Train your chest and back muscles simultaneously with the pullover


Pullovers are great for training your upper body. But what makes this exercise special is its ability to work opposing, chest and back muscles simultaneously. While pullovers mainly hit your chest muscles, they recruit your back muscles to assist the movement. Although this is considered to be an isolation chest exercise, it effectively works your lats, triceps, and even test many of your stabilizer muscles, like your abs, upper back, and glutes.

There is some debate as to whether the pullover is a chest or back exercise. Those who say it is a chest exercise are right. But those who say it is a back exercise are right too. Though some studies suggest that your chest is trained more than your back, it still doesn't take away too much from the fact that you back is recruited in this movement as well. Ultimately, the pullover maximizes your muscular development and you can you use it to through different ranges of motion and from various angles to hit different muscle functions.




The pullover can have a positive impact if you incorporate it into your routine, but it is not for everyone. People with reduced upper body mobility and shoulder issues should avoid this exercise. However, the dumbbell pullover provides you with a few key benefits.


Upper Body Strength

The pullover is considered an isolation chest exercise because it is a single-joint movement. However, it effectively recruits and works your triceps and lats as well. This will help you build muscle mass and develop strength in your upper body. This also enhances you mind-muscle connection because it's an exercise that seems to primarily activate your pecs and require assistance from other muscles to perform the movement.


Stabilizer Muscles Training

The pullover not only activates your chest, but it also tests many of your stabilizer muscles in your body. The movement works the stabilizers in your abs, upper back, scapular region, and glutes. While these muscles are not recruited in moving the weight, they are required to support the major muscles in order to keep them balanced. This is a good exercise to test your stabilizers, which can easily become a weak link in your overall training program and cause you to hit a plateau.


Enhanced Flexibility

The technique of this exercise requires a good amount of stretch to effectively perform the movement. Of course, you cannot rely on the pullover to substitute a good stretching routine. But still, this stretch involved in the pullover helps you maintain and improve your range of motion and flexibility, especially in your chest and shoulders. Improved flexibility in your chest and shoulders will significantly benefit all of the other exercises in your strength training program.




The pullover primarily hits your pectoralis major, but the two minor muscles that make up the main chest muscles are not involved in the movement to the same extent. The sternal head which is the largest chest muscle is the primary mover, while the clavicular head which is smaller, is minimally involved in the movement, acting as a stabilizer. Additionally, your latissmus dorsi, the large back muscle, assists throughout the movement too. Other muscles, such as your rhomboids, rear delts, and triceps helps as secondary movers, while your serratus anterior helps stabilize your scapula during the exercise.



  • Lie on your upper back perpendicular to the bench and slightly flex your hips.
  • Grasp one dumbbell with both of your hands under the inner plate of the dumbbell.
  • Position the dumbbell over your chest and slightly bend your elbows.
  • Keep your elbows slightly bend throughout the movement, and lower the dumbbell over and beyond your head until your arms are aligned with your torso and hold for a second at the top of the movement.
  • Pull the dumbbell back up over your chest and repeat.


TIP: Make sure you perform this exercise with undivided attention and focus on the stretch involved in pulling the weight over and beyond your head. Perform sets of 12 repetitions if you can. However, if you have a history of shoulder issues, make sure you introduce the pullover into your routine only after you've consulted with a physician for professional advice, to see whether you need to avoid this exercise or only perform it with very light weights. Work on increasing your upper body mobility before you start. You should be injury-free and have increased shoulder flexibility to perform this exercise properly.



The dumbbell pullover is an amazing exercise for hitting your chest and back simultaneously. If you've never performed this exercise before, make sure you have an increased level of upper body mobility and shoulder flexibility in order so that you won't risk getting injured. Proper form and technique are key elements you need to master, for this exercise to be effective and to prevent the risk of injuries. Try implementing this exercise into your training program.

Do this exercise once a week on your chest day and aim for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions each. Make sure you rest for a minute in between sets and focus on the stretching and on and developing your mind-muscle connection. Start with a weight light enough to allow you to perform 12-15 reps in one set, but heavy enough to make it difficult for you. Focus and you’ll experience excellent results!


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