There are so many options when it comes to tricep exercises - machines, cables, free weights...
I prefer free weights for arm exercises for a few reasons:
1. More joint stability + core activation (when standing)
2. Functional movements - which means that your body is in a more natural everyday situation like you would be doing chores around the house or picking up your kids
3. Less risk - your arms are more weak than than your chest, back, or legs; so using free weights for your arms is not as risky because the amount of weight your using will be much lighter
Now... how to decide which exercise is right for you:
Option 1 - Barbell Skull Crusher
This option is best for a beginner or anyone whose main goal is to simply gain mass. The barbell helps to maintain control by decreasing the amount of stability needed through the joint because you are using both hands to move 1 weight versus dumbbells where each joint has to control its weight separately. That means you can use more weight with this method! YAY! You will want to make sure you go slow on this exercise to avoid having the bar hit your forehead.
- Elbows Up. Keep your upper arm perpendicular to the floor at all times
- Slowly bend at your elbows until the bar comes to your hairline
_ Extend your elbows straight until you have returned to the start position
Option 2 - Dumbbell Skull Crusher
This is the same exercise as above but the dumbbells allow for greater range of motion and demand more shoulder stability. This is a great option for seasoned lifters who are looking to gain functional muscle. You will also benefit from reduced risk of injury long term by training for stability and increased range of motion.
- same start position as above but palms will face in
- keeping elbows up, bring dumbbells all the way to touch your shoulders
- return to start position
Option 3 - Dumbbell French Press
This option has a prerequisite - stand with your back against a wall (make sure that your heel, hips, shoulders, and head stay IN CONTACT with the wall) and lift your arms up, keeping your elbows straight. If you can touch your wrists to the wall without losing contact with the rest of your body and without bending your arms than you are good to go! If not... don't attempt this exercise yet, and start stretching, seriously, every. single. day. before you tear your rotator cuff.
Okay, so this option is great for joint and core stability but the risk of injury increases greatly without proper technique.
- start with the dumbbell straight above your head
- squeeze shoulder blades together and suck your belly button in to avoid arching your back and putting your spine at risk
- keep your elbows pointed forward and tucked in to your ears while you bend your arms and let the dumbbell fall back behind your head (if you let your elbows come out you will allow your deltoids and trap muscles to assist rather than isolating the triceps)
- extend arms straight, keeping your core tight, and return to the start position