Overhead Tricep Press vs. Skullcrushers

Use dumbbells or a barbell for triceps exercises.
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Incorporating variety into your workout routine reduces mental boredom and physical plateaus. One way to add variety is to perform different exercises for the same muscle group. Skullcrushers and overhead triceps presses involve the same joint movement, but have different body positions and limb angles. Mix and mingle these two exercises for a good routine, but first compare them to better know which one to incorporate based on your fitness level.

Targeted Muscles

The overhead triceps press, often called an overhead extension, and the skullcrusher exercise target the triceps muscles -- a group of muscles that extend along the back of the upper arm from the shoulder to the elbow. The triceps are primarily responsible for extending the elbow joint. Both exercises involve extending the elbows against resistance. Perform the overhead triceps press in a seated or standing position and the skullcrusher exercise in a lying position.

Technique and Body Position

The basic technique is the same for both exercises, but your body position is slightly different. Position your arms perpendicular to the floor. For the overhead triceps press, stand or sit on a bench and extend your arms above your head. For the skullcrusher exercise, lie on a bench, extend your arms over your chest and hold the weight directly over your face. For both exercises, movement only occurs at the elbows; your shoulders should not move. Keep your upper arms -- from your shoulders to your elbows -- stationary. Bend your elbows to lower the weight and extend your elbows to straighten your arms against the resistance. When you lower the weight, your elbows should point directly to the ceiling; do not allow them to shift forward or to flare out to the sides.

Safety Considerations

Because you hold the weight over your head during both exercises, have a spotter if possible. This person can grab the weight if you lose control or cannot push it up yourself. Start with lighter weights and focus on perfecting the form of the exercise. Gradually increase the weight only when you can perform 12 to 15 repetitions with good form. If you don't have a spotter, consider doing an alternative triceps exercise, such as a cable pressdown. In addition, the skull crusher has an apt name: Ask a fitness professional to help you with form and technique to ensure you don't fulfill the name of the exercise.

Equipment Differences

You use different weight with each exercise. With a skullcrusher exercise, you typically use a barbell. The overhead triceps press is typically done with a dumbbell. However, you can use dumbbells for the skullcrusher exercise and a barbell for the overhead triceps press, depending on what's available and whether you can safely lift the weight behind your head using good form. When using dumbbells, perform either exercise one arm at a time. This is a good option if you do not have a spotter available, as you can use your other arm to spot yourself.

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