How you can Do the Dumbbell Pullover for Higher Physique Muscle and Mobility

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Possibly you first noticed the pullover carried out in low-res movies of Golden-era bodybuilders. Now, it’s frequent to see in business health facilities, rehabilitation amenities, and residential gyms. The dumbbell pullover is a basic again and chest train that’s experiencing a renaissance — and for good causes.

Credit score: Wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

This information covers step-by-step directions, advantages, distinctive concerns, variations, and programming for the dumbbell pullover.

Dumbbell Pullover

Dumbbell Pullover Educational Video

Right here’s Dr. Merrick Lincoln instructing the standard kind for the dumbbell pullover. Assessment the shape and listen to particular suggestions earlier than training the motion by yourself.

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How you can Do the Dumbbell Pullover Step By Step

The dumbbell pullover is an overhead shoulder extension train carried out mendacity on a bench. These step-by-step directions guarantee correct kind. 

Step 1 — Set Up a Robust Basis

Step 1 - A person properly positioned on the gym bench for a pullover.
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

For the standard dumbbell pullover, 5 secure factors of contact are required — The again of your head, shoulder blades, and glutes should stay involved with the bench, and each toes have to be touching the ground. In case your bench is just too tall, inserting your toes on the bench body or atop weight plates is suitable. 

Type Tip: Place your head as far up the bench as attainable. By inserting your head excessive on the bench, you cut back the chance of the bench impeding shoulder vary of movement in the course of the pullover.

Step 2 — Retrieve Your Dumbbell and Brace

Step 2 - A person securely grasping a dumbbell with both hands on the gym bench for a pullover.
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

The pullover requires a spotter as a result of motion of the dumbbell over your face and head. A spotter is a person who assists with the motion and gives bodily help within the occasion of kind breakdown or failure.

A spotter can also be useful, as a result of they’ll go you the dumbbell if you find yourself prepared to start. In any other case, you will want to switch the dumbbell from atop your thigh to above your chest, which might be awkward positioning. Whether or not or not you select to recruit a spotter, you’ll cradle the within high half of the dumbbell in your palms with thumbs and fingers wrapped across the deal with.

Type Tip: Grasp the dumbbell securely earlier than bringing it over your face or earlier than giving your spotter the sign to launch it. The deal with of the dumbbell ought to sit between the bottom of your thumbs and physique of the arms. With one palm on either side of the dumbbell, create a “closed” grasp by overlapping your thumbs behind the deal with and overlapping fingers in entrance.

Step 3 — Decrease to the Backside Place

Step 3 - A person securely holding a dumbbell in the bottom position of a pullover.
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

Start with dumbbell above your higher chest together with your arms vertical and elbows unlocked or barely bent. Brace your belly muscle tissues and preserve the 5 factors of contact with the bench and the ground. Decrease the dumbbell towards the ground with management. Finish the downward motion once you attain the best quantity of shoulder flexion (stretch) you can tolerate and management.

Type Tip: Obtain a tolerable stretch throughout your shoulders on the backside place. The purpose is to maneuver via your full out there vary of overhead movement, not merely bringing the burden as near the bottom as attainable.

Step 4 — Elevate to the Prime Place

Step 4 - A person securely holding a dumbbell in the top position of a pullover.
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

Reverse the motion by pulling the dumbbell via the identical arc of motion. The repetition is full when your higher arms are vertical. Preserve your head locked in impartial and your gaze directed on the ceiling — don’t observe the burden together with your eyes or head. Permitting your head to tilt into extension (wanting overhead) promotes undesirable extension all through all the backbone.

Type Tip: Preserve the identical diploma of arm bend all through every repetition. In case your elbows are bending and straightening in the course of the train, you’re shifting muscular stress away out of your chest and again and onto your triceps.

Step 5 — Finish the Set Safely

Step 5 - A person securely holding a dumbbell on his thigh at the end of a pullover set.
Credit score: Merrick Lincoln, DPT, CSCS / YouTube

If you’re utilizing a spotter (beneficial), point out the set is full. The spotter ought to take the dumbbell with each arms. (1) If you’re coaching solo (at your individual threat), deliver the dumbbell to your thigh.

Type Tip: Keep away from dropping the dumbbell in your face or chest. Except you’re itching for a go to to the hospital and certain cosmetic surgery, security is precedence primary. Make sure the spotter has full management of the dumbbell earlier than you let go. If coaching alone, preserve a safe grip till the dumbbell rests in your thigh.

Dumbbell Pullover Errors to Keep away from

The pullover seems easy and sounds self-explanatory — Lie in your again and “pull the dumbbell over,” proper? Properly, sure, however a plethora of method faults plague this train. Avoiding these errors to enhance the effectiveness and security of the dumbbell pullover.

Extreme Elbow Bend and “Flaring”

Through the conventional dumbbell pullover, slight elbow bend permits the lifter to carry the dumbbell whereas transferring their higher arms within the sagittal aircraft (i.e. parallel to the physique’s midline). When lifters permit extreme elbow bend, the problem of the pullover is lowered, as a result of the dumbbell is now nearer to your shoulders.

Most of the time, extreme elbow bend can also be related to “flared,” or outward-pointing, elbows. This place displays inner rotation of the shoulder and will enhance stress on the within of the elbow (i.e. ulnar collateral ligament stress) in the course of the pullover.

A person in a blue shirt doing a two dumbbell pullover.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Keep away from it: Concentrate on holding your elbows pointing ahead and/or up in the course of the dumbbell pullover. Whereas elbows ought to at all times stay “unlocked,” the pullover ought to by no means really feel like a triceps extension (“cranium crusher”).

Dropping Contact with the Bench

Though permitting your hips to rise from the bench could give the impression of elevated vary of movement, again and hip extension doesn’t equate to shoulder mobility. Not like a competition-style bench press, arching is counterproductive to the pullover as a result of it in the end removes stress from latissimus dorsi. (2)

Worse nonetheless, extreme arching could permit a heavy dumbbell to destabilize your place, which may end in a “glutes over dumbbell” tumble over the again of the bench.

A person on the bench for a dumbbell pullover, with an arched back.
Credit score: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

Keep away from it: Anchor your self to the bench by digging your heels into the ground and aggressively bracing your belly muscle tissues.

Not Permitting the Dumbbell to “Dangle”

A typical mistake is to aim to carry or orient the dumbbell horizontally in the course of the repetition relatively than vertically. This requires pointless motion of the wrist flexors and does little to enhance the pullover. At worst, this error may trigger untimely grip fatigue. 

long-haired person in gym doing flat bench dumbbell pullover.
Credit score: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

Keep away from it: The dumbbell ought to hold naturally out of your arms all through the pullover. (1)  Though you must preserve a agency grip on the dumbbell, keep away from turning or tilting the dumbbell throughout your set.

How you can Progress the Dumbbell Pullover

Lifters new to the pullover ought to begin mild when first studying the train. Like all train, the pullover have to be progressed to make sure ongoing advantages. Start by progressing conventional variables like including reps and weight. Then, in some unspecified time in the future, think about the straightforward method modification mentioned under.

Enhance the Repetition Quantity

As an adjunct train, the pullover is usually programmed within the average repetition vary (i.e. eight to 12 reps) or the next repetition vary (i.e. 12 to 16 reps). Sure, it is a broad advice, however it means you’ll be able to seemingly progress for a while by including a repetition right here and there as in a position. When you’re in a position to full your repetition goal, merely add another rep the next exercise. Within the brief time period, progressing quantity is probably going most acceptable for these centered on hypertrophy. (23)

Enhance the Weight

When you attain the highest of your goal repetition vary and really feel you would do extra, it’s time to enhance the burden of your dumbbell. Alternatively, in case your major purpose is constructing power, progressing weight is prone to be your finest short-term technique. (23) Since small jumps in weight dramatically enhance the resistance skilled by the shoulders on the backside of the pullover, incremental weight development is finest.  

Preserve Fixed Pressure

The dumbbell pullover historically begins and ends when the dumbbell is above the chest. (1) Nonetheless, many of the key muscle tissues of the pullover are offloaded at this level within the vary of movement, as a result of the dumbbell is now not creating demand for the shoulder extensors (i.e. lats, pecs, and so forth.). A minor tweak to pullover method will increase the problem of the early portion of the motion.

A person doing overhead pullovers.
Credit score: Wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Though “fixed stress” is only a catchy misnomer (no muscle experiences fixed stress throughout dynamic train), we are able to intensify the pullover by ending the repetition and starting the following rep whereas the shoulder extensors are nonetheless working. Reasonably than pull the dumbbell over your chest, merely reverse the motion when the dumbbell passes above your brow.

Advantages of the Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover trains the shoulders via an arc of overhead movement. Resulting from its skill to position substantial stress on already lengthened muscle tissues, this easy train affords thrilling advantages. 

Accelerated Muscular Progress

Mechanical stress, or the end-to-end pulling drive skilled by muscle tissue, is mostly accepted to be a major driver of muscle development (hypertrophy). (3)(4) Muscular tissues expertise mechanical stress on account of muscle contraction and stretch-induced contributions. These forces mix and, when nice sufficient, set off a cascade of mobile occasions that in the end end in muscle development. (3)

A strong body builder with big muscles holding an EZ bar.
Credit score: Lebedev Roman Olegovich / Shutterstock

Coaching at lengthy muscle lengths will increase the stretch-induced contributions to mechanical stress. Rising proof means that coaching muscle tissues of their lengthened place ends in greater charges of muscle hypertrophy. (5)(6)(7) Sadly, no long-term hypertrophy research so far has centered on the pullover. Nonetheless, the architectural properties of latissimus dorsi and pectoralis main, two major muscle tissues of the pullover, counsel that coaching at lengthy lengths could also be notably efficient. (4)(8

Not like lat pulldowns, pull-ups, and chin-ups, the resistance torque of the dumbbell pullover is maximized within the overhead place. That is additionally the place the place the common lifter’s lats and pecs are at or close to their longest lengths — Altogether, the dumbbell pullover seems to impose best calls for for “stretch-induced hypertrophy.” 

Improved Flexibility

The dumbbell pullover trains the shoulder extensor muscle tissues at lengthy muscle lengths — within the “stretched” place. Along with the potential hypertrophy advantages, common resistance coaching is thought to advertise adjustments in muscle construction and enhance flexibility. (9)(10) Within the short-term, a single bout of resistance coaching ends in quick will increase in shoulder flexion vary of movement. (11) Improved shoulder flexion could also be fascinating, as a result of even devoted gym-goers can undergo from restricted vary of movement. For instance, aggressive powerlifters — those that focus totally on the bench press, squat, and deadlift — could display substantial limitations in shoulder flexion. (12

Person in white lying on gym bench holding a dumbbell overhead.
Credit score: BalanceFormCreative / Shutterstock

Though analysis on the direct impact of the dumbbell pullover on shoulder flexibility is restricted, proof is mounting to help its efficacy. Morton and colleagues in contrast the results of 5 weeks of resistance coaching or static stretching on flexibility. The resistance coaching group accomplished 4 weekly units of the dumbbell pullover. (10)

Whereas each teams confirmed improved shoulder flexibility, the resistance coaching group confirmed a pattern for superior shoulder extension features. (10) Whereas coaching durations higher than 5 weeks could also be essential to substantiate the impact or present statistically vital findings, it seems the dumbbell pullover is not less than equal to stretching for shoulder flexibility. 

Improved Overhead Energy and Stability

In comparison with different frequent free weight workout routines, the pullover requires your shoulders to work via a higher vary of movement and ends in considerably higher shoulder joint torques when equally loaded. (13) Knowledgeable by the specificity precept, these options could end in superior power and stability diversifications, particularly via the overhead vary of movement. 

Back view of a person holding a dumbbell overhead.
Credit score: Max kegfire / Shutterstock

The pullover works the belly core together with the shoulders. Combining overhead train with core coaching is beneficial for integrating power into whole-body actions and resisting challenges to shoulder place. (14) Programmed appropriately, the pullover seems to be a robust train choice for focused shoulder strengthening and robustification.

Muscular tissues Labored by Dumbbell Pullover

The first motion resisted by the dumbbell pullover is shoulder extension. (1) Due to this fact, the train trains the muscle tissues that stretch the shoulder. Figuring out these muscle tissues could seem easy, however few workout routines display the complexities of useful anatomy higher than the pullover.

In fundamental anatomy, we be taught muscle actions from “anatomical place” — a place together with your arms at your sides. However the dumbbell pullover happens via overhead vary of movement, and since muscle actions could change as joints transfer away from anatomical place, referencing an anatomy textbook to find out the muscle tissues that stretch the shoulder labored in the course of the pullover could also be deceptive. Furthermore, totally different elements of broad or fan-shaped muscle tissues could also be biased all through sure ranges of movement. In excessive circumstances, one a part of a muscle could have a completely totally different motion than different elements of the muscle. (15)(16)

Close up view of the back and  shoulder muscles.
Credit score: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock

Till a long-term coaching research consisting solely of dumbbell pullovers is performed, we lean on anatomical modeling and electromyography research to deduce the reply to the query, “What muscle tissues are skilled by the pullover?”

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is a broad, fan-shaped muscle spanning from the low- and mid-back, pelvis, and again of the ribcage as much as the arm. (2)(8) Latissimus dorsi is energetic in the course of the Pullover. (17)(18)(19) The decrease fibers, or iliac half, which attaches to the pelvis, are best for producing shoulder extension, the motion resisted by the pullover. (8)(16

Pectoralis Main

Positioned prominently on the chest, the pectoralis main is one other massive, fan-shaped muscle. It’s generally divided into two elements — the higher clavicular head and the center to decrease sternocostal head. Every half contributes disproportionately to varied shoulder actions.

For pec coaching, actions like bench press, pec flye, and incline press are frequent. Nonetheless, the sternocostal head of pectoralis main is energetic in the course of the pullover. (18)(19) Out there knowledge counsel the decrease fibers of pectoralis main act to increase the shoulder via the overhead vary of movement. (16) Due to this fact, the sternocostal pectoralis main is taken into account a major goal of the pullover. 

Posterior Deltoid

The posterior deltoid, or “rear delt,” extends the shoulder. It’s energetic in the course of the pullover. (19) From a mechanical standpoint, research counsel the posterior deltoid is a extra environment friendly shoulder extensor in the course of the pullover than the latissimus dorsi or pectoralis main. (15)(16) It is because posterior deltoid demonstrates extra “leverage” to provide extension (i.e. a higher extension “second arm”) all through the arc of movement skilled by the pullover. (15)(16) Whereas the pullover may not be your first choose relating to posterior deltoid coaching, don’t underestimate its potential to construct the again of your shoulders.  

Triceps Brachii

The triceps brachii’s major motion is to increase the elbow. As well as, the lengthy head of triceps brachii extends the shoulder. Finally, the triceps stop extreme elbow flexion and help with the precept actions of the pullover. The muscle controls the motion into shoulder flexion in the course of the downward section and extends the shoulder in the course of the upward section. (17)(18)(19)

Serratus Anterior and Abdominals

The serratus anterior consists of small projections that run diagonally alongside the ribcage. It acts on the shoulder blade. The decrease portion of serratus anterior has been proven to be notably energetic within the backside half of the pullover. (20

Close up view of the Serratus Anterior on a shirtless person.
Credit score: ShotPrime Studio / Shutterstock

The belly muscle tissues are energetic in the course of the Pullover to withstand extreme arching of the trunk, which might in any other case be brought on by the dumbbell touring overhead. (18) It’s truthful to categorize the pullover as an anti-extension belly train. 

How you can Program the Dumbbell Pullover

As a single-joint motion, the dumbbell pullover is usually categorized as an adjunct train. Historically, accent workout routines are carried out after multi-joint (“compound”) workout routines. When programming equipment, keep away from extraordinarily heavy hundreds and one-repetition most makes an attempt. Reasonably, give attention to a number of grueling, moderate-to-high repetition units. 

Average Weight, Average Repetitions

These wishing to construct muscle and power with the pullover ought to think about three to 4 units of eight to 12 repetitions. Carried out after chin-ups or heavy lat pulldowns, pullovers permit you wring out a bit extra hypertrophy work with out taxing your grip. 

Low to Average Weight, Excessive Repetitions

Pullovers are a higher train to start or finish your higher physique exercise. As an opener firstly of your exercise, pullovers prime your shoulders for subsequent overhead lifts. As a finisher to finish your coaching session, pullovers present a dose of “pump work” and a potent stimulus for hypertrophy. Two to 4 units of twelve to sixteen repetitions will do the job.

Pullover Variations

Basic workout routines are inclined to accumulate many variants over time, and the pullover isn’t any totally different. Pullover variations have a tendency to modify out the resistance implement (e.g. dumbbell for a barbell) or the help floor (e.g. bench for a Swiss ball). 4 of the most typical pullover variations are proven under. 

Cross-Bench Dumbbell Pullover

The cross-bench dumbbell pullover is carried out by orienting the physique perpendicular to the bench and performing the train from a bridge place.

Not solely does this setup facilitate exercise of the glutes however it additionally encourages a secure pelvis place and permits the solo lifter to position the dumbbell conveniently on the bench earlier than and after train completion. 

EZ-Bar Pullover

With out entry to a full run of dumbbells? Having bother securely holding the dumbbell in the course of the pullover? If that’s the case, you might want to strive the EZ-bar pullover.

The EZ-bar permits incremental loading with “change plates.” The semi-pronated internal grips on the bar could also be simpler to carry for these with stiff forearms, tight shoulders, or smaller arms.

Single-Arm Pullover

These coaching for shoulder stability could want to think about the single-arm dumbbell pullover. By coaching unilaterally, you’re difficult your shoulder to regulate motion in an extra aircraft.

Owing to the pure tradeoff between stability and most load, anticipate to drop the burden 60 to 80% for the single-arm dumbbell pullover.

Cable Pullover

Cable pullovers are carried out with a pulley or cable column set to a low place, whereas holding a triceps rope, strap, or brief bar. The cable pullover adjustments the road of the resistance. As a substitute of encountering most resistance torque at or close to the underside place as within the dumbbell pullover, the shoulders expertise most resistance torque earlier within the motion throughout cable pullovers.

The cable resistance additionally will increase the productive vary of movement of the train. Reasonably than ending the repetition with vertical arms, proceed “pulling over” till the cable gently grazes your brow. 


Is the dumbbell pullover a again train or a chest train?

It’s each. The pullover additionally hits muscle tissues within the shoulders, arms, and trunk. (16)(17)(18)(19)(20)
Should you’re utilizing a coaching break up, you will want to resolve the way to categorize the pullover. Some like to incorporate it in “chest day,” as a result of Pullovers hit the decrease portion of pectoralis main. (16) Others put pullovers on “again day,” as it may be used to coach latissimus dorsi earlier than or after grip-intensive train reminiscent of rows, lat pulldowns, or pull-ups. The excellent news? There isn’t any mistaken reply. 

Can I simply do straight-arm pushdowns as a substitute?

The straight-arm pushdown, additionally referred to as “stiff-arm pulldown” or “lat prayer,” is a shoulder extension train carried out standing with a cable machine or excessive pulley. This train could also be interesting for a number of causes. There’s isn’t any must occupy a bench, the upright place permits you to monitor your kind (and your “pump”) within the mirror, and altering weights is less complicated on the cable stack. However for lifters in search of hypertrophy, the crux of the query will not be comfort and even the “really feel” of the train. It comes right down to inherent variations between train biomechanics. 
The pullover and pulldown are totally different workout routines, every with its personal distinctive resistance profile and muscular exercise sample. (18) Anecdotally, lifters are inclined to “really feel” their lats extra throughout pulldowns than pullovers. The reverse appears to be true for “feeling” pectoralis main. Certainly, the pulldown reveals higher muscle exercise within the latissimus dorsi than the pullover, and the pullover reveals higher muscle exercise in all elements of pectoralis main than the pulldown. (18
Does this imply the pullover is healthier for again and the pulldown is healthier for chest? Completely not. This false impression stems from a standard misunderstanding of train electromyography (EMG) research. Increased EMG doesn’t equal a “higher train,” as a result of we can not predict long run coaching outcomes from EMG research alone. (24)(25) Furthermore, EMG will not be a legitimate indicator of mechanical stress, a key driver of muscular diversifications. (24)(3)
In brief, many options have to be thought-about when figuring out train choice. These embrace, however usually are not restricted to coaching targets, private preferences, and the way the train matches into this system as an entire. 

How can hit my lats or pecs tougher within the pullover?

Presently, there is no such thing as a definitive pullover method modification to bias one agonist muscle over one other. Though some have claimed flaring the elbows in the course of the pullover favors latissimus dorsi and holding elbows straight favors pectoralis main, both method compromises the train.
Flaring the elbows outward ends in shoulder inner rotation, which takes stress off latissimus dorsi. (26) — Not fascinating in case you want to reap the benefits of elevated stress within the muscle, stretch-mediated hypertrophy, and adaptability advantages of the train. (4)(8)(9)
Holding your elbows fully straight appears to make it simpler to “really feel” or contract your pecs on the high of the repetition, however it additionally requires excessive shoulder abduction on the backside of the repetition (consider your biceps touching your earlobes). I don’t advocate both choice. 

The Perplexing Pullover

The pullover train is a conundrum. It’s carried out in hardcore bodybuilding gyms and rehabilitation clinics, alike. It’s an train for constructing muscle and enhancing vary of movement. It’s a again train and a chest train. It’s cherished and hated. 

Regardless of its complexities, the dumbbell pullover has stood the take a look at of time. Possibly now’s the time to give attention to pullovers in your coaching program? 


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