hand picking up dumbbell

Dumbbell Pullovers: A Comprehensive Guide

Dumbbell pullovers are a strength training exercise that targets the muscles of the upper body, including the chest, back, and shoulders. This exercise is well known and loved by bodybuilders for working the chest and back, but it’s suitable for many people as part of a resistance training program that can also improve cardiopulmonary function.

Benefits of Dumbbell Pullovers

muscles targeted with Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell pullovers are a great exercise for the upper body with variations to target the chest, predominantly, and also the back muscles. The muscular focus of the exercise is somewhat dependent on the orientation of the upper arm bone within the shoulder joint and which direction the elbows are pointed. The movement pattern of the exercise focuses on moving the arm in the shoulder joint, therefore creating mobility in this area.

Another benefit of dumbbell pullovers is that they are an accessible piece of equipment that can be used at home or in the gym. There are lots of different sizes and weights of dumbbells which can accommodate different people depending on their goal. The heavier the weight used with a lower rep range will help you build muscular strength and hypertrophy. A lighter weight and higher rep range — for example more than 15 reps — will offer progress toward muscular endurance.

The dumbbell pullover is considered a postural exercise as performing the full movement requires that you keep the spine in a lengthened, stable position. This move also helps open and increase chest and upper body flexibility. These areas often become tight, especially in those with computer or desk jobs.

Muscles Targeted by Dumbbell Pullovers

The pecs are the main muscles that move the weight during dumbbell pullovers. In addition, the lats, teres major, triceps, anterior deltoids and — depending on the grip — the wrist flexors all play a part in this exercise. With focus on technique, correct breathing, and placement of the spine, the abdominal muscles also engage, giving you the added benefit of core work.

How to Perform Dumbbell Pullovers

To perform a dumbbell pullover with proper form, select an appropriate weight dumbbell and use a flat weight bench. If you’re not sure what weight to select, start light and work your way up. You could start by calculating 30% of your body weight and using the closest sized dumbbell available. If this feels too heavy or too light for you, go up or down accordingly.

Hold the dumbbell in both hands and sit near the end of the bench. Recline back on the bench bringing the dumbbell with you, lying flat and looking up. Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a stable part of the bench. Make sure your upper back and back of your head are supported by the bench.

Hold the end of the dumbbell with both hands and extend your arms straight up so that the weight is directly above your chest. Point your elbows outwards to look at the sides of the room. This rotates your upper arm bone inwardly slightly which will emphasize effort in chest.

Inhale and extend the dumbbell back over your head while keeping strong back and core. Take about 3 to 4 seconds to reach a fully extended position where weights are behind—but not below—your head.

Exhale slowly and return your arms to starting position.

While you will notice muscles of the upper body engaged during a dumbbell pullover, you are also likely to feel your abdominal muscles tighten in order to maintain a strong core.


In conclusion, dumbbell pullovers are a versatile and effective strength training exercise that targets the muscles of the upper body, including the chest, back, and shoulders. This exercise offers numerous benefits, including increased mobility in the shoulder joint and improved chest and upper body flexibility. By following the proper form and technique, you can incorporate dumbbell pullovers into your resistance training program to build muscular strength, hypertrophy, or endurance.