T Nation

elbow pain during skull crushers/nose busters

Lately I have had a burning pain in my elbows when doing this exercise. It has always been a little painful but yesterday I had to stop and move to another exercise due to the immense pain.
I use an olympic ez-curl bar for the exercise and go up to (2) 45lb plates per side. Even with lighter weight at 35lbs per side for warm up they still hurt. I love this exercise and want to keep it in my routine but need a way to get rid of the pain assoc. with it.
Any ideas?

Active Release might clear it up some, but you’re probably better off laying off all extensions for a little while.

I tried everything to get rid of the pain, but nothing worked except stopping them altogether.

Some people have a difficult time with this exercise because of the intense stress it puts directly on the elbows. Many would say to simply skip this movement, but it is the single best tricep developer in my opinion. No, it does not replace any of the standard multi-joint movements, but doggone it, it’s a fun exercise and it really makes those triceps hum…(helps with the push-ups too, which is my real reason for loving this movement).

Whenever I have felt pain from doing this movement it was because I was doing one of the following: Training it to many times per week; Using to much weight; Going to fast with the movement and sort of bouncing off the bottom. (When I was younger I made every rookie mistake known to man). Have you done any of these?

Usually, however it was because I did not have a proper warm up. Take a couple of 60lb dumbbells and do two sets of Bench pressing prior to performing the Lying Tricep extension. It’s important to pump as much blood around the elbow joint as possible. One more thing you might try, at least until your elbows are feeling better. Wear a long sleeve shirt to keep the heat in around the elbow joint!

Just a few thoughts.

What is “active Release”?
I hate to stop them since I am starting my dbol/tren/sust 250/equipoise cycle and hoping for some solid gains but if I have to I will.
Any suggestions for alternate mass exercise? Close grips won’t work due to pain in my rotator cuff from old wrestling injury. Ugh!

I have the same problem with that exercise. My solutions is to do them dead last. I can’t go as heavy, but my elbows are as warm and lubricated as they can be so there is no pain whatsoever.

I am 19 and skull cruchers have always hurt my elbos so I just don’t do them. I don’t know why but even if I use a very small amount of weight it bothers me. By the way this is the only exercise that bothers my elbos, don’t know why…

It is the only exercise that builds great mass for me and has always been a favorite.
May invest in some elbow wraps to help.
They even hurt after doing chest and getting warmed up.

Active Release - www.activerelease.com. Find a provider in your area.

Liniment and elbow sleeves may help some as well, I forgot to post that…

Or you can try them with a supinated grip… you will have to reduce loads for this, but it also seems to help take a little stress off the 'bows.

thx bro

I can’t cite you to any studies but in my opinion the triceps can simply get so strong that they over power the ability of the elbow joint to keep up. Tri’s are one of my best muscles and I never do crushes because they kill my elbows. I find pushdowns (with a rope) pump my tri’s as much as anything, and dips are the best mass builder for me. I think skull crushers are a bullshit exercise for anyone with relatively advanced arm strength.

Oh, and as far as replacements… try high board (4-5-6) presses, DB floor presses…

High rep band pressdowns might be alright for you as well.


damn that is a lot of weight to be lowering towards your face.

just had to add that.

I can see why your elbows hurt- 90 pounds a side would do that to anyone eventually… have you tried a california press? Good middle of the road exercise between close grips and french press and really targets the tri’s directly… try them out instead and see how it feels. I must admit though, i wish i had your problem! Ha!

I’m not a doctor but as a trainer who watches people work out, check you form that you don’t bend your wrists much during this exercise. I developed this pain years ago and I self-diagnosed myself with tennis elbow or tendonitis. This was just an inflammation of the tendons in my elbow because i would let my wrists bend during tricep exercises, so it put too much stretch/pressure on my tendons and caused them to flare up with pain. I started paying strict attention to my form (wrists) and dropped the skull-crushers for a couple of weeks. I just did tricep pressdowns on cables till i got stronger and better form and then after i went back to other exercises and started off light and built my strength back up in the exercises. You might want to get it checked out, but don’t keep training with pain, or work around it for too long. You have pain becuase something is wrong, fix it/figure it out, or find someone who can and deal with the problem, it will only get worse later if not treated now…


Please explain execution of the california press. I am interested.

The best advice you can get is to not do anything that reproduces the pain. Second, visit an active release person as suggested above and have them assess the CAUSE of the problem. Once the cause has been addressed then you can return to doing the movement. Proper warm-ups are critical and stretching is important.

If a california press is where you lower the bar like a bench, then perform a kinda tricep extension… that probably wouldn’t be the best idea as far as dealing with elbow pain. Extensions will a barbell are even harder on the elbows then an EZbar.

If I’m wrong about the exercise… ignore me.

I got the same problem. What I do is using two dumbells instead of a bar. Palmes facing each other. That workes well for me aslong as I warm up well.

California press as i was taught: Use an olympic bar or ez bar on a flat bench like you’re going to do the skull crushers. Pronated grip, keep elbows tucked in as you lower the bar to your neck, then press upward keeping the bar in line with your eyes throughout. That’s the california press…