The Often Forgotten Exercise: The Dumbbell Pullover!

Joseph Ohrablo
Written By: Joseph Ohrablo
October 12th, 2009
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
81.8K Reads
The dumbbell pullover has fallen into obscurity. Bodybuilder Joseph Ohrablo explains proper form, and the benefits of performing dumbbell pullovers.

The Dumbbell Pullover for Muscle MassI have an old bodybuilding book called Beef It - Upping Your Muscle Mass. It was published by Musclemag International owner Robert Kennedy, and it has to be from the very early 1980's.

When I first picked up this book when I was about 19 years old, I came across an exercise that looked really weird. It had Mohamad Mohawkway doing an exercise where he was laying long ways across a bench, and stretching a dumbbell backwards using two hands.

They called it dumbbell pullovers.

When I first tried the exercise in my basement, my friend Bruce walked me through it. I could feel my pecs, lats and even abs stretch out at the bottom position.

The next day, those same body parts were in agony!

Some bodybuilders like to do pullovers on chest day, some on lat day. There is a slight variation to the exercise to focus on either one of the two.

The Dumbbell Pullover

The Positioning

You can do pullovers either laying on a flat bench as if your doing a bench press, or you can lay across the bench forming a "cross". If you do the latter, you're going to either need someone holding you down from your knees, or you're going to need to slip your feet under a dumbbell for support so you don't flip over the other side when you start going heavy.

Hold the inside part of the dumbbell with both hands in a diamond shape on the plates, on the top part of the dumbbell. You can either put the dumbbell on your thigh to get started, or have someone hand it to you. You can also put it on the floor, and reach back to get started.

The Muscles

When you're trying to stress the pecs while doing dumbbell pullovers, you'll want to keep the elbows slightly bent. You're going to stretch back before your arms reach parallel and power the dumbbell back up using your pecs, really trying to contract the inner pecs hard at the top. To isolate the lats more then the pecs, keep your arms straight, your hips up a little more, and stretch back as far as you comfortably can. Really stretch the lats out hard. Also, make sure you come all the way up and squeeze the lats hard. You're going to feel both the pecs and the lats - and even the abs - while doing this often forgotten exercise.

Simple and Strong

Dumbbell Pullovers Joe OhrabloForget the Machines and Cables!

Many gyms have a pullover machine, and I see a lot of aspiring bodybuilding doing the stiff arm cable version of this exercise. Both have some merit in a routine.

But the good ole fashion dumbbell pullovers will do the trick in slamming several muscles at once, and you can really push the limits of your strength. I've done a 170 pound dumbbell for about 8 reps, and a 150 pounder for 15. So blow the dust off the big babies and stretch your pecs and lats into some new growth!

raja Abdullah
Posted on: Tue, 11/11/2014 - 13:33

I started gym about 2-3 weeks ago but I am pretty fit overall and gaining.. my question is should I add this exercise in my routine as a beginner or wait about a month before going for this one?

Posted on: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 22:24

Thanks for sharing the article. I got my hands on a copy of Beef It back around 1982-83. I just recently (Jan 15, 2012) re-entered the gym. I'm 53 now and am trying to turn back my clock alittle....sure wish i would have held onto that book.

Oakdale, California

Posted on: Tue, 04/29/2014 - 11:09

That's enough jerry.