Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredDumbbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush
  • Experience LevelIntermediate
  • Secondary Muscles
    Lats, Shoulders, Triceps
Target Muscle Group


Chest Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Dumbbell Pullover Instructions

  1. Grasp a dumbbell with both hands and position yourself on a flat bench with your shoulder blades resting on the bench.
  2. You should be at a 90 degree angle to the bench. Your back shoulder be straight, knees bent at 90 degrees, and feet firmly plated on the floor.
  3. Holding the dumbbell in both hands, straighten your arms so that dumbbell is directly overhead. This is the starting position.
  4. Bending at the shoulders only and keeping your arms straight, slowly lower the weight down behind your head until the dumbbell reaches the height of the bench.
  5. Slowly raise the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Pullover Tips:

  1. Do not bend at the elbows.
  2. Do not let the dumbbell go too far forward. The starting position is directly above your head and the dumbbell should not go any further than that.
Posted on: Thu, 09/22/2022 - 14:39

Is it normal to feel a pretty heavy ab activation with this?

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Posted on: Sat, 09/24/2022 - 09:58

Yes because the abs are being stretched when you lower the weight back, and you also have to work to maintain stability. You shouldn't be crunching, and my guess is you are not doing that.

Posted on: Thu, 06/16/2022 - 06:55

Can I do this with an EZ bar? I find it rather awkward to balance the dumbbell and I am wondering if an EZ bar would be easier to hold in this position. Thanks!

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Posted on: Thu, 06/16/2022 - 08:16

Hey Jay, you can do it with an EZ-Bar if you like, but the chest may be more involved than the lats. I found that using a triceps bar, the one with the vertical handles, is the best bet. The grip is wider, and you can maintain a tighter grip. The weight distribution will hit the lats a little better as well.

Posted on: Fri, 06/10/2022 - 13:11

My neck hurts when I do this workout is it something with my form

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Posted on: Mon, 06/13/2022 - 09:14

Possibly. Do it by lying on the bench traditionally and see if that helps since your head is resting on the bench, and your neck isn't straining. If you still feel neck pain, go see a doctor.

Posted on: Mon, 01/24/2022 - 06:16

Hi, do you recommend anything as an alternative to this? I have a long term shoulder injury and this exercise aggravates it. Thanks!

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Posted on: Tue, 01/25/2022 - 18:53

Two questions before I answer, Gary. I want to make sure I get it right.

Do you know what the injury is?
Are you training at home or in a gym?

Posted on: Fri, 08/20/2021 - 16:56

Hey I can see Reverse Grip Dumbbell Row link can someone send it to me

Posted on: Mon, 05/17/2021 - 18:27

Is there an alternative for this? I do not have a bench

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Posted on: Tue, 05/18/2021 - 10:22

Hey jj - are you using this exercise to target your back or your chest?

Posted on: Tue, 05/18/2021 - 18:48

Back...but this exercise is part of Day 2: Pull Dumbbell Workout A (I think this is because it targets back - secondary muscle)

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Posted on: Wed, 05/19/2021 - 10:16

This exercise can be used to target the chest or the lats based on how you hold the dumbbell. You can do banded lat pulldowns, regular lat pulldowns, pull ups, or barbell/dumbbell rows.

Posted on: Sun, 05/16/2021 - 20:03

How do I get into this position?

Posted on: Sun, 10/10/2021 - 17:44

As a newbie, I get in this position as following. I put the dumbbell on the right end of the bench when I am facing the bench. Rare handed I put my shoulder blades on the bench as this position required but without the weight. I rotate to left side to grab the dumbbell with both hands. Then rotate back to get into this position. While rotating back, I keep the dumbbell close to chest.

Posted on: Sat, 01/16/2021 - 12:12

I do not have a bench at home, can I just do these exercises from the ground or would you recommend an alternative workout?

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Posted on: Mon, 01/18/2021 - 09:25

Hey Darryl - are you using this exercise to target the lats or the chest?

Posted on: Wed, 01/20/2021 - 07:31

I did this lying down. Comes close to this.

Luke M
Posted on: Tue, 01/12/2021 - 15:36

I am getting right shoulder pain. Is there a possibility where I could be doing the exercise wrong?

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Posted on: Wed, 01/13/2021 - 09:11

Hey Luke - this could be a form issue or a mobility issue.

Posted on: Wed, 12/30/2020 - 18:04

For the dumbbell pullover instead of only putting my shoulders on the bench, can I just lay on the bench like I would for a pench press and perform the same movement? Would that not be the same workout? Just not as comfortable.

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Posted on: Mon, 01/04/2021 - 09:30

Hey Hasib - yes you can

Posted on: Wed, 10/21/2020 - 00:12

I'm feeling weird tension in my neck
Should this be happening?
If not what could I do to prevent it

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Posted on: Wed, 10/21/2020 - 10:13

Hey Noah - you shouldn't be feeling any strange tension in your neck. Are you using this exercise to target your lats or your chest?

Posted on: Thu, 10/15/2020 - 22:54

If the force type is Push,how come I'm doing it on Pull day???

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Posted on: Fri, 10/16/2020 - 08:32

Hey David - this movement can be used to target either the chest (aka a push day) or the lats (aka a pull day)

Posted on: Sat, 12/12/2020 - 22:38

Why am I targeting the lats if they were targeted in the previous day?

Posted on: Wed, 09/16/2020 - 11:06

Is there an alternative to this movement? I don't like this -- it just feels awkward when I do it.

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Posted on: Fri, 09/25/2020 - 16:02
Posted on: Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:12

I don’t feel this in my chest only in my shoulders an d upper back so that’s good because back day

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Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 10:43

Hey Will

When you get to the top (dumbbell straight above your chest) make sure you're flexing your pecs. That will help you activate them more.

Posted on: Wed, 01/06/2021 - 14:58

how do you flex your pecs

Posted on: Fri, 09/06/2019 - 09:39

For those that came from Frankoman's Dumbbell Only Split and are confused (like me), why a chest exercise in the back day:
Here is a video on how to do the exercise to target the back instead of the chest, that got posted in the comments of the routine https://www.muscleandstrength.com/videos/dumbbell-pullover-back-or-chest...

Posted on: Tue, 08/10/2021 - 02:19

Thank you for this i was really confused

Posted on: Wed, 07/31/2019 - 03:58

Don't have a bench anything I can replace with this instead ?

Kostantinos mpikos
Posted on: Wed, 02/26/2020 - 15:43

A chair

Angela Grace
Posted on: Tue, 03/03/2020 - 11:40

I use a exercise ball.

Robert Davies
Posted on: Wed, 06/12/2019 - 16:53

Hi I dont have a bench can I do this on the floor thanks

Posted on: Tue, 05/29/2018 - 08:49

Why this exercie included in the back wokout while it trains the chest.?

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Posted on: Tue, 05/29/2018 - 09:57

Hi Algaily,

Depending on how you perform the exercise, and where you place the most focus, it can train either the pecs or the lats.

Hope this helps!

Cynthia Jotim
Posted on: Fri, 02/22/2019 - 13:57

i deal with scapulous issues can I still do this exercise and what are substitute for it.

Posted on: Sat, 08/01/2015 - 17:47

I'm feeling a lot of tension at my lower back/waist while performing this exercise. Is it normal?
The only difference is that the bench I'm using is kinda soft (it has a pillow) and it bends as I move the dumbell.

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Posted on: Mon, 08/03/2015 - 14:42

No, you should primarily feel this through the upper back, lats, and perhaps some in the pecs when you do it. Ensure that your low back isn't arched excessively, take a deep breath, and try to brace your abs like you're about to punched in the stomach before letting the weight descend. Don't ever let the weight drop so low that you allow your low back to come off the bench.

If you can, snag a video next time of your technique and throw the link the comments. I'll check it out when I have time and let you know some other cues you can use to prevent the tension in the low back. It's much easier to tell what's going on via video rather than using words to describe everything.

Posted on: Mon, 08/11/2014 - 15:25

To find out if a particular exercise works the muscle that you are targeting, just go to the gym and do extensive sets and reps with that exercise ONLY............within the next few days, you should get a burn or tension and that's your answer.

Posted on: Thu, 03/13/2014 - 10:20

I'll keep this short, but here's a fun one for the anatomists.

I've been doing this exercise with a (for me) crazy heavy weight, as part of the HIT routine I got off this website, which works amazingly BTW. You know what? It doesn't seem to work my chest in any appreciable way. It actually seems to work my triceps. I think it's the long head of the triceps.

And before you say I'm bending my elbows, I'm not. It's not working the other parts of the arm at all. Just the medial, upper arm, which must be one of the heads of the triceps. It's clearly not working the same part of the triceps as the push-downs, which I also do much later in the workout.

It has transformed the shape of my arms. It's like the back sides of my arms are twice as wide as they used to be. I've never experienced anything like it.

This surely has to do with the scapular origin of the long head, right?

So, anatomists, why do people always say this is a chest exercise? It seems to be so much more about the posterio-medial upper arm if you use a high weight at least.

Posted on: Wed, 06/08/2016 - 10:58

I use this exercise primarily as a triceps mass builder. Performing this exercise, I always bent the elbow. This always gives me a great pump which have resulted in very impressive gains for my arms. This exercise pumps my triceps better than skull crushers.

Posted on: Sat, 12/07/2013 - 03:06

can I use the machine pullover instead of this one? and what is the difference between this one and the one with the machine? thank you.

Posted on: Wed, 12/25/2013 - 08:40

If you have access to the machine, use it. The difference between the machine pullover and the dumbbell pullover is that the machine uses full range of motion, while this one is half-ranged. Full range means that the muscle (lat or chest) is going from fully stretched position to fully contracted position. Using the bicep curl exercise as an analogy, the dumbbell pullover is like going from the bottom position (fully stretched) to the position when the lower arm is parallel to the ground. The dumbbell straight arm pull back is like moving the arm from parallel to the ground to fully contracted position in the bicep curl position. So if you do both dumbbell pullover and dumbbell straight arm pull back exercises, you get the equivalent range of motion of doing one machine pullover exercise.

sanket karani
Posted on: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 07:47

this exercise has really given me those desired chest n even lats...umm...honestly speaking it doesn't hitz my shouldrs in ny way..i do it with 70pounds dumbell....really pumps my chest lika ballon .. :)