How To Do The Lying Triceps Extension

Lying triceps extension
(Image credit: Getty Images / Hirurg)

The lying triceps extension is one the best triceps exercise you can do, but it might have the least exciting name of any exercise. Sure, it describes the move perfectly, but it’s long and lacks flair.

It’s a remarkable contrast to the skullcrusher, perhaps the exercise with the most exciting name of all. It’s made all the more remarkable by the fact that the lying triceps extension and the skullcrusher are essentially the same exercise, and provide the same benefits in isolating and strengthening your triceps. 

Are we suggesting that if you do want to do the lying triceps extension, you tell others you’re doing skullcrushers to make your workout sound more impressive? Yes, we are. And since you’ll be doing a kind of triceps extension while lying about the exercise you’re doing, in a sense you’ll be telling the truth anyway… 

How To Do The Lying Triceps Extension

The lying triceps extension can be done with a variety of weights, but a good place to start is with a light set of dumbbells – your triceps will tire quickly during a set and it’s worth mastering the move before going too heavy.

Lie on your back on a flat bench, holding the dumbbells above you with your arms extended. Keeping your upper arms still, bend at the elbows and slowly lower the dumbbells either side of your head, or slightly behind your head. This is the key difference from skullcrushers, in which you lower the weight towards your head (hence its evocative name). With the lying triceps extension you generally risk only a damaged floor, rather than a crushed skull. 

The advantage of doing the exercise with dumbbells is that you work each arm independently, so you can note and remedy any imbalances in the triceps strength of each arm. However, if you use an EZ-bar or barbell you will be able to lift more weight, so it could be worth progressing to a bar once you’re comfortable with the exercise.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.