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December 28, 2022
An iconic bodybuilding move, the dumbbell pullover targets the chest muscles and lats, making it a must for any upper-body routine.
And while compound lifts should always remain the stars of your workout show, with its ability to add muscle and strength, the pullover certainly deserves a supporting role in your lifting routine. Plus, any exercise that was a staple in Arnold's lat building arsenal is undoubtedly worth adding to your program.
We're about to get into everything you need to know about the dumbbell pullover, so you can fully understand the benefits of this classic exercise.
This post will discuss:
Typically performed while lying flat on a weight bench, the dumbbell pullover has huge upper body-building benefits and does an excellent job targeting the chest and lats. It gained popularity within the bodybuilding community when lifters realized the exercise was a great chest and back exercise.
The pullover is also a great strength training exercise for working on deep breathing. Taking deep breaths in the pullover position can help increase the size and strength of the chest and lats, in addition to the musculature around the rib box, leading to an increased breath capacity. Simply put, it can build more muscle and train your body to take deeper, longer breaths.
One other thing to note about the dumbbell pullover is that small form changes can transition it from a back-focused exercise to one that emphasizes the chest. The only difference between a dumbbell pullover for lats and a pullover for the chest is slight body adjustments that alter which muscles the exercise targets.
Let’s get into the correct way to do a dumbbell pullover.
The lying dumbbell pullover is fantastic for both the chest and the lats, and we love it in both a back and chest day workout routine. To ensure you understand the differences between the lat dumbbell pullover and the dumbbell pullover for chest, we've included how to make tweaks to the exercise to target each muscle group.
Most of the principles and steps remain the same for both, and a strong mind-muscle connection plays a crucial role in both variations. In fact, to the untrained eye, the move will look exactly the same. It's important to drop the weight in this exercise if needed, so you can go nice and slow, feeling your muscles contract throughout the entire movement.
And when you do need to make this exercise harder, consider trying a double dumbbell pullover, which requires holding one dumbbell in each hand. It's a simple strategy for adding more instability and weight to the move.
Ensure you maintain good form for the dumbbell pullover by following these directions.
How to do the Dumbbell Pullover:
Ensure you're following the proper form for the dumbbell pullover by avoiding these 5 common mistakes.
Several variations of the overhead dumbbell pullover are great ab exercises, but it's important to first master the main dumbbell variation. As you extend your arms overhead, your back will try to arch and lift off the bench. This happens if you have poor chest and shoulder mobility or are not engaging your core enough.
Think of pulling your abs into the bench. Not only will this keep you stable and protect your shoulders, but it will also enable you to get the diaphragm breathing benefits that help train your deep core muscles during this movement.
This exercise may be difficult for you if you have poor shoulder joint and overhead mobility (if you're unsure, start by testing your mobility). This exercise requires lowering the weight down far enough so that you can feel your muscles contracting. If you have difficulty doing that and feel limited in your range of motion, start this as a weighted stretch exercise.
Lower the weight, going only as far as your shoulder and upper arm bone allow, trying to go a bit farther on each rep. Progress with this for a few weeks, and your shoulders should start to unlock to allow you to go deeper into the movement. Whatever you do, don't push yourself into the movement.
This is an easy fix. Concentrate on going slow. This exercise must be done slowly as the mind-muscle connection is the most crucial part. Follow a slow tempo, especially on the lowering portion of the movement, to ensure you are not using momentum and putting yourself at risk for injury.
This will have a similar feel to going too fast during the movement. The dumbbell pullover works best when you slow down and lighten the weight to feel maximum tension.
Otherwise, you risk a bicep, shoulder, or abdominal injury if you aren’t ready to handle a heavier weight. Know that you'll progressive overload at some point, so there's no reason to rush adding too much weight too soon.
If you finish this movement with your palms facing up, your wrists rotated during the movement. Keep your palms facing each other throughout the exercise. Remember that if your hands turn, everything else follows, which won't get you the results you're looking for.
So, what do dumbbell pullovers work? Hitting the back, chest, shoulders, and arms, you can anticipate the dumbbell chest pullover and dumbbell pullover for back seriously activating your upper body muscles.
Build muscle mass in your upper body while improving your posture and breathing are just a few of the awesome benefits that come with performing dumbbell pullovers. Let's take a more in-depth look!
The stretch portion of the dumbbell pull over provides a massive stimulus for chest and lats muscle growth. And even though there are slight biomechanical changes you can make to better target each, you can guarantee both muscle groups are hard at work regardless of the variation used.
With progressive overload and the right workout split, you can be certain you'll increase your upper body strength while sculpting that V-taper look we're all working toward.
The spine is challenged and strengthened during the pullover as it's required to lengthen while remaining stable, which is good news for your posture. As many of us find ourselves sitting for extended periods of time throughout the day, shoulder mobility and poor posture can be issues.
The pullover serves as a great shoulder mobility exercise and helps correct posture problems. As the arms come overhead, it increases upper body mobility in the shoulders and chest, while improving thoracic mobility.
It may primarily build the chest and lats, but the pullover also does wonders for strengthening the shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.
The pullover directly improves all the stabilizer muscles that assist as you lift a weight over your head.
By moving slowly during this exercise and pausing at the bottom to take a breath, you can feel how much the musculature surrounding the rib cage works during the pull over.
Improving the muscular strength of your diaphragm helps you take bigger, deeper, and more efficient breaths, leading to more muscle activation and growth. Just like any muscle, the diaphragm needs to be trained in order to take deep, full breaths.
One of the most incredible things about the pullover dumbbell exercise is once you master the basic move, many advanced variations provide additional unique stimuli. You can use different weights and bench setups, in addition to different equipment like a stability ball. Master the basics, then give the others a try.
There are several great variations of the pullover exercise worth including in your routine. Here's a detailed look at each.
This dumbbell pull over variation removes the stability that comes with lying flat on a bench, forcing your core and posterior chain muscles to work harder. It is a bit more advanced than the standard pullover, so ensure you are confident with that one first.
How to do the Perpendicular to Bench Pullover:
An even more advanced variation of the pullover dumbbell exercise, this version enhances your core benefits even more so. It also will improve your thoracic spine extension and is great for posture.
Master the appropriate progressions before trying this one, as your core needs to be strong enough to maintain bent legs throughout it. Talk about a challenging dumbbell chest exercise!
How to do the Bent Knee Pullover:
This is another fantastic option to improve your shoulder mechanics and strengthen your postural muscles. Using the foam roller eliminates cheating, as you must slow down and lock everything in to ensure you don’t fall off the foam roller.
How to do the Foam Roller Pullover:
Foam Roller Pullover Demo on YouTube
Workout variety is nice, and these pullover alternatives will help keep your routine feeling fresh. We love including any of these exercises in our upper body workouts!
The cable pullover is a great dumbbell pullover alternative that provides constant tension, while ensuring your core is fully engaged. For this exercise, you can further switch up the muscles you're targeting by using a flat bench or an incline bench.
How to do the Cable Pullover:
You'll follow the same movements as the dumbbell lat pullover, but the barbell variation allows for the lats to stretch even more. Dumbbells may be a bit easier to grab and set up, but trust us, the barbell is worth the extra set-up time.
How to do the Barbell Pullover:
Due to how the weight of a kettlebell is positioned, this equipment may be the most effective to use.
We recommend performing this variation on the floor so you can focus on not over-engaging the spinal erectors while strengthening the hip flexors in a lengthened position.
How to do the Kettlebell Pullover:
Everything about this pullover is the same as the standard version on a bench, except you are setting up on a stability ball. Try setting up with just shoulders on the ball first, making sure to maintain a flat back in the bridge position.
The more of your body you place on the ball, the more challenging it will be for your core.
How to do the Stability Ball Pullover:
The most important thing to keep in mind with the dumbbell pullover is that it's essential to start with a light weight. See how your upper body mobility responds.
If mobility is not an issue, you can work toward heavier weights, targeting muscle hypertrophy or strength. If your upper body is tight, try doing higher reps with a light weight, working more on muscular endurance, to reset your structure first.
Here are a few more programming tips to follow.
For more pullover workout inspiration, give this upper body workout a shot.
If you don’t have a bench at home, a stable stool or chair will also work. This would put you more in the perpendicular to the bench position, which requires your hips to be up to maintain position.
If you aren't yet ready for that much of a challenge, you can always add them to your at-home workout routine by performing pullovers on the floor.
Unless we're talking about compound lifts, no exercise is necessarily essential. Having said that, the dumbbell pullover exercise, while a smaller movement than a squat or bench press, is still packed with benefits, ranging from improved posture and mobility to added muscle mass.
At the very least, we suggest including a pullover using a lighter weight for a nice weighted stretch. We promise your body will thank you!
If your goal is adding size and mass to your chest and lats, the pullover will help get you there. Regardless of your goals, the pullover has a place in your program.
Related: 13 Dumbbell Chest Exercises - No Bench Needed
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