Think of bodybuilding as a language, and think of the exercises we do in the gym as words in that language. Trouble is, most of us have "vocabularies" smaller than that of Koko the gorilla, who recently was featured on a very popular AOL chat. (Koko was asked if he liked to talk to people, to which thousands and thousands of web surfers the world-over heard the answer, "Fine nipple." Huh? Koko need go back to skool.)
Anyhow, most of us learn a very basic repertoire of exercises and we stick with them until they pry our cold, dead, callused hands off the Olympic bar. It's understandable, though, since very few of us have the spare time to experiment with new exercises. The traditional bodybuilding mags don't help much, either, as most of the descriptions they give of different exercises are damn near incomprehensible. We once followed the instructions in a Muscle and Fitness for doing Bulgarian Dead Lifts and we ended up making beef stroganoff for six.
With that in mind, we've taken it upon ourselves to build your "vocabulary." Each month, we'll feature a new exercise either invented by one of us or by one of our colleagues. Try 'em out and let us know if you like them. And, if you have an exercise that you invented, e-mail us with a description of the exercise and we'll name it after you. Just think of the thrill you'll feel when you see Jablonski Rhomboid Squeezes mentioned in the same breath as Scott Curls!
California Skull Crushers
Our first "Exercise of the Month" is a triceps movement and it was invented by our own TC. He calls them "California Skull Crushers" as they're a hybrid movement between close-grip bench presses and lying triceps extensions. It's true that there's already a hybrid between these two movements that's known as the California Press, but TC has taken this particular movement and modified it even further.
To do these properly, get in the same position as you would for a close-grip bench press, using either an EZ-curl bar or a standard Olympic bar. Press the bar directly over the chest, keeping the elbows close to the body. Then, instead of lowering the bar back to the starting position, lower the bar to your forehead as if you were doing a skull crusher, or the eccentric portion of a lying triceps extension.
Here comes the tricky part. After you lower the bar to your forehead (or a half-inch above it so you don't cave the sucker in), pull the bar back to the starting position of the close-grip bench press and do rep number 2.
Let's go through the movement again while sitting in your chair in front of the computer, okay? Stick your arms straight out in front of your chest and pretend you're holding a bar. Now, bend your arms at the elbows and bring the "bar" to your forehead. And lastly, pull the "bar" down to chest level by pulling your elbows back until they're next to your sides.
In a way, you're making a kind of triangle motion with the bar as it comes up, down, and across back to the starting position.
You're going to be much, much stronger in the close-grip bench press part of the movement than you are in the skull-crusher part of the movement, but that's okay. To fatigue your triceps big-time, use a very slow tempo for the lowering part of the movement. By the time you reach your fifth or sixth rep, the close-grip bench press part of the movement will get progressively more difficult.
Try this movement out and see if it doesn't both add mass to your triceps and poundage to your bench press.