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Dumbbell Pullover, Is It Different From Lat Pullover?

Your lats can become some of the most noticeable muscles in your body structure when properly grown, adding not just aesthetic size but also strength to aid in a variety of actions and workouts. There are many workouts that target this area of your upper body, such as the lat pulldown and inverted row, but one that is often forgotten is the lat pullover.

 You won’t see these in the gym very often nowadays, but they are one of the oldest bodybuilding movements in the book and were considered an absolute staple exercise back in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Lat Pullover – King Of Upper Body Exercises?

Like the barbell squat has always been considered the king of all lower body exercises, there was a time when the pullover was given the same respect for its superior muscle-building effects on the upper body. It was even claimed to “expand the ribcage” when performed with deep breathes in between each rep.

It’s debatable if pullovers are truly the “king” of all upper-body workouts, and whether they actually expand one’s ribcage. Pullovers are a terrific upper body exercise in any case, and if you’re not sure if it’s for your pecs or lats? According to research, this exercise has the ability to strengthen both muscle groups.

Difference Between Pullovers For Chest And For Lats

girl doing lat pullover exercise

So, do pullovers strengthen your chest or your back? Both are correct! While the pectoralis major muscle in the front of the chest is in charge of pushing (think push-ups and bench presses), the latissimus dorsi muscle, which spans both sides of the mid to lower-back, is in charge of pulling (think: rows and pull-ups). The dumbbell pullover exercise, on the other hand, can target both muscle groups by putting the shoulders through a wide range of motion.

You should include the dumbbell pullover exercise in your upper-body training plan whether you’re looking to build your chest, back, or both. Here’s how to do it well, as well as some pointers on how to get the most out of this amazing move.

To Increase Your Pecs’ Strength And Size

The Pectoralis major is a big muscle that runs across the top of your chest. Your pecs are one of the most visible muscles in your torso when fully developed, and they’re one of the first things people notice. These muscles, however, aren’t just for show; they also help with arm flexion, adduction, rotation, and extension.

When doing dumbbell pullovers to target your pecs, strive to keep your arms as straight as possible while keeping your elbows locked out. The exercise will be more helpful for pectoral growth if you hold the dumbbell farther away from your body.

man doing dumbbell pullover for chest

Here’s how to perform the pullover in order to increase the size and strength of your pecs:

  • With both hands, hold the inside portion of one end of a dumbbell. Place yourself on a flat bench. Straighten the dumbbell above your chest area. Slide up to the point where your head hangs over the edge. This will allow you to perform the action with a small arch in your back. Firmly plant your feet on the ground. This is where you’ll begin.
  • Breathe out as you lower the weight behind your head. Make sure your arms are straight and your elbows aren’t locked out. As you perform the action, feel the strain in your pecs. Once the dumbbell is a few inches off the floor, you will have reached full extension. Keep your hands in this posture for a second or two.
  • Slowly return the dumbbell to its starting position while inhaling. Repeat until you’ve done the required number of repetitions.

To Increase Your Lats’ Strength And Size

The Latissimus dorsi, or “lats” in bodybuilding lingo, is the other muscle group targeted by the dumbbell pullover. This is the upper body’s largest muscle. It’s a prominent triangular-shaped muscle in your back that helps you get that amazing “V-taper” look that so many people covet. The Latissimus dorsi assists with arm adduction, which is important for pull-ups and chin-ups, as well as arm extension and rotation.

Dumbbell pullovers in a second version can help you achieve that V-tapered physique. Arm positioning is crucial when it comes to targeting your lats. Your lats will be activated if you flare your elbows out and keep the dumbbell as near to your torso as possible.

man doing Lat Pullover exercise for lats

  • With both hands, hold the inside portion of one end of a dumbbell. Hold the dumbbell above your chest while lying down on a flat bench. Allow your head to dangle off one end of the bench as you slide up it. You’ll flare your elbows out instead of straightening them until you feel the stress in your lats. Firmly plant your feet on the ground. This is where you’ll begin.
  • Lower the dumbbell behind your head on an exhale until it is a few inches above the floor. While flaring out your elbows, try to move the dumbbell as close to your torso as possible. Feel the stress in your lats and hold the position for a second or two once you’ve reached full extension.
  • Breathe in as you slowly return to your starting position. Repeat until you’ve completed the desired number of reps.

Benefits Of Dumbbell Pullovers

Aside from expanding and strengthening your pecs and lats, the dumbbell pullover has other advantages. 

Develops Triceps And Serratus Muscles: While the dumbbell pullover can help you grow outstanding chest and back muscles, this exercise also strengthens your triceps and serratus muscles, though to a lesser extent. The triceps muscle is located on the back of your upper arms, while the serratus muscle is located on the top eight ribs.

Improves Your Shoulder Mobility: Although the dumbbell pullover doesn’t directly target your shoulder muscles, it does target your lats and triceps, two muscle groups that help with shoulder mobility. For hard-training athletes with shoulder difficulties, that’s a great payoff. The dumbbell pullover, according to some fitness experts, might overwork your shoulders. As a result, if you wish to increase your shoulder mobility with dumbbell pullovers, the obvious approach is to utilize light to moderate resistance. Better still, engage a skilled personal trainer to assist you with the workout.

Boosts Your Core Strength: The dumbbell pullover, it turns out, can also help you build your core. Quite simply, you can’t do a dumbbell lat pullover without using your core. Deep core muscles, such as the transverse abdominis, are forced to be activated during this exercise.

As a result, regular dumbbell lat pullover training can help you strengthen your core stability, which will help you perform better in other exercises.

Safety Tips

You’ll get far greater results if you follow these safety recommendations irrespective of whether you’re practicing the dumbbell pullover to build your pecs or lats.

Start With A Light Weight: If you’re still getting the hang of the movement, start with a light weight. Lifting large weights straight away can overwhelm you or, worse, injure you. You can gradually raise your resistance once you’ve mastered the form.

Keep Your Head And Hips Down: Ensure that your head is dangling off the far end of the bench and that your hips are firmly placed on it. The dumbbell will not be able to swing as a result of this. Placing your hips on the bench allows you to feel the tension in your lats while also reducing the stress on your lower back.

Use A Slow Tempo: Don’t do the dumbbell pullover too quickly. A slower speed allows you to feel a stronger stretch in your pecs or lats, especially when you lower the dumbbell behind your head.

Keep your elbows from flaring out too far: If your elbows flare out too far, you risk losing control of the dumbbell and maybe injuring yourself. Refrain from fanning your elbows out any further until you feel the tightness in your lats.

Take Away

The dumbbell pullover is a great workout for developing your pecs and lats, along with a few other muscles. The muscle group you target will be determined by how your elbows are positioned and how far the dumbbell is from your body. You may obtain tremendous results from this workout if you complete the action with the appropriate form, whether you want to build up your pecs or lats.


Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant. He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves. Rahul has a master's degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.

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