Dumbbell Pullover: The Finishing Movement To A Stronger Upper Body

When you’re training your upper body, the dumbbell pullover probably isn’t the first exercise that comes to mind. Prioritizing heavy compound movements in your training program always comes before accessory strength exercises. That being said, the dumbbell pullover is a proven and effective chest and back movement, that can add some serious size and strength to your upper body.

What Is The Dumbbell Pullover 

The dumbbell pullover is an accessory strength training movement, which targets your pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi. This movement is a great finishing exercise to strengthen your chest and build more lean muscle mass, especially considering its extensive range of motion.

Dumbbell Pullover Muscles Worked

Electromyographic analysis (EMG) studies have shown that the dumbbell pullover works the chest otherwise known as the pectoralis major and the upper back or latissimus dorsi. The chest is the primary muscle group stimulated in this movement, with the lats as the secondary targeted muscle. Other muscles activated in the dumbbell pullover are the core or abdominals, triceps, and shoulders [R].

Dumbbell Pullover Benefits

1. More Muscle Growth 

Dumbbell pullover benefits lean muscle mass and strength, especially since it targets two of the largest muscle groups in the upper body. By slowly contracting the chest on the eccentric phase of the lift in starting position, the lats are engaged by the extensive and wide range of motion as you lower the weight, only to power through the finish targeting the chest on the concentric phase of the lift once again. The dumbbell pullover really could be considered a compound movement, hitting major muscle groups, joints, and secondary muscle groups in one fluid motion, attributing to more total and upper body strength.

2. Better Physique 

There’s a reason why bodybuilding legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates, and Frank Zane attribute their epic gains to the dumbbell pullover – because it works. The primary benefit of the dumbbell pullover is thought to be the expansion of the ribcage, and engagement of the entire upper body to achieve a bigger range of motion and core recruitment. If your goal is to achieve a chiseled and strong athletic physique, the dumbbell pullover is a key movement in your training split.

3. Body Optimization

Targeting multiple muscle groups at one time will help you burn more calories and build more lean muscle mass, thus achieving optimal body composition. The more muscle mass you have on your frame, the more calories you will burn at rest. The after-burn effect, otherwise known as EPOC or exercise-post oxygen consumption will have your metabolism running on full blast post workout, to help with recovery, thus attributing to better overall composition.

How To Dumbbell Pullover

The key to the dumbbell pullover is the load and range of motion. Due to the range of motion and positioning, you will not be able to perform the dumbbell pullover with an excessive heavy load. Grab a manageable weight that you can lift without compromising form. The pullover can also be performed with a barbell or EZ bar.

  • Grab a single dumbbell with both hands and position yourself on a flat bench with your shoulder blades resting on the bench, feet firmly planted into the ground.
  • Positioned at a 90 degree angle to the bench, your back shoulder be straight, and your knees bent at 90 degrees.
  • Holding the dumbbell in both hands, making a diamond, straighten your arms so that dumbbell is directly overhead above you. This is the starting position.
  • 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. Here you should feel a stretch in the lats.
  • Slowly raise the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

Dumbbell Pullover: Takeaway

The dumbbell pullover is a fantastic and highly effective strength training accessory movement. Perfect for developing more muscle growth and size in your chest as well as your lats, the dumbbell pullover can provide the gains you need to improve overall performance and build a stronger well defined upper body.


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