Use The Dumbbell Pullover For Monster Chest & Back Gains

dumbbell pullover

A dumbbell classic to build your chest and back.

The dumbbell classic is an exercise that many people seem to leave out of their routines these days; the dumbbell pullover. Since bodybuilding and fitness became a part of popular culture, training and developing the chest muscles have always been considered the most important muscle to be worked on for the adult male. It’s practically the symbol of manliness anywhere you go. But what is sometimes forgotten about the dumbbell pullover is also the idea of the back and how this exercise can improve both chest and back gains.

So, why the argument for the dumbbell pullover? Well, when you have all the old school pros swearing by the exercise then it may be time to take notice. Frank Zane, Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all sung the praises of this all-time classic.

Besides working the chest, all these top bodybuilders have claimed to receive great back gains from the exercise, particularly the lats. The range of motion you can get with this exercise effectively works the entire upper body ensuring some solid gains.

You may be wondering about the rumor that this classic workout can do some serious damage to your shoulders. That may be true when you first start out, particularly when you don’t have the form down and you’re using considerable weight.

But all in all, with controlled movements and light to moderate weight, especially for beginners, you won’t be putting too much stress on your shoulders when performing the movement. It’s all about technique, which we will get to shortly.

Let’s dive into the dumbbell pullover and see why this exercise is so great. There are tons of reasons why this should be in your routine and we’ll break down for you all of those benefits you want to see most and why this should absolutely be a part of your overall routine.

dumbbell pullover

Muscles Worked & Benefits Of The Dumbbell Pullover

For the dumbbell pullover, this exercise works multiple muscles, mainly your lats and chest. But what you will see with something like this are secondary muscles that will get great work done as well. Those arm muscles, more specifically your triceps, will see work get done as this muscle works to stabilize your arm and provide the best for this movement. But on the whole, this is effective for building your lats and chest.

Those seeking great benefits will notice that this exercise can provide for quite a few. You want an exercise that will do more than just build muscle, although that is highly important. But something like the dumbbell pullover can do this and much more and is a great way to see gains while also supporting your physical health and improving other lifts.

Benefits of the dumbbell pullover include:

  • Building muscle: This exercise will work to build strength and size in your back and chest by working those muscles, increasing resistance, and giving them a chance to grow. All in all, this is a great exercise for building sports specific and functional muscle.
  • Work secondary and stabilizer muscles: With this exercise working secondary muscles, you will see those smaller, often forgotten stabilizer muscles get good work done. This will only enhance your overall gains, even if they aren’t the ones to traditionally make a physique pop.
  • Increase flexibility and mobility: Working with this exercise and having your shoulder be a pivotal point of movement, you improve the range of motion while also increase flexibility and mobility for the best gains possible.
  • Enhance stability: With increased muscle and better flexibility and mobility, you start to build all-around gains leading to more stability. Plus, an increase in chest and back strength work for full body stability as these are obviously two large muscles.

How Best To Perform The Dumbbell Pullover

Here are the steps for performing the dumbbell pullover effectively (1). It is important that you work to perform this with the best technique so you see great gains while also keeping yourself safe from injury, or at the very least unwanted pain.

  1. Lie flat on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground in front of you. Grab your desired dumbbell of choice.
  2. Engage your core and lift the dumbbell so it is above your chest. Be sure to keep your feet as firm on the ground as possible.
  3. When ready, gently lower the dumbbell over your head, keeping your core engaged and a slight bend in the elbow, although your arms will be almost straight.
  4. Once the weight is near your ears, reverse the movement and bring the weight back over your chest.
  5. Repeat for your desired number of sets and reps.

dumbbell pullover

Dumbbell Pullover Alternatives

When it comes to a great alternative, what you need most are those exercises that will give you similar gains but those which will diversify your workout. For alternatives to the dumbbell pullover, what you will find are those exercises that will work your back and chest so you see great gains all around.

Dumbbell pullover alternatives include:

These are just to name a few, but by looking into other alternatives, you can structure a good training plan and one that will work well for your gains. Plus, this will keep those workouts as engaging as possible so you never grow bored.

Check out our list of the Best Dumbbells for more great lifting products!

Wrap Up

The dumbbell pullover is a fantastic exercise to see great gains and can work wonders for you and all your goals. An effective exercise to build chest and back strength, what you will find is other muscles worked that can aid in your overall aesthetic and physical wellbeing. By performing this, or any of the great dumbbell pullover alternatives you will find, you start to give yourself the best chance at improving strength, size, flexibility, mobility, and much more. Consider the dumbbell pullover today and see what it can do for all your goals.

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*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Leavy, C. (2004). “Dumbbell Pullover”. (source)
Jonathan Salmon
Managing editor of Generation Iron, Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. He has been writing about bodybuilding, combat sports, and strength sports for over 8 years. Check out his YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Sound Cloud for in-depth MMA analysis.