What is a pullover exercise?

You’re at the gym, doing your standard workout when your earbuds drop into the music and you hear the trainer nearby. Pullover exercise. You draw a blank. What are those? Should I do them too?

Or maybe you’re a little more familiar with this dumbbell-laden move. You’ve tried a few yourself, but you want to dive deeper into the bells and whistles of how they work.

No matter what stage you’re at, this is a great place to start. Welcome to our training center for understanding pullover exercises. Come one, come all—and prepare to sweat.

What is a pullover exercise?

A pullover exercise, otherwise known as a chest pullover, is a move that involves a dumbbell or barbell and is used to strengthen the chest muscles and/or back muscle groups. This exercise is done lying down, usually on a weight bench, while you pull up a weighted object and Over your head

You can customize pullover exercises to target the chest or back. To target your chest muscles, keep your elbows straight and your arms closed as you move the dumbbell. To get onto your back, bend your elbows slightly outward.

Benefits of pullover exercises

If you want to add barbell and dumbbell pullovers to your upper body workout plan or build strength, start learning how they can benefit you. Pullover exercises are powerful, multi-functional and easy to learn. With a simple movement, you can work your way towards a stronger upper body. Whether you’re working toward weight training and muscle growth or just toning, this workout is great for building upper body strength. With a little patience and plenty of breathing, most people master the barbell or dumbbell pullover exercise after just one session.

Here’s how pullover exercises can pump up your workout routine:

  • Strengthen your chest muscles
  • Strengthen your back muscles
  • Build mobility in the shoulder
  • Help build muscle endurance

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How to do a pullover exercise

Now that you understand the benefits, let’s step into it.

It is important to perform pullover exercises safely and thoughtfully to eliminate the risk of injury. If you can, grab a spotter your first time to monitor your form and help keep you safe. Proper form will ensure that you get the most benefit from pullover exercises.

Here’s how to do a barbell or dumbbell pullover exercise like a pro:

  • Step 1. Select your weight – Start by selecting a dumbbell or barbell to use for pullovers. If you’re not sure what weight to lift, start with 20% of your body weight. You can always level up or down later.
  • Step 2. Find a bench – Lie flat on your back on a weight bench or any bench you have handy. You can rest your head on a bench or some distance away—whichever feels more comfortable. Place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Step 3. Raise Dumbbells – With your arms in a triangle, hold the dumbbell vertically above your head. Grasp the upper end of the weight with your fingers.
  • Step 4. Customize – Here you can either straighten your elbows for a chest-strengthening exercise or butterfly outwards to target those lats.
  • Step 5. Pullover – Inhale, and extend your arms and the weight behind your head as far as you can go without strain, keeping your arms close to your body.
  • Step 6. Pull Back – Exhale, and pull your arms and weights above your head, resuming your starting position.

You should feel your chest, shoulders and back working while doing this pullover exercise. Really focus on your form, and remember to breathe.

How to start the pullover exercise

Pullover exercise has a low barrier to entry. All you need to get started is a bench and a weight. You might be thinking, “How many repetitions should I do??” Start with about 8-10 repetitions and focus on expanding your shoulder range of motion with each set.

Once you’ve mastered the form, you can customize the pullover beyond just focusing on the chest and back. For example, you can lie with your hips off the bench to add an extra stability challenge for your glutes and core. Or, for even more sizzle, lie on a physio ball instead of a bench to get your whole body fired up.

When you’re ready, grab a towel and take these tips for mat pullover exercise success:

  • Start with a small amount of weight and work your way up
  • Keep your breathing steady through the entire range of motion
  • Challenge yourself to expand your range of motion over time
  • Flex your chest and back muscles so they work
  • Keep your lower back in a flat, neutral position
  • Don’t forget to celebrate your empowering achievements!

Pullovers like a pro at Choose Fitness

You don’t have to be a weightlifting pro to master the pullover exercise—but Choose FitnessWe’ll still make you feel like one.

That’s because we have everything you need to feel empowered, welcome and right at home, like our pristine-clean and comfortable workout benches. Plus, you’ll have plenty of helpful spotters within arm’s reach whenever you need them. You may want to add dumbbell exercises like pullovers or dumbbell reverse flies, or if you want to stretch your zone in yoga or other areas. Fitness class, this is the place for you. use’gym near me‘ feature Ichuz The app to find your new workout home.

Join our community, and have fun building a stronger mind, body, and spirit—for as little as $9.99 per month! We can’t wait to greet you at the door.

Reviewed by:

Ani is Vice President of Fitness at Chuz Fitness and oversees the Group Fitness and Team Training departments. He had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Annie lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and son and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.


  1. YouTube Dumbbell Pullover: Chest or Back Exercise? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YStMv6m2g8
  2. Fits very well. How to Do Dumbbell Pullovers: Correct Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes. https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-dumbbell-pullover-techniques-benefits-variations-4781595
  3. Healthline. How to do a dumbbell pullover with proper form. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/dumbbell-pullover
  4. nutritious Dumbbell pullover for back vs chest. https://www.bodybuildingmealplan.com/dumbbell-pullover/

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