Cable Pull Overs Exercise Guide — How to, Benefits, & Muscles Worked

cable pull over

Cable pull overs put constant tension on your lats and pec muscles simultaneously. 

Lifters can leverage a cable machine to enhance multifaceted muscle building and strength. The adaptability of a cable machine allows for targeted development across any muscle group, underscoring its utility. The research underlines that cable machines significantly amplify muscle activity and kinematics in athletes (1).

Cable pull overs are exemplary for sculpting the lats. They offer versatility in equipment choice, including resistance bands, free weights (kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells), and cables. Pull overs morph into a focused isolation exercise when executed with cables, honing in on the shoulders and arms.

This exercise guide delves into the importance of cable pull overs, exploring the specific muscle groups it engages, its benefits, and viable alternative exercises. Moreover, it presents a detailed, step-by-step tutorial on performing cable pull overs effectively.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

Cable pull overs target your lats, pecs, posterior delts, triceps (long head), and rhomboids. The abs and obliques also act as stabilizing muscles when performing this exercise, making it great for upper body and core workouts.

The cable pull over is an effective exercise for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts looking to increase their upper body strength. You can perform the cable pull overs exercise while standing, sitting, or lying flat on the bench. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the cable pull over exercise with the right form standing.

  1. Set up the cable machine with a rope to a pulley system above your head.
  2. Adjust to your preferred weight and stand facing the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. For more balance, you can place one foot slightly back.
  3. With an overhand grip, grab the rope and bend your elbows with your hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and keep your back straight.
  4. Pull your shoulders back, hinge forward slightly at a 45-degree angle, and keep your knees slightly bent. This is your starting position.
  5. Exhale, then squeeze your shoulders together as you pull, keeping your arms straight. Pull the rope towards your thighs until your elbows are behind your body.
  6. Hold this position for about 5 seconds and reverse the movement, controlling the weight back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat this movement for as many reps as you desire.


Cable pull overs are excellent for strengthening and building muscles in your back, triceps, and pecs. The constant tension of the cable targets these muscles, inducing muscle growth. This study shows that athletes experience muscle hypertrophy in their lats and pecs when doing a pull over exercise (2). Below is a list of the benefits of this exercise.

Improved Pull Strength

Most exercises using dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells work your upper back muscles, paying less attention to your lats. Cable pull overs tightly activate your lats in a fully stretched position, increasing your range of motion and boosting muscle growth in your back. Your lats are an essential muscle for pulling. This can improve your pulling performance with other exercises like pull-ups or deadlifts.

Strengthens Your Core

Your core muscles play an important part by stabilizing and supporting the primary muscles that the cable pull over works. As a result, this exercise equally increases your stability and general body coordination. Using cable pull overs to strengthen your core reduces your chances of injuries and improves your body posture.

Improved Movement & Flexibility

Cable pull overs improve range of motion by putting constant tension on your shoulders. The constant stretch and contraction of these joints and muscles improves movement and flexibility. Studies show that putting your muscles under tension for longer optimizes muscle growth (3).


The cable pull over is a very effective exercise for building a well-rounded and strong back. However, it’s important you don’t limit yourself to this exercise to avoid a plateau. Here are some other effective routines you can add to your workouts. 

Wide Grip Pull-Ups

The wide grip pull up targets your lats and biceps. Secondary muscles this routine works on include the forearms, shoulders, core, and other back muscles. The wide grip pull-up is a bodyweight exercise, and the equipment you need is a pull up bar. 

Bent-Over Rows

Bent-over rows target your lats, traps, rhomboids, and rear delts. Athletes regard bent-over rows as one of the best exercises for building the back. The only requirement for this exercise is a barbell.


Deadlifts are a weight training routine that targets the posterior chain, including the hamstring and back muscles. They improve body posture and increase muscle mass and strength. 


What are cable pullovers good for?

Cable pullovers are good for working the muscles in your back with specific emphasis on your lat muscles. These exercises benefit those who want to improve their performance in other pulling or weightlifting exercises.

What muscles do cable pullovers work?

Cable pull overs work on your delts, triceps, pecs, and rhomboids. Core muscles, like the abs and obliques, act as stabilizing muscles. This exercise helps build a strong and well-rounded back.

Is the cable pullover a good exercise?

Yes, the cable pull over is a good exercise for athletes who want to build a strong back. It also improves the range of motion by constantly putting target muscles and joints under tension, which improves stability and mobility.

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more exercise guides! 


  1. Signorile, J. F., Rendos, N. K., Heredia Vargas, H. H., Alipio, T. C., Regis, R. C., Eltoukhy, M. M., Nargund, R. S., & Romero, M. A. (2017). Differences in Muscle Activation and Kinematics Between Cable-Based and Selectorized Weight Training. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 31(2), 313–322.
  2. Marchetti, P. H., & Uchida, M. C. (2011). Effects of the pullover exercise on the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi muscles as evaluated by EMG. Journal of applied biomechanics, 27(4), 380–384.
  3. Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of physiology, 590(2), 351–362.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.