.

Best Piece Of Equipment For Bodyweight Skull Crushers

The best way to perform bodyweight skull crushers are with gymnastics rings.

The angle the rings provide allow you to do this movement with more triceps activation and a better stretch reflex than you would get on any regular bar or platform.

Also gymnastics rings allow you to hold the rings in a way that does not produce wrist pain or discomfort when performing the exercise.

How to progress with bodyweight skull crushers:

The most common way to progress with the BWSC is by changing the angle your body makes with the ground.

But, in my opinion this is not the best way to progress the exercise. The best way to make progress with bodyweight skull crushers is by adding weight.

This makes the angle at which you perform the exercise constant, thus eliminating any fidgeting with the level of the rings.

Also, adding weight is the most effective way to progress with any calisthenics movement. Weights simply make you stronger as a function of increasing them over time. Add 40 kilos to your bodweight and perform BWSC for reps and tell me you still don’t have big triceps!

To perform weighted bodyweight skull crushers, you will need a good quality dipping belt. Strap the belt on with some weights attached to the belt. Take up the starting position of the exercise and get your reps in.

Once you reach 10-15 good reps with a particular weight, add more weight and continue building your massive triceps.


Bodyweight skull crushers are the best triceps builder in the calisthenics community.

In fact, they far outperform most of the dumbbell and cable skull crushers performed in the gym.

If done right they will build significant size and strength in the triceps. Along with full body control and explosive power!

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