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Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover

Muscle Targeted:

Chest (Pectoralis)

Secondary Muscles Targeted:

Laterals, Oblique Abdominal Muscles, Shoulders (Deltoids), Triceps

  • Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover #1

  • Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover #2

Starting position:

Choose the appropriate dumbbell weight taking account of your fitness level. Grab the dumbbell at the disc with both hands. Rest your shoulders and head on the bench and fix your feet at shoulderwidth (bending your knee joints at 90 degrees). Keep your torso in a firm horizontal position with your pelvis in a neutral position. Move the dumbbell and hold it with both hands over your chest.


From the starting position lower your outstretched hands with the dumbbell to behind your head and bring your hands to a level horizontal with your body. Inhale as you move the barbell back and downand exhale going back to the starting position. Do the required number of repetitions.


Watch for the correct starting position of your hands. The torso must remain firm throughout the exercise. Avoid lumbodorsal swayback and undesired backwards bending, especially with the barbell in the lowered position. Never do this exercise with a dumbbell withdetachable weights as there is danger of severe injury.


Choose the appropriate weight taking account of your fitness level and coordination abilities; that means doing the motion using a lighter weight to start.


Straight-arm dumbbell pullover is performed in an unusual position perpendicular to the bench with only shoulders lying on the bench.

You are going to place the dumbbell just over your head so only use the fixed-weight modern dumbbells – traditional dumbbell with welding will sooner or later fall on your head.

Make sure the only joints involved in the exercise are shoulder joints.

Although technically an isolated exercise (only one joint is working – the shoulder joint), every form of pullover involves several muscle groups: lats, pectorals, triceps, deltoids, obliques, rhomboids, teres major, levator and intercostals. There are very few other exercises involving so many muscles.

Do not move your hips during the exercise! It is a common mistake to lower the hips during the pulling motion and raising them during the lowering phase.

Do not lower the dumbbell too far behind your head. This will almost inevitably cause shoulder problems.

Straight-arms version of dumbbell pullover doesn’t allow for such weights as the bent-arm variant. It is more suited for stretching and chest expansion (this is a subject of discussion among athletes and scientists – while some swear that pullovers do expand the rib cage, others claim this is just a widespread myth).

Straight-arms dumbbell pullover is done with lighter weights than the bent-arm pullover.

Choose Bodypart


  • Abdominals
  • Abductors
  • Adductors
  • Biceps
  • Calves
  • Forearms
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Chest (Pectoralis)
  • Laterals
  • Lower Back
  • Middle Back
  • Neck
  • Oblique Abdominal Muscles
  • Quadriceps
  • Shoulders (Deltoids)
  • Traps
  • Triceps
  • Legend Busters Series


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  • FST-7 (Fascial Stretch Training)

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Create A Massive Chest And Back With Straight-Arm Pull Overs

I bet you’ve never tried them.

December 24, 2016

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Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullovers


If you’ve been to the gym much at all, you understand most exercises work certain muscles and that chest day and back day are separated because each have their own movements.

What would you say if I told you there is one exercise you could use to work your chest and your back, AND it is simple and creates an amazing physique?

Dumbbell Pullovers

Sign me up! Right?

With all of these fancy machines hitting the gyms, many people have turned from lifting the iron to working out on those instead. While this isn’t inherently wrong, there is a lot to be said about some good old-fashioned iron grit and hard work.

Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullovers

Free weights reign supreme because of their ability to work multiple muscles at once, including stabilizing muscles and connective tissue. Not to mention the freedom of movement makes it easier to customise exercises.

If you would like to step away from riding machines all day and come back to the more “primitive” side of lifting, we have a dumbbell exercise for you that may be your next favorite exercise. It’s called the straight-arm dumbbell pullover.

How do you do them?

Check out this video I used years ago to learn them. It’s pretty straight forward and simple once you get the basics.

What muscles does this exercise hit?

Dumbbell Pullovers

Straight-arm dumbbell pullovers work your lats, pecs, and abs. They also hit other small muscles like the serratus anterior muscles, which all tie together to give a great physique.

Add in the thoracic spine mobility and core work this exercise requires to complete, and you have an effective exercise you can do with a dumbbell.

Your abs are really taxed on the descent of the dumbbell and the initial start of the rep, as well as all throughout the range.

Dumbbell Pullovers

We highly recommend learning this movement with lighter weight before you move onto the heavier dumbbells.

If you start out with sloppy form and too heavy  a weight, you have a higher chance of tearing a rotator cuff or possibly pulling a lat or pec.

Check out how I execute dumbbell pull overs on the next page…

Executing Your Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover

With the how-to video on the previous page along with the tips I’ve picked up over the years of using this exercise, you’re going to be loving it before long, too.

1) Put the dumbbell on the edge of the bench next to where your shoulders will be placed. Get set up, place your mid-upper back on the bench and squeeze shoulder blades together as if you were about to bench.

2) Roll and grab the dumbbell. I usually have to let it rest on my chest while I readjust my hands. You’ll want to hold onto the dumbbell so your hands form a diamond. Wrap the rest of your hand around the weight on the dumbbell to create a solid grip.

Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullovers

3) Straighten out your elbows like you’re locking out a bench press. Slowly lower the weight from over your chest, keeping your arms straight, and let the dumbbell go further and further back over your head. Go slow here, this is where you can really hurt yourself if you’re not careful.

4) Stop descending when you start getting near your max-stretch point. Keep your arms straight and keep your elbows locked at this point.

5) By now you should feel a great stretch in your serratus, your lats, chest, and triceps. Squeeze your pecs and slowly raise the weight in an arc back over your chest to starting position.

6) Control your breathing so you are inhaling on descent and exhaling on contraction. The bigger you can inhale, the better a stretch you’ll be able to achieve.

Exercise TipsDumbbell Pullovers

  • Let your body warm up and naturally stretch for a comfortable position. Do not force yourself to go far back.
  • Keep arms straight throughout the whole movement – with sloppy form comes a higher chance of injury.
  • Start light and learn the movement before you jump into the heavy-ass weight.


Look, not all exercises were created equally. This exercise was blessed with a little bit more than just one muscle group, and I think it would be wise to try to implement them in your workout routine.

Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullovers

I used to do these on chest and back day – chest day was more volume, while back day was heavier reps… and I loved it.

Try this exercise out and let us know what you think.

While you’re at it, check out these awesome articles:

Deadlifts Every Day Keeps The Scrawny Away

Build Massive Shoulders With This Dumbbell-Only Workout

How to Look Like You’re on Steroids Without Even Using Them

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Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover Instructions

Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover muscle diagram
  1. Place a dumbbell standing up on a flat bench.
  2. Ensuring that the dumbbell stays securely placed at the top of the bench, lie perpendicular to the bench (torso across it as in forming a cross) with only your shoulders lying on the surface. Hips should be below the bench and legs bent with feet firmly on the floor. The head will be off the bench as well.
  3. Grasp the dumbbell with both hands and hold it straight over your chest at arms length. Both palms should be pressing against the underside one of the sides of the dumbbell. This will be your starting position.

    Caution: Always ensure that the dumbbell used for this exercise is secure. Using a dumbbell with loose plates can result in the dumbbell falling apart and falling on your face.

  4. While keeping your arms straight, lower the weight slowly in an arc behind your head while breathing in until you feel a stretch on the chest.
  5. At that point, bring the dumbbell back to the starting position using the arc through which the weight was lowered and exhale as you perform this movement.
  6. Hold the weight on the initial position for a second and repeat the motion for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Caution: If you are new to this movement, have a spotter hand you the weight instead. If not, please ensure that the dumbbell does not fall on you as you arrange your torso to perform the exercise on the bench. Also, as I already mentioned, ensure that the dumbbell used is in perfect working condition. Old dumbbells in need of welding should never be used to perform this exercise.


  • You can perform this exercise using a barbell or an e-z bar instead of dumbbells.
  • Also, if using dumbbells like Powerblocksâ„¢, just use a dumbbell on each hand with the palms of your hands facing each other.