Dumbbell Pullovers: Why Arnold and Cory Gregory Love Them

Cory Gregory
Written By: Cory Gregory
January 21st, 2015
Updated: December 17th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
138.4K Reads
Dumbbell Pullovers: Why Arnold Loved Them
Now living in the shadow of more popular exercises, the Dumbbell Pullover was one of Arnold's favorites in the gym, and Cory Gregory explains why it should also be one of yours.

It will never be as popular as the bench press or as glamorous as any curl movement. But it remains one of my favorite exercises and I’m determined to make sure it doesn’t fall by the wayside.I’m talking about the dumbbell pullover, a staple in the Arnold-era and one of my favorite unique movements in the gym. For whatever reason, this gem of an exercise seems to have fallen out of people’s routines.

Maybe in the days of fancy machines and new-age workouts, it’s simply become forgotten. I’m here to tell you to ignore that type of thinking. Don’t forget about this exercise because adding the dumbbell pullover to your routine will allow for some noticeable improvements that no other movement creates. Let’s think about it: If it’s good enough for Arnold, it’s definitely good enough for you.

The cross-bench version of the dumbbell pullover was made popular in the 1970s Golden Era of bodybuilding, and Arnold especially, as it was used it most often as a brutally effective finisher in his now famous double-split routines. Arnold always raved about the benefits of the movement, and even used to say that he thought the pullover even expanded his rib cage.

I’m not totally sure the science is there for that particular benefit when it comes to pullovers, but I do know there’s a laundry list of items that makes this an effective weapon in your arsenal. If done properly, it hits everything from the bottom of your pecs to your abs, lats and triceps, working all of these muscles in a beneficial and unique way. Knowing this, how is there anyone not doing pullovers?

Here’s one theory I came up with – perhaps it’s too effective for the entire upper body. Because it hits so many different areas, people aren’t sure where to fit it into their routines, so they simply leave it out. Training big muscle groups like chest and back together usually isn’t the norm, hence the dilemma that is created when it comes to pullovers.

But my advice - and the easy solution – is to just pick a day and do it. The key is just adding it to a day and getting the work done. What’s worked best for me if we’re not doing push/pull workouts (chest and back together) is to make sure we do it on chest day. I keep the reps high, often in the 12-20 rep range, and I really focus on getting a deep stretch for every set, usually doing 3-4 sets.

It’s helped make a huge difference in my physique, improving areas that are hard to target and turning them into strong points. My serratus muscles are much deeper and really stand out, and I truly thinks that’s from years and years of pullover work. At the same time, it’s conditioned my lats, creating some freaky lines and muscle. I can definitely say those two areas became strengths and started to pop when I added pullovers.

But there are a few big keys when it comes to this movement:

  • A lot of people rush through it and don’t focus on getting a proper stretch. Really feeling that deep stretch is a must with these.
  • It’s highly important to keep your hips and head down, which ensures you’re not just swinging the weight. With your hips down, you’ll really feel your lats working and the gains will come.
  • When it’s done correctly, you’ll feel muscles in your upper abs, lats and triceps working hard, giving you a pump that’s hard to be re-created with any other movement.

Whatever your reason is for not doing them, it’s not a good one. Do the right thing and throw these into your routine, and don’t let the wonder of the dumbbell pullover go away.

Posted on: Mon, 03/28/2016 - 14:12

Amazing. This exercise is unique. You could add on tbe post that this actually is very important because it is the only way both the back and chest muscles are stretched simmultaneously. This is very important to correct posture no matter how symmetric is your workout.
Also for those who want to work the core and vacuum, this execise is basically a must because at the end of the movement the core is the part keeping you stable. Imagine 100lbs stretching your chest and core to the maximum, you can start feeling your eyes coming off of your face. I love this exefcise for that.

Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2015 - 13:21

Why don't you just lay flat on a bench and do this workout ? Looks unnecessary to me I've been doing them flat for years and always worked for me

Posted on: Sun, 04/26/2015 - 20:28

That video demonstrates a terrible form to follow. You want a flat back, pelvic tilt, with glutes and abs filled engaged. Please do not spead poor demos of exercises that will do nothing but cause back injuries. Do them the correct way and this is a great exercise for the almost the entire body!!!

Posted on: Sat, 02/14/2015 - 10:10

i'd say 95% of people in the gym don't perform these properly. thank you for taking the time write an article showing what kind of benefits this movement has and proper form.

Posted on: Mon, 02/02/2015 - 22:59

What a great article, it is really one of my favorite exercises!

Posted on: Sat, 01/24/2015 - 10:31

I hav some,doubt in this? U hav so,many other exercises for lats that having a full range, then what is the requirement of this? And its is in a arch way, means the weight of not moving properly against gravity. So the weight resistance time on muscle is comparatively less.And how an exercises changes o the structure or expand the ribguage ? And about lines on muscle, what the lines on ur muscles is its shape or fibre and its becz of ur genetics too, whatever exercises u do for that muscle wil give the same shape or the lines whatever. Exercises can increase the size and strength of the muscle ,cant change the shape...
These are the things I know, I just shared here.if am wrong,am sorry and I need a proper answer for my knowledge..
It possible , plz mail me regarding this...

Posted on: Sat, 04/04/2015 - 11:00

Just do them for 12 weeks and see if you notice a difference. I personally think they work good. Some times I do them on chest day and other times I do them on back day. I have even started doing them on a incline bench on chest day to focus on the upper chest. I think people stopped doing them because of the pull over machines. Like I said just try them out for a while and see what you think.

Posted on: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 08:55

No one does these anymore... it's good to see an article about them. It's a crazy effective exercise and should be in more workout routines!

josh filla
Posted on: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 21:16

This article is spot on and although you don't necessarily have to do them every week you can still see major differences in your physique by doing them. You get a great pump all around especially if you superset them with another chest workout.

Chris H
Posted on: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 20:54

I do 5 sets of 12-15 every chest day. Love it.

Posted on: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 20:20

One of my favorite exercises. No one does these in my gym anymore!

david thomas
Posted on: Mon, 02/02/2015 - 23:50

I love this pullover workout .it's the best workout u can do to me...