Pullover lying on a bench with a dumbbell and barbell

Exercise pullover lying on a bench with a dumbbell and barbell for the pectoral muscles, triceps and back

Pullover: photo.

In bodybuilding, the dumbbell pullover belongs to a number of undeservedly forgotten and underutilized exercises. Despite its unpopularity, the movement is incredibly effective in pumping three muscle groups at once: chest, back and triceps. With the right technique, a pullover with a dumbbell lying down can not only significantly accelerate weight gain, but also significantly increase strength indicators.

What muscles work in a lying pullover exercise

Pullover exercise is a unique complex movement that is performed in large amplitude. It includes not only powerful muscle contraction, but also stretching. The following muscle groups are involved in a lying pullover:

  • Chest.
  • Back (mostly lats).
  • Triceps (mostly long head).

With so much muscle recruitment, the bench pullover can sometimes be difficult to assign to a specific group. Taking into account which muscles work in the pullover exercise with maximum load, the movement belongs to the pectoral group. In some cases, it is inserted on the day of working out the back. Although after the publication of research from the Lavras State University in Brazil, it turned out that a pullover with dumbbells lying on a bench maximally loads the triceps. Therefore, its implementation on the day of working hands is also justified.

The position of the bench in the pullover determines which muscles the exercise will exert a load on. There are two main options:

On a straight bench (classic) – this is a variant of the exercise, a pullover for the pectoral muscles, it also loads the triceps well. The work of the lats is minimal (it loses to any movement for the back muscles, therefore it cannot be considered as an effective option).

Horizontal bench pullover

On an incline bench (head down) – in this version, the load on the lats is significantly increased.

Inclined bench pullover

In terms of maximum efficiency, a dumbbell pullover in a reclining position is much more beneficial than on a flat bench. It also effectively engages the pecs and triceps, but in addition activates the lats due to the change in the load angle and a significant increase in the range of motion.

The choice of the tool plays a minor role on the target muscles, although it is much more efficient to perform the movement with a dumbbell than with a barbell. The dumbbell gives you more freedom of movement, improves weight control, and slightly reduces hand strain.

Pros and cons of exercise

The dumbbell pullover exercise is a technically challenging movement. Therefore, its main disadvantage is the difficulty in mastering. This was also one of the reasons for its low popularity in gyms.

If performed incorrectly, the movement will not only not give the desired effect, but also acquire an increased risk of injury.

Also a conditional disadvantage is the involvement of three muscle groups. Thanks to this, it is necessary to make pullovers so that the working muscles have time to recover before the next workout.

Nevertheless, when mastering the technique, the athlete receives a number of tangible benefits:

  • High-quality workout of the pectorals with simultaneous stretching of the muscles (especially useful for those who have problems with posture due to shortening of the pectorals and overstretching of the back muscles).
  • Lats pumping.
  • Powerful load on the long head of the triceps.
  • Ability to work with large weights without risk of injury.
  • Expressed development of power indicators.

Dumbbell pullover exercise technique

Understanding how to make a pullover correctly is the key to its highest efficiency. Therefore, mastering all the technical subtleties becomes a paramount task for any athlete.

Execution technique:

  1. Place the dumbbell on the floor near the bench (so that you can grab it with your hands). Lie on a surface so that your shoulder blades, pelvis, and back of your head are snug against the bench. Take the dumbbell with both hands by the inside of the disc, and then lift it above you. This is the starting position.
  2. Start slowly pulling the dumbbell back and behind your head. During abduction, the elbows should be minimally bent.
  3. Take the projectile back, lowering it as low as possible (without changing the position of the body).
  4. Pause for 0.5 seconds to further stretch the muscles, then return the weight to its original position above you.

pullover technique

While mastering the technique, it is important to understand that movement is carried out only in the shoulder joint. The arms fix the weight, the angle at the elbow does not change throughout the entire movement phase. The case is securely fixed.

When performed at an angle, the technique does not change. Except for the position of the hands when the dumbbell is abducted to the starting position Due to the inclination of the bench, the shell at the starting point is closer to the hips.

Barbell Pullover Option

In the main technical nuances, pullovers with a barbell are no different from working with dumbbells or even a pancake (this option loads the brushes as much as possible and is more often intended for those who simultaneously develop grip strength).

Execution technique:

Lie down on the bench. When working with light weight, the bar can be “cast” while lowering to the back. Otherwise, it is better to take the weight off the floor or ask your partner to put the shell directly into your hands.

With your elbows slightly bent, begin to shift your weight back and down.

Take a short break and return the weight to its original position.


Barbell Pullover

In such a performance, it is important to determine the optimal grip width. The position of the hands should be narrow enough so that 1.5-2 fists are placed between the thumbs. Too wide a grip will weaken the stress on the main muscles, and a narrow position of the arms (close to each other) will create an increased negative effect on the hands.


While a pullover is the perfect exercise for chasing heavy weights, correct technique is key. Without observing the basic conditions, work with both light and heavy weights will not bring the desired result. There is a misconception that you need to lie down across the bench to perform.


Breathable pullover

This option provides almost no benefit (other than stretching the abs), but it puts a lot of stress on the vertebrae in the neck, potentially leading to injury.

The number of repetitions and sets depends on the training cycle.

  • When working for muscle hypertrophy, it is optimal to perform 10-12 repetitions in 3-4 sets (among which 1-2 approaches should be abandoned).
  • When working on the growth of strength indicators, it is optimal to do 6-8 repetitions in 5 sets.

Pullover on a bench lying with a dumbbell in video format

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