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Maybe 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 services, and residential gyms. The dumbbell pullover is a basic again and chest train that’s experiencing a renaissance — and for good causes.

Credit: Wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

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

Dumbbell Pullover

Dumbbell Pullover Instructional Video

Here’s Dr. Merrick Lincoln instructing the standard type for the dumbbell pullover. Review the shape and listen to particular suggestions earlier than working towards the motion by yourself.

How to 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 type. 

Step 1 — Set Up a Strong Foundation

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

For the standard dumbbell pullover, 5 steady factors of contact are required — The again of your head, shoulder blades, and glutes should stay involved with the bench, and each ft should be touching the ground. If your bench is just too tall, putting your ft on the bench body or atop weight plates is suitable. 

Form Tip: Position your head as far up the bench as attainable. By putting your head excessive on the bench, you scale back the probability 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: 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 supplies bodily help within the occasion of type breakdown or failure.

A spotter can be useful, as a result of they will go you the dumbbell if you find yourself prepared to start. Otherwise, you will have to switch the dumbbell from atop your thigh to above your chest, which may be awkward positioning. Whether 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.

Form 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 fingers. With one palm on both sides of the dumbbell, create a “closed” grasp by overlapping your thumbs behind the deal with and overlapping fingers in entrance.

Step 3 — Lower to the Bottom Position

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

Begin with dumbbell above your higher chest together with your arms vertical and elbows unlocked or barely bent. Brace your belly muscular tissues and preserve the 5 factors of contact with the bench and the ground. Lower the dumbbell towards the ground with management. End the downward motion once you attain the best quantity of shoulder flexion (stretch) that you may tolerate and management.

Form Tip: Achieve a tolerable stretch throughout your shoulders on the backside place. The objective is to maneuver by means of your full obtainable vary of overhead movement, not merely bringing the burden as near the bottom as attainable.

Step 4 — Raise to the Top Position

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

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

Form Tip: Maintain the identical diploma of arm bend all through every repetition. If 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 — End the Set Safely

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

If you might be utilizing a spotter (really useful), point out the set is full. The spotter ought to take the dumbbell with each fingers. (1) If you might be coaching solo (at your personal danger), carry the dumbbell to your thigh.

Form Tip: Avoid dropping the dumbbell in your face or chest. Unless you’re itching for a go to to the hospital and sure cosmetic surgery, security is precedence primary. Ensure 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 Mistakes to Avoid

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

Excessive Elbow Bend and “Flaring”

During the standard dumbbell pullover, slight elbow bend permits the lifter to carry the dumbbell whereas transferring their higher arms within the sagittal airplane (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.

More usually than not, extreme elbow bend can be related to “flared,” or outward-pointing, elbows. This place displays inside rotation of the shoulder and should 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: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Avoid it: Focus on maintaining your elbows pointing ahead and/or up in the course of the dumbbell pullover. While elbows ought to at all times stay “unlocked,” the pullover ought to by no means really feel like a triceps extension (“skull crusher”).

Losing Contact with the Bench

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

Worse nonetheless, extreme arching might permit a heavy dumbbell to destabilize your place, which may lead to 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: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

Avoid it: Anchor your self to the bench by digging your heels into the ground and aggressively bracing your belly muscular tissues.

Not Allowing the Dumbbell to “Hang”

A typical mistake is to try to carry or orient the dumbbell horizontally in the course of the repetition somewhat 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: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

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

How to Progress the Dumbbell Pullover

Lifters new to the pullover ought to begin gentle when first studying the train. Like any train, the pullover should be progressed to make sure ongoing advantages. Begin by progressing conventional variables like including reps and weight. Then, sooner or later, think about the easy method modification mentioned beneath.

Increase the Repetition Volume

As an adjunct train, the pullover is often programmed within the average repetition vary (i.e. eight to 12 reps) or a better repetition vary (i.e. 12 to 16 reps). Yes, this can be a broad suggestion, nevertheless it means you possibly can doubtless progress for a while by including a repetition right here and there as ready. Once you’re in a position to full your repetition goal, merely add another rep the next exercise. In the brief time period, progressing quantity is probably going most acceptable for these targeted on hypertrophy. (23)

Increase the Weight

Once you attain the highest of your goal repetition vary and really feel you possibly can do extra, it’s time to enhance the burden of your dumbbell. Alternatively, in case your main objective is constructing power, progressing weight is more likely 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.  

Keep Constant Tension

The dumbbell pullover historically begins and ends when the dumbbell is above the chest. (1) However, many of the key muscular 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: Wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

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

Benefits of the Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover trains the shoulders by means of an arc of overhead movement. Due to its skill to put substantial rigidity on already lengthened muscular tissues, this straightforward train presents thrilling advantages. 

Accelerated Muscular Growth

Mechanical rigidity, or the end-to-end pulling power skilled by muscle tissue, is mostly accepted to be a main driver of muscle progress (hypertrophy). (3)(4) Muscles expertise mechanical rigidity 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 lead to muscle progress. (3)

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

Training at lengthy muscle lengths will increase the stretch-induced contributions to mechanical rigidity. Growing proof means that coaching muscular tissues of their lengthened place leads to greater charges of muscle hypertrophy. (5)(6)(7) Unfortunately, no long-term hypertrophy research so far has targeted on the pullover. However, the architectural properties of latissimus dorsi and pectoralis main, two main muscular tissues of the pullover, counsel that coaching at lengthy lengths could also be notably efficient. (4)(8) 

Unlike lat pulldowns, pull-ups, and chin-ups, the resistance torque of the dumbbell pullover is maximized within the overhead place. This can be the place the place the typical lifter’s lats and pecs are at or close to their longest lengths — Altogether, the dumbbell pullover seems to impose supreme calls for for “stretch-induced hypertrophy.” 

Improved Flexibility

The dumbbell pullover trains the shoulder extensor muscular tissues at lengthy muscle lengths — within the “stretched” place. In addition to the potential hypertrophy advantages, common resistance coaching is understood to advertise modifications in muscle construction and enhance flexibility. (9)(10) In the short-term, a single bout of resistance coaching leads to instant 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 — might exhibit substantial limitations in shoulder flexion. (12) 

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

Although analysis on the direct impact of the dumbbell pullover on shoulder flexibility is proscribed, 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)

While each teams confirmed improved shoulder flexibility, the resistance coaching group confirmed a development for superior shoulder extension positive factors. (10) While coaching durations larger than 5 weeks could also be essential to substantiate the impact or present statistically important findings, it seems the dumbbell pullover is no less than equal to stretching for shoulder flexibility. 

Improved Overhead Strength and Stability

Compared to different frequent free weight workout routines, the pullover requires your shoulders to work by means of a larger vary of movement and leads to considerably larger shoulder joint torques when equally loaded. (13) Informed by the specificity precept, these options might lead to superior power and stability variations, particularly by means of the overhead vary of movement. 

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

The pullover works the belly core together with the shoulders. Combining overhead train with core coaching is really useful 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.

Muscles Worked by Dumbbell Pullover

The main motion resisted by the dumbbell pullover is shoulder extension. (1) Therefore, the train trains the muscular tissues that stretch the shoulder. Identifying these muscular tissues might seem easy, however few workout routines exhibit the complexities of purposeful anatomy higher than the pullover.

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

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

Until a long-term coaching research consisting solely of dumbbell pullovers is carried out, we lean on anatomical modeling and electromyography research to deduce the reply to the query, “What muscles are trained 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 lively in the course of the Pullover. (17)(18)(19) The decrease fibers, or iliac half, which attaches to the pelvis, are handiest for producing shoulder extension, the motion resisted by the pullover. (8)(16) 

Pectoralis Major

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. Each half contributes disproportionately to varied shoulder actions.

For pec coaching, actions like bench press, pec flye, and incline press are frequent. However, the sternocostal head of pectoralis main is lively in the course of the pullover. (18)(19) Available knowledge counsel the decrease fibers of pectoralis main act to increase the shoulder by means of the overhead vary of movement. (16) Therefore, the sternocostal pectoralis main is taken into account a main goal of the pullover. 

Posterior Deltoid

The posterior deltoid, or “rear delt,” extends the shoulder. It’s lively 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) This is as a result of posterior deltoid demonstrates extra “leverage” to supply extension (i.e. a larger extension “moment arm”) all through the arc of movement educated by the pullover. (15)(16) While the pullover may not be your first decide in the case of posterior deltoid coaching, don’t underestimate its potential to construct the again of your shoulders.  

Triceps Brachii

The triceps brachii’s main motion is to increase the elbow. In addition, the lengthy head of triceps brachii extends the shoulder. Ultimately, the triceps forestall 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 lively within the backside half of the pullover. (20) 

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

The belly muscular tissues are lively in the course of the Pullover to withstand extreme arching of the trunk, which might in any other case be attributable to the dumbbell touring overhead. (18) It’s honest to categorize the pullover as an anti-extension belly train. 

How to Program the Dumbbell Pullover

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

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetitions

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

Low to Moderate Weight, High Repetitions

Pullovers are a larger train to start or finish your higher physique exercise. As an opener in the beginning 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

Classic workout routines are likely 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). Four of the most typical pullover variations are proven beneath. 

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 nevertheless it additionally encourages a steady pelvis place and permits the solo lifter to put the dumbbell conveniently on the bench earlier than and after train completion. 

EZ-Bar Pullover

Without entry to a full run of dumbbells? Having bother securely holding the dumbbell in the course of the pullover? If so, chances are you’ll want to attempt the EZ-bar pullover.

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

Single-Arm Pullover

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

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 modifications the road of the resistance. Instead 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. Rather 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 muscular tissues within the shoulders, arms, and trunk. (16)(17)(18)(19)(20)
If you’re utilizing a coaching break up, you will have to resolve tips on how 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 “back day,” as it may be used to coach latissimus dorsi earlier than or after grip-intensive train comparable to rows, lat pulldowns, or pull-ups. The excellent news? There isn’t any flawed reply. 

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

The straight-arm pushdown, additionally known 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 type (and your “pump”) within the mirror, and altering weights is simpler on the cable stack. But for lifters searching for hypertrophy, the crux of the query will not be comfort and even the “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 likely to “feel” their lats extra throughout pulldowns than pullovers. The reverse appears to be true for “feeling” pectoralis main. Indeed, the pulldown exhibits larger muscle exercise within the latissimus dorsi than the pullover, and the pullover exhibits larger muscle exercise in all elements of pectoralis main than the pulldown. (18) 
Does this imply the pullover is best for again and the pulldown is best for chest? Absolutely not. This false impression stems from a standard misunderstanding of train electromyography (EMG) research. Higher EMG doesn’t equal a “better exercise,” as a result of we can not predict long run coaching outcomes from EMG research alone. (24)(25) Moreover, EMG will not be a legitimate indicator of mechanical rigidity, a key driver of muscular variations. (24)(3)
In brief, many options should be thought-about when figuring out train choice. These embody, however aren’t restricted to coaching objectives, private preferences, and the way the train matches into this system as an entire. 

How can hit my lats or pecs more durable within the pullover?

Presently, there isn’t a definitive pullover method modification to bias one agonist muscle over one other. Although some have claimed flaring the elbows in the course of the pullover favors latissimus dorsi and maintaining elbows straight favors pectoralis main, both method compromises the train.
Flaring the elbows outward leads to shoulder inside rotation, which takes rigidity off latissimus dorsi. (26) — Not fascinating when you want to reap the benefits of elevated rigidity within the muscle, stretch-mediated hypertrophy, and adaptability advantages of the train. (4)(8)(9)
Keeping your elbows fully straight appears to make it simpler to “feel” or contract your pecs on the high of the repetition, nevertheless it additionally requires excessive shoulder abduction on the backside of the repetition (consider your biceps touching your earlobes). I don’t suggest both possibility. 

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 beloved and hated. 

Despite its complexities, the dumbbell pullover has stood the take a look at of time. Maybe now’s the time to concentrate on pullovers in your coaching program? 


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