Dumbbell Pullover Video Guide

Exercise Profile

  • Strength
  • Dumbbell
  • Compound
  • Push
  • Intermediate
  • Lats, Shoulders, Triceps
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Chest Exercises Diagram Target Muscle Group

Exercise Instructions

  1. Grasp a dumbbell with both hands and position yourself on a flat bench with your shoulder blades resting on the bench.
  2. You should be at a 90 degree angle to the bench. Your back shoulder be straight, knees bent at 90 degrees, and feet firmly plated on the floor.
  3. Holding the dumbbell in both hands, straighten your arms so that dumbbell is directly overhead. This is the starting position.
  4. Bending at the shoulders only and keeping your arms straight, slowly lower the weight down behind your head until the dumbbell reaches the height of the bench.
  5. Slowly raise the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Pullover Tips:

  1. Do not bend at the elbows.
  2. Do not let the dumbbell go too far forward. The starting position is directly above your head and the dumbbell should not go any further than that.

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24 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sat, 08/01/2015 - 17:47

I'm feeling a lot of tension at my lower back/waist while performing this exercise. Is it normal?
The only difference is that the bench I'm using is kinda soft (it has a pillow) and it bends as I move the dumbell.

MikeWines's picture
Posted Mon, 08/03/2015 - 14:42

No, you should primarily feel this through the upper back, lats, and perhaps some in the pecs when you do it. Ensure that your low back isn't arched excessively, take a deep breath, and try to brace your abs like you're about to punched in the stomach before letting the weight descend. Don't ever let the weight drop so low that you allow your low back to come off the bench.

If you can, snag a video next time of your technique and throw the link the comments. I'll check it out when I have time and let you know some other cues you can use to prevent the tension in the low back. It's much easier to tell what's going on via video rather than using words to describe everything.

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Posted Mon, 08/11/2014 - 15:25

To find out if a particular exercise works the muscle that you are targeting, just go to the gym and do extensive sets and reps with that exercise ONLY............within the next few days, you should get a burn or tension and that's your answer.

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Posted Thu, 03/13/2014 - 10:20

I'll keep this short, but here's a fun one for the anatomists.

I've been doing this exercise with a (for me) crazy heavy weight, as part of the HIT routine I got off this website, which works amazingly BTW. You know what? It doesn't seem to work my chest in any appreciable way. It actually seems to work my triceps. I think it's the long head of the triceps.

And before you say I'm bending my elbows, I'm not. It's not working the other parts of the arm at all. Just the medial, upper arm, which must be one of the heads of the triceps. It's clearly not working the same part of the triceps as the push-downs, which I also do much later in the workout.

It has transformed the shape of my arms. It's like the back sides of my arms are twice as wide as they used to be. I've never experienced anything like it.

This surely has to do with the scapular origin of the long head, right?

So, anatomists, why do people always say this is a chest exercise? It seems to be so much more about the posterio-medial upper arm if you use a high weight at least.

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Posted Wed, 06/08/2016 - 10:58

I use this exercise primarily as a triceps mass builder. Performing this exercise, I always bent the elbow. This always gives me a great pump which have resulted in very impressive gains for my arms. This exercise pumps my triceps better than skull crushers.

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Posted Sat, 12/07/2013 - 03:06

can I use the machine pullover instead of this one? and what is the difference between this one and the one with the machine? thank you.

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Posted Wed, 12/25/2013 - 08:40

If you have access to the machine, use it. The difference between the machine pullover and the dumbbell pullover is that the machine uses full range of motion, while this one is half-ranged. Full range means that the muscle (lat or chest) is going from fully stretched position to fully contracted position. Using the bicep curl exercise as an analogy, the dumbbell pullover is like going from the bottom position (fully stretched) to the position when the lower arm is parallel to the ground. The dumbbell straight arm pull back is like moving the arm from parallel to the ground to fully contracted position in the bicep curl position. So if you do both dumbbell pullover and dumbbell straight arm pull back exercises, you get the equivalent range of motion of doing one machine pullover exercise.

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Posted Mon, 10/07/2013 - 07:47
sanket karani

this exercise has really given me those desired chest n even lats...umm...honestly speaking it doesn't hitz my shouldrs in ny way..i do it with 70pounds dumbell....really pumps my chest lika ballon .. :)

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Posted Fri, 07/19/2013 - 07:38

If the moon was made of cheese, would you eat it?

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Posted Mon, 04/15/2013 - 02:27
Max Jabbour

Does this expand the rib cage?

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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 19:49

it works

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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 19:48

After two weeks of three days practice of the pull-over all my other sets have increased their individual reps...I am sure it also improves strength gain

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Posted Sun, 11/11/2012 - 12:06

This workout it's for Chest and Lats.

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Posted Sat, 10/13/2012 - 17:59

Is pullover for chest or back?

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Posted Tue, 04/02/2013 - 16:05


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Posted Fri, 09/06/2013 - 11:45

Neither chest or lat. In order to contract both the chest and lat, you need resistance until the upper arms are close to the side of the torso, like in the machine pullover. But, in this case, the resistance is gone when the arms are at vertical. Don't have to believe me, try it for yourself. I would skip this exercise and find way to do pullup for the lat. For the chest, you have so many other exercises to choose from.

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Posted Thu, 11/21/2013 - 09:01

I would add that I would substitute the dumbbell pullover with the dumbbell straight arm pull back. You can see the demonstration of this exercise by Dr. Jim Stoppani (spelling?) with the search word "dumbbell straight arm pull back". Basically you bend over in standing position or support yourself like in dumbbell one arm row. At start position, the dumbbell would hang straight down. With the arm straight, you slowly swat the dumbbell up until the upper arm is above the torso. This exercise simulate the straight arm cable pull down shown in this web site and the second half of the machine pullover exercise. Here you have resistance when the chest and lat contracted. If you don't believe me, do an experiment-- place one hand on the chest or lat, feel them contracted when the swatting arm go close to the torso. Do the same experiment simulating the pullover exercise stopping when the arm is perpendicular to the body--nothing is contracting. Dr. Stoppani shows the exercise with overhand grip, but I think neutral grip also work (do the same experiment with both grips).

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Posted Thu, 09/13/2012 - 01:47
vishwas shukla

which type of dumbella

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Posted Sat, 08/04/2012 - 06:32

Can we lay straight on the bench rather than perpendicular to it ?

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Posted Tue, 08/21/2012 - 20:44

You can, the reason you would do it perpendicular to the bench is so that it requires more balance in your hips, shoulders and lower back and works the smaller muscles. Nothing wrong with lying across the bench in a normal fashion - it's just a slight less of a workout as you don't have to balance yourself.

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Posted Tue, 04/24/2012 - 23:57

I've been doing this one wrong too! Thanks for another video.

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Posted Mon, 04/23/2012 - 12:15
scott cole

can anyone tell me if dumbbell pullovers are more of a chest workout or a back workout?

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Posted Fri, 12/20/2013 - 20:11

its main for chest bro

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Posted Tue, 04/17/2012 - 04:15

It makes sense