Dumbbell Pullover Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameDumbbell Pullover
Also CalledStraight Arm Dumbbell Pullover
Primary MusclesChest
Secondary MusclesBack (Lats)ShouldersTriceps
Required EquipmentDumbbell, Weight Bench
Rep Range8-15
VariationsBarbell Pullover
AlternativesBench PressIncline Bench Press, Dumbbell Fly, Cable Crossover, Chest Dip, Push Up

Dumbbell Pullover Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Crouch down with back against side of bench with dumbbell on knee.
  • Lean back and flick dumbbell to shoulder, and extend hips.
  • Lie perpendicular to bench with upper back on backrest.
  • Position head off edge of bench.
  • Keep hips at bench height or just below.
  • Grasp dumbbell end with both hands, such that thumbs and forefingers form a triangle.
  • Hold dumbbell over chest with elbows slightly bent.
  • Retract shoulder blades to keep shoulders down and back.
  • Maintain a neutral lower spine (slight arch) with an arched thoracic spine (upper back).

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex shoulder and protract and upwardly rotate scapulae to lower dumbbell behind head until arms are parallel to floor.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause shortly to embrace the stretch at the bottom of the motion before starting the concentric rep.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend shoulder and retract and downwardly rotate scapulae to raise dumbbell up until dumbbell is over chest and arms are perpendicular to floor. Squeeze at the top.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  • I recommend staying within the 8-15 rep range for the dumbbell pullover.

Common Dumbbell Pullover Errors to Avoid

Using hips for momentumKeep hips stationary. They should remain at, or just below, the height of the bench. Tense your glutes and hamstrings to prevent your hips from drooping.
Pulling dumbbell past chestThe top of the range of motion occurs when the dumbbell is directly over the middle of your chest. Do not go beyond this point by bringing the weight over your abs. Go at a controlled pace on the positive rep so you don’t accidentally generate momentum that carries the weight too far forward.
Shoulders shruggedKeep your shoulders down and back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to prevent your shoulders from shrugging up (i.e. moving closer toward your head) as you lower the weight.
Bending armsKeep your arms straight, but not fully locked out. There should be just a slight bend in your elbows throughout the rep. If they bend too much, it takes the pressure off the chest and puts it more on the triceps and shoulders.

Dumbbell Pullover Tips

  1. Stick your chest up. This puts you in the correct position for maximum pec activation. Your chest should naturally stick up if you remember to keep your shoulders down and back, and your shoulder blades squeezed together.
  2. Keep your hips at or a somewhat below the bench height. When your hips are lower, you work your lats more. When your hips are aligned with the bench, your chest is emphasized.
  3. Keep wrists neutral. Resist the tendency to bend your wrists excessively as you lower the dumbbell.
  4. Focus on using your pecs to both control the dumbbell’s descent, and its return to the start position. Be mentally aware of the muscle contraction. The pecs should be working hard during both the eccentric and concentric motion.
  5. Take a deep breath on the negative rep to fill your lungs with air. Release the breath as you begin to bring the dumbbell up.
  6. Warm up with thoracic extensions on a foam roller to increase your thoracic and scapular mobility and flexibility. This guarantees a higher level of performance and safety during your work sets.
  7. Try the alternative position of lying lengthwise on the bench (with head off the edge of the bench). This alternative method is inferior, since it keeps your hips up higher and limits how much you can stretch your upper torso. But it’s useful if you have trouble supporting yourself perpendicular to the bench.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

This exercise is best for intermediate and advanced lifters who are looking to build a bigger chest.

Beginners should not do this exercise. Why not? Because form can be tricky to learn and there are much more important chest exercises that beginners should focus on; specifically, major compound chest movements like the barbell bench press or chest dips.

Those who should think about avoiding the dumbbell pullover include individuals with shoulder or lower back issues.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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