Muscles Targeted: The barbell lying tricep extensions target the triceps as the primary muscle group and they also target your forearms as a secondary muscle group involved. This exercise is also called “skull crushers” since you lower the bar down to touch your forehead and its one of the best mass building exercises you can use if your goal is to build big and impressive triceps. Since your triceps make up the majority of your arms, you really want to focus on training them intensely with the right exercises. This exercise is a single-joint movement, which means only one joint is involved (elbows). A multi-joint exercise is where two or more joints are involved (elbow and shoulders). Since this exercise is a single-joint movement, you can really focus maximum tension on the triceps muscles. The key is to make sure your elbows remain in a fixed position during the entire range of the exercise. By keeping your elbows in a fixed position, you can place 100% of the tension on your triceps.
Exercise Advice: Start by grabbing an empty barbell or EZ-bar for your warm-up set. Make sure to warm-up in order to get blood into the muscles and to work on your overall exercise technique. Grip the bar with an overhand closed grip where your thumbs are wrapped around the bar. Your grip position on the bar should be about 6-8 inches apart. Carefully sit down on a flat bench and slowly lay back onto the bench so that your back and head are completely flat on the bench. Bring the bar up the top position which will be directly above your face. From the starting position, slowly lower the weight down so that the bar lightly touches your forehead. Another variation of this exercise is to lower the bar down behind your head so it lightly touches the bench. Try both exercises to see which one feels the best. The most important thing with this exercise is to maintain a fixed elbow position. You want your elbows to stay in and fixed in one spot during the movement. Basically think of your elbows as a hinge and bar will be going directly down and then back up without your elbows moving from that one main spot. If your elbows start to move forward and backward, you’re doing the exercise incorrectly and taking the majority of the stress off of your triceps muscles. Since you’re lowering the weight down toward your face, you always want to use a very slow and controlled tempo when performing the barbell lying tricep extensions. Avoid any jerky and fast movements when lowering and raising the bar to ensure safety and the effectiveness of this movement. It’s also very important to have a spotter so they can assist you during this exercise. If you don’t feel comfortable laying down on the bench and getting the bar into the starting position, a spotter can hold the bar and hand it to you once you lay down on the bench. This is especially beneficial when you’re using very heavy weight and lower reps since its much more difficult to lay down and get a heavy bar up to the starting position. A spotter can also help to make sure you perform each rep and get the weight all the way back up to the top. A spotter can also assist you when you want to do a few extra force reps past failure which are great for really stressing your triceps and packing on muscle mass.
Things To Avoid: The biggest thing you want to avoid is using too much weight and improper technique, which could result in a serious injury since you will be lowering the weight down toward your face and head. Avoid any jerky movements and fast pace when doing the barbell lying tricep extensions. You always want to use a slow and controlled tempo when lowering and raising the weight. A spotter can come in very handy with this exercise, so ask for help from a friend or fellow individual in the gym to assist you. Your elbow position is also very important when doing this exercise. You want to avoid any movement in your elbows, which means they should not be moving forward and backward when you lower and raise the bar. Try to focus on placing them in a fixed and stable position at the start of the exercise and then just allow the bar to simply lower down and use your triceps to push the bar back up to the top. If your elbows start to flare out and start going backward and forward, you’re performing the exercise incorrectly. You should also avoid arching your lower back when you press the weight back up to the top. If your back is coming off the bench, you’re probably using too much weight. Decrease the weight on the bar and really focus on your form and exercise technique in order to ensure safety and to place 100% of the tension on your triceps.
Reps and Sets: For overall muscle building, focus on a repetition range of 8-12 reps per set for the barbell lying tricep extensions. Your overall sets for your entire triceps workout should be in the range of 5-6 sets since it’s a smaller muscle group and does not need that many overall sets to stimulate the muscle. If you do too many sets for your triceps, you will eventually overtrain the muscle group and your progress will stop. Only train your triceps once per week also. Try to hit them hard with intense workouts and then let them rest, recover and grow. You need ample time between workouts in order to allow proper recuperation. Remember, you will also be stressing your triceps on your chest workout day since the triceps are secondary muscles involved in your chest exercises, so they will be stimulated multiple times during the week.
Other Exercises To Use: A few other great exercises to combine with the barbell lying tricep extensions in your overall triceps workout routine are the Close Grip Barbell Bench Press and the Rope Pushdowns. Perform 2 sets per each exercise for your entire triceps workout routine and use a repetition range of between 8-12 reps for overall muscle growth. It’s great to hit the muscle from a bunch of different angles to ensure you give the region multiple stimuli in order to shock the muscle into growth. If you do the same exercises on each workout, your muscles will get used to the routine quickly and stop growing, so make sure to always mix it up to continue progressing!