What are dumbbell pullovers?

A dumbbell pullover is a classic exercise that’s used for primarily building your chest and back. Also known as DB pullover, this exercise involves a pushing movement that’s usually performed with a dumbbell, though barbells are also used in some variations. The dumbbell pullover exercise targets several muscles on your upper body including the back, chest, and shoulders.

dumbbell pullovers include:

  • Pectoralis major 
  • Serratus anterior
  • Latissimus dorsi

The dumbbell pullover exercise also has a secondary impact on your:

  • Triceps
  • Upper abs
  • Lower abs
  • Biceps
  • Tres major and posterior deltoid

In dumbbell pullover chest and back both are targeted. By altering the grip of your width and position of your shoulders, you can target either your chest or the back more.

This exercise has been endorsed by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger for its tremendous benefits. 

How to do dumbbell pullovers?

Here is a detailed step by step explanation of the pullover dumbbell chest exercise for you to perfect its form. This basic version is also known as a straight arm dumbbell pullover. To perform this exercise, you will need a bench and a dumbbell. 

Follow these steps for doing the DB pullover:

  1. Begin the dumbbell pullover exercise by lying perpendicular to a bench. Only your upper back and shoulders should be placed across the bench.
  2. Place your feet firmly on the ground.
  3. Your hips should be just below the bench. Your head should be off the bench too.
  4. Now grab the upper head of the dumbbell with both your hands and hold it over your chest.
  5. Your arms should be comfortably extended with just a small bend in the shoulders.
  6. Press both your palms against the dumbbell’s undersides.
  7. Lower the dumbbell slowly in an arc behind your head. Do this while engaging your core, chest, and back muscles.
  8. Lower the dumbbell until its head reaches the height of your forehead.
  9. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds. 
  10. Bring the dumbbell back to the starting position. Do this while keeping your arms extended and core engaged.

You can start by doing 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps of the straight arm dumbbell pullover.

Which are some variations of dumbbell pullovers?

If you have been doing dumbbell pullovers for some time now, its time to crank up the challenge and try some variations of this exercise:

1. Incline dumbbell pullover: 

As the name suggests, the incline dumbbell pullover is done on a bench inclined at an angle instead of a flat bench.This variation allows you to stretch your lats and pecs more than the basic version. For this pullover dumbbell chest exercise, you need to lie on a bench inclined at an angle of 30-degrees and follow the usual dumbbell pullover routine.

2. Cross bench dumbbell pullover: 

Made popular in the 1970s by Arnold Schwarzenegger, cross bench dumbbell pullover is an excellent exercise for building a bigger back and chest. To do this pullover dumbbell back exercise, you need to position yourself perpendicularly to the bench with only your shoulders placed on it. The rest of the steps remain the same. 

3. Decline dumbbell pullover: 

The decline dumbbell pullover exercise is done by positioning yourself on a decline bench and holding the dumbbells behind your head.Then lower your weights till your arms are parallel to the floor. This is an excellent dumbbell pullover chest exercise that gives the muscles in your chest, lats, and triceps a great stretch.

4. Standing dumbbell pullover: 

This version does away with the bench and lets you perform the exercise while standing. To start the standing dumbbell pullover exercise, stand straight while holding a single dumbbell with both hands.While engaging your core, keeping the arms straight, and squeezing the back a bit, lift the dumbbell over your head in a swift movement.

5. Dumbbell machine pullover

As the name suggests, the dumbbell machine pullover is not done using a bench. Instead, it is done on a pullover machine. The machine version also targets the same sets of lats and pecs. It also offers a significant resistance near the abdominal region, strengthening the muscles in this region. The benefit of using a machine is that it gives you a better resistance over a larger range of motion. 

What are the benefits of dumbbell pullovers?

Here are some great reasons to include the dumbbell pullover back and chest exercise in your workout regime:

  • Activating, strengthening, and building muscles is amongst the most important dumbbell pullover benefits. 
  • Dumbbell pullover back and chest exercise have a significant impact on strengthening your core. A stronger core helps you perform daily activities better and improves your balance and stability. 
  • Pullover dumbbell back and chest exercise have shown to improve chest expansion. This helps in activating and strengthening the muscles in your chest and lungs. In the long run, this prevents cardiac and respiratory problems.
  • It works as a great weight loss exercise that gives you a toned body and prevents obesity-related health problems. 
  • One of the most important dumbbell pullover benefits is that it has a great impact on your flexibility and range of motion, especially in the chest and shoulder region. This makes you more agile and helps in bettering other weight lifting routines.

How to practice dumbbell pullovers safely?

Here are some tips to do bench dumbbell pullovers safely:

  1. Since this is a weighted exercise, your dumbbell pullover form is critical for avoiding injuries. To maintain the perfect dumbbell pullover form, learn the techniques of this exercise from an experienced trainer. 
  2. Use weights as per your exercise capability. Start with lighter weights and gradually build up your practice.
  3. People with lower back or shoulder injuries must avoid dumbbell pullovers.
  4. Keep your back straight without allowing it to arch.
  5. Hold the dumbbell using a diamond grip to avoid it falling off your hands. 
  6. Keep your elbows tucked in and support your neck and shoulders firmly with the bench.


To reap the benefits of a bench dumbbell pullover, add this exercise at least twice in your regime of workout at home or the gym. Explore its variations to keep yourself engaged and motivated for that coveted stronger upper body. 

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